Violence breaks out at Venezuela campaign event
PUERTO CABELLO, Venezuela (AP) — Violence broke out at an opposition campaign event in Venezuela yesterday as supporters of President Hugo Chavez blocked a road and a campaign truck was torched. Both sides hurled rocks, and police said at least 14 people were hurt.
A large crowd of Chavez supporters in red shirts blocked a main road near the airport in the coastal town of Puerto Cabello. A truck used by the campaign of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles was set ablaze, and a motorcycle was also torched.
Capriles had been scheduled to visit an area that has traditionally leaned pro-Chavez. Capriles supporters were seen running to take cover during the violence.
At least 14 people suffered cuts and other minor injuries, police in Carabobo state said.
After the violence, Capriles spoke at an outdoor rally in the town, blaming Chavez and small "radical groups." He had been on his way to the event when the clashes erupted.
"Those actions aren't spontaneous. There's someone responsible for those actions," Capriles told the crowd. Addressing Chavez without mentioning the president's name, Capriles said: "It's you who wants that scenario. It's you who wants to sow fear."
"We know that he who turns to violence, it's that he's afraid of the other's ideas," Capriles added. "We're tired of violence."
Chavez has recently told supporters that his rival has a hidden agenda to impose right-wing measures "that would lead Venezuela to a civil war." But Chavez has denied intending that as a threat or trying to promote violence in any way.
During the melee, some of the red-shirted government supporters went into the airport compound and carried away speakers and a generator.
A station wagon filled with Capriles' campaign fliers also was trashed as people broke the windows, ripped out the headlights and began to pull out parts from under the hood. The campaign fliers were left scattered on the ground.
Carabobo state Gov. Henrique Salas Feo, a Chavez opponent, condemned the violence on television saying, "The country needs peace."