Venezuela’s opposition calls for investigation of slaying and attack

CARACAS, Venezuela — Opposition politicians called on President Nicolas Maduro’s government to investigate the slaying of a Baralt City Council candidate and an attack on a former presidential candidate’s caravan, events that have added to tension less than two weeks before municipal elections Dec. 8.

“Those of us in the opposition abhor violence of any kind, from whatever source, that has us sunk in horror and fear of not being safe in any corner of Venezuela,” National Assembly member Delsa Solorzano of the New Era party, which is part of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition, said Wednesday.

Jose “Cheo” Chirinos, 34, an opposition candidate for the City Council of Baralt in the western state of Zulia was shot to death by two assailants Tuesday after he left a radio station interview, police said. His killers were seen speeding away on a motorcycle. Two others were wounded in the attack.

Also Tuesday, a caravan carrying Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, who was defeated by Maduro in a special presidential election this year after the death of President Hugo Chavez, was attacked in Maracay by motorcyclists who threw firecrackers and a Molotov cocktail at the vehicle in which Capriles was speaking. No one was hurt, but the vehicle was heavily damaged.


Capriles blamed Maduro supporters for the attack. “This is a state where, sadly, the ones who are leading are allied to violence, who want to use violence to generate fear and paralyze the country,” Capriles said at the gathering.

The government had made no public comment on the attacks as of late Wednesday.

In Carabobo state, Miguel Cocchiola, an opposition candidate for mayor of Valencia, the state capital, made a surprise appearance. Maduro had accused Cocchiola of profiteering as owner of the Imeca lumber company and fleeing the country. Maduro also threatened to jail him before the election.

But Cocchiola told reporters Tuesday that he had left the country on personal business for several days and had no intention of abandoning the mayoral race.


An opposition campaign coordinator, Enzo Scarano, accused motorcycle-riding agitators of impeding Cocchiola followers trying to attend a rally in Valencia.

About 19 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote Dec. 8. The election involves 355 mayoral races and 2,792 local council seats. The voting is seen as a public referendum on Maduro, who was elected in April to complete the presidential term of Chavez, who died of cancer in March.

Venezuela is suffering from shortages of basic food stuffs, as well as an inflation rate exceeding 50%.

Maduro has lashed out at companies, accusing them of hoarding and price gouging. Many economists say the cause is his economic policies, including price controls and government takeover of farms, factories and businesses.


Special correspondents Mogollon and Kraul reported from Caracas and Bogota, Colombia, respectively.