Violence flares at Dominican opposition party office, eight injured

SANTO DOMINGO Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:32pm EST

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SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - At least eight people were injured, mostly by gunfire, during a dispute between rival factions competing for control of the Dominican Republic's leading opposition party, officials said on Sunday.

The incident occurred at the headquarters of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) in the capital, Santo Domingo, in the wake of a party decision to expel former President Hipolito Mejia and three other senior members from its ranks.

Police intervened after a confrontation between Mejia supporters and security guards at the offices, according to witnesses and authorities. At least six of the wounded were wounded by gunfire and were hospitalized, officials said.

Supporters of Mejia occupied the party offices for several hours until police persuaded them to leave.

The meeting was convened by PRD President Miguel Vargas Maldonado on the eve of a planned gathering of the party's leadership to confirm a January 14 decision to oust Mejia and Chairman Andres Bautista, on charges of violating party statutes.

Vargas Maldonado has held control of the PRD offices since the outbreak of an internal rift in the party following Mejia's loss to President Danilo Medina of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party in presidential elections last May.

Mejia served as president from 2000 to 2004 and left office in the wake of a deep economic crisis set off by a major banking scandal that rocked the country's economy.

Last week, at the request of Vargas Maldonado, police erected protective fences around the building.

Vargas Maldonado condemned the violence and warned the party would take legal action against Mejia and his supporters.

(Reporting by Manuel Jimenez, Writing by David Adams,; Editing by Kevin Gray and Christopher Wilson)

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