Gunmen kill 2 Venezuelan opposition activists

By Andrew Cawthorne and Deisy Buitrago, Reuters

CARACAS, Venezuela — Gunmen shot and killed two local leaders of parties backing presidential challenger Henrique Capriles on Saturday in the worst violence of a volatile campaign before Venezuela’s election next weekend. Capriles’ party, Primero Justicia (First Justice), said the gunmen fired from a van that witnesses identified as belonging to state oil company PDVSA or the local mayor’s office during a rally in the agricultural state of Barinas. The government of President Hugo Chavez, who is seeking re-election, confirmed the deaths and vowed the perpetrators would be brought to justice. Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami said the circumstances of the attack were still under investigation. Venezuela is awash with guns, and violent crime is frequently cited as voters’ No. 1 concern.

There had been shootings and fistfights in previous opposition rallies as “Chavistas” and Capriles supporters clashed, but no deaths. “This tragedy gives us more strength and faith to fight for a Venezuela where justice and non-violence reign,” said Primero Justicia, the party of one of the victims. Another two people were injured, and there were six arrests after the attack on an opposition motorcade that had been blocked by Chavez supporters, Primero Justicia said in an account not confirmed by police or other authorities. “I’m so sad at this bad news,” Capriles said via Twitter. The opposition Democratic Unity coalition, which has united Venezuela’s opposition parties, demanded a quick investigation. Aissami said police were doing just that. “It was an isolated incident,” he told state TV. Heated Campaign