CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition said on Sunday shots were fired at one of its candidates’ campaign caravan in a poor neighborhood of Caracas amid rising national tensions over next month’s parliamentary election.
President Nicolas Maduro has said the Dec. 6 vote for a new National Assembly is the toughest election the ruling socialists have faced in their nearly 17-year government and polls show widespread voter anger at Venezuela’s economic crisis.
The opposition Democratic Unity coalition believes the poll could mark the beginning of the end for “Chavismo,” as the ruling movement is known for its founder Hugo Chavez.
Parliamentarian Miguel Pizarro, who is seeking re-election, said he and supporters were confronted by heavily-armed men who opened fire during a walkabout in Caracas’ huge Petare slum.
“Neither their shots, nor their pistols, nor their threats can overcome the strength of a people who have decided to change,” he said afterwards, adding that noone was injured.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles published photos, allegedly from the incident, showing men dressed in red with the logo of the ruling Socialist Party apparently carrying pistols and even what looked like a machine gun.
There was no comment from the party or other authorities, and Reuters could not independently confirm the incident.
Two weeks away from the crucial vote, the South American OPEC member is immersed in a deep economic crisis, with the world’s highest inflation, shrinking GDP and shortages of many basic foodstuffs and other products.
The opposition coalition says that is the result of failed socialist economics, while the government blames an “economic war” by political foes and the business elite. The plunge in oil prices has greatly exacerbated Venezuela’s predicament.
Venezuela is awash with illegal guns, and politics have often sparked violence. Opposition street protests last year caused violence killing 43 people, including security officers, government supporters and anti-Maduro activists.
Reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Alan Crosby