Venezuela opposition activist shot dead, party says

CARACAS (Reuters) - A local Venezuelan opposition leader was shot dead during a public meeting on Wednesday, his party said, days before a legislative election that is raising tensions around the politically polarized nation.

Armed assailants in a vehicle shot Luis Diaz, head of Democratic Action party in the town of Altagracia de Orituco in central Venezuela, while he was at a meeting with locals, the movement’s national leader said.

“He’s just been assassinated by gunshot,” Henry Ramos tweeted, adding that Diaz was sharing the stage at the time with Lilian Tintori, wife of Venezuela’s best-known jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez.

Democratic Action is part of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition about to contest a Dec. 6 election for a new National Assembly in Venezuela.

Polls show the coalition has a good chance of wresting the legislature from the ruling Socialists for the first time in 16 years, which has raised fears of conflict in a nation where politics often creates volatility on the ground.

There was no immediate confirmation of the incident in Altagracia from Venezuelan authorities.

Ramos blamed supporters of the ruling Socialist Party for the killing, without offering any evidence.

There was no immediate response from that party.

Tintori, who is on a nationwide tour of Venezuela denouncing rights abuses and publicizing her husband’s case, said she would give more details on Thursday of the “terror, harassment and violence that we suffered from the regime.”

“Today, I suffered two attacks,” she said on Twitter.

“Our condolences to the Diaz family ... Guarico, today my heart weeps for you.”

Reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Sandra Maler