Opposition leader’s murder shakes Venezuela ahead of elections

Murder of opposition party leader Luis Diaz ramps up fears before December 6 elections in Venezuela

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro waves to supporters in this photo released by Miraflores Palace on November 24, 2015.

The murder of Opposition leader Luiz Diaz days before elections set to be held in early December has ramped up fears of renewed violence as polls show that the ruling Socialist party could lose the legislature after 16 years of being in power in Venezuela.

An investigation started on Thursday after opposition Democratic Action Party leader Diaz was shot dead in a public meeting on Wednesday night, following a series of violent attacks during the 2015 election campaign.

According to the Democratic Unity coalition recently three other opposition politicans have been attacked including 2013 election candidate Henrique Captiles.

Political violence also occured in 2014 during opposition protests, resulting in 43 deaths and hundreds being injured.

President Nicolas Maduro denied allegations that the fatal attack was politically motivated, saying that the murder was gangland-related as preliminary investigators suggested.

However, the wife of jailed opposition leader Lilian Tintori, who was on the stage with Diaz during the shooting, blamed Maduro for the incident.

"I hold Nicolas Maduro directly responsible," Tintori said, claiming that she was targeted twice on Wednesday.

"They want to kill me," she told reporters.

Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, reacts during a news conference in Caracas, November 26, 2015

Democratic Action’s leader Henry Ramos also blamed Maduro for the killing of the opposition party leader.

As Maduro’s government and the opposition have accused each other of instigating the recent violence, the incident was condemned worldwide.

The US spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that campaigns of fear, intimidation and violence had no place in a democracy and called on the Venezuelan Government to protect opposition candidates.

"This was the deadliest of several recent attacks and acts of intimidation aimed at opposition candidates," Kirby said.

The European Union called for a swift investigation and justice in a statement.

"Yesterday's assassination of Mr Luis Manuel Diaz, the regional secretary of the Action Democratic party, marks a further deterioration of an already tense situation in the run up to the parliamentary elections on 6 December 2015," the EU said in a statement.

UNASUR, a South American regional bloc which is currently observing the election process in Venezuela, also condemned the murder.

"The killing of Luis Manuel Diaz provides a terrifying view of the state of human rights in Venezuela," Amnesty International said.

TRTWorld and agencies