Caracas, Venezuela, September 9, 2006—Opposition Candidate, Manuel Rosales’ visit to a Western Caracas barrio was cut short on Thursday when his entourage was attacked by a group of residents who threw stones and fired weapons. Rosales blamed Chavez for the incident, which the President denied. Meanwhile Chavez accused Rosales of receiving funds for his campaign from the U.S. government.
According to press reports, the incident occurred during Rosales’ visit to Catia, as part of an electoral campaign tour of the country. Demonstrators dressed in red shirts, the color used by Chavez supporters, yelled, “Get out!” and gunshots were fired from a nearby hill while Rosales and a crowd of supporters met with residents.
Rosales cut the trip short, after riot police set off tear gas. Five people, including two police officers were injured, according to Jesse Chacon, the Minister of Interior and Justice.
Rosales blamed President Chavez for the violence and accused him of “ordering the ambushes with members of the National Guard and Police.”
“I want to say to Venezuela that if anything happens to me, if they kill me in these ambushes that they are carrying out, it is by order of Chavez,” said Rosales, whose visit to a poor barrio in the state of Vargas was also attacked by a group of supposed Chavez supporters.
Chacon condemned the violence against Rosales yesterday, and also the “irresponsible accusations” of the Presidential candidate. “The armed officials of the Metropolitan Police and those of the special forces of the DISIP were there to offer security,” said Chacon. “[Rosales] has made some irresponsible suggestions that representatives of the government ambushed him in that region.”
According to El Universal, Chacon announced that there are two hypothesis for the aggression against Rosales’ visit: One, is that is was carried out by “humble Venezuelans, that suffered through the coup d’etat of 2002 and became irritated when they saw the candidate (Rosales), who participated actively in the coup.” The other is at the hands of “agents” who were sent in to “generate violence” and call attention to the event, to make it newsworthy.
Chacon also showed pictures of Rosales’s group, where supporters of his were wielding pistols and automatic weapons, threatening the pro-Chavez counter-demonstrators. Chacon went on to remind people that the former governing party AD, to which Rosales used to belong, frequently used “shock groups” in its demonstrations, to intimidate those who disagreed with them.
Chacon announced that the government condemns any act of violence, and that the Ministry of Interior and Justice is giving protection to the opposition marches.
Yesterday, Rosales marched in the eastern Caracas barrio of Petare, one of the largest and most dangerous in Latin America, where for his security, according to Precinct 7 police chief, Alejandro Montes, he was offered 500 officers, 20 officials, 60 motorcycles, and 10 vehicles.
CNE President, Tibisay Lucena, condemned the violence against the Rosales campaign yesterday and called on all political factions to carry out “a peaceful campaign.” “The CNE, clearly and unanimously declares itself in a firm and definitive way against all acts of violence that may occur during all of this campaign period,” said Lucena.
During a campaign event in Venezuela’s western state of Zulia on Wednesday, Chavez accused Rosales and all of the other 20 opposition candidates of being “lackeys” of U.S. imperialism, “who certainly already began traveling to Miami to receive their dough and orders. They have already begun to meet here in secret with the emissaries of the devil, with CIA officers and the gringo embassy in Caracas,” said Chavez.
Chavez also accused the U.S. of supporting the division of Venezuela, by supporting the independence of Zulia. “The empire wants Zulia to declare itself a republic and there they will place a colony in order to get at the oil,” said Chavez, adding, “but they will not be able to do so because Zulia is chavista territory.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Venezuela, Brian Penn, denied the accusation, saying, “We do not support political candidates,” according to AP.