World News

Three killed as violence mars Dominican election

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - Three people, including a former congressman, were shot and killed as violence marred the close of campaigning before Friday’s presidential election in the Dominican Republic, authorities said.

Police said the deaths, from a clash between supporters of the government and of the opposition, occurred on Wednesday night in Villa Vasquez, about 125 miles northwest of the Caribbean nation’s capital.

The victims were identified as 50-year-old Francisco Antonio Fernandez, the former lawmaker, his bodyguard, and a third man who local media said was a supporter of the center-left Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), the Caribbean nation’s main opposition group.

Fernandez represented the PRD when he served in Congress but recently defected to the centrist Dominican Liberation Party of President Leonel Fernandez, who is heavily favored to win a third term.

The shooting, which led to at least five arrests including that of a former senator and local PRD leader, came hours before a midnight deadline for the end to all campaigning in the run-up to Friday’s election.

Police sources said numerous weapons believed to have been fired during the clash were discovered on Thursday in the home of ex-PRD Senator Bernardo Aleman, who was among those taken into custody.

Incumbent Leonel Fernandez, a 54-year-old lawyer and academic, was first president from 1996 to 2000 and won office again in 2004. He needs to win at least 50 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff in the country of about 9 million people.

Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Vicki Allen