Shooting Injures 1 At Venezuela Candidate's Event

Published March 5, 2012 9:36PM (EST)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Gunshots were fired during an event where the leading opponent of President Hugo Chavez was visiting a traditionally pro-government neighborhood, wounding at least one person and prompting both political camps on Monday to trade blame for the violence.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said that the authorities are investigating Sunday's violence, in which the son of opposition lawmaker Ismael Garcia was lightly injured.

A group of government supporters clashed with backers of opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles as he visited the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas. It wasn't clear who fired the shots.

In messages on his Twitter account, Capriles accused government supporters of starting the violence.

Garcia said his son, who is also named Ismael, was wounded in an arm.

"The government can't say it isn't responsible for this," Garcia said by phone. He said government supporters from outside the area had come to cause problems, and that Capriles was well-received by many people in the area before the shots rang out.

El Aissami accused the opposition of provoking the violence.

"They went to generate this show," El Aissami said on state television, according to the state-run Venezuelan News Agency. El Aissami said the opposition has an "agenda of violence."

He said there was no evidence to back Garcia's claim that backers of Chavez's socialist party had opened fire.

Garcia appeared at the prosecutors' offices to formally request an investigation. A prosecutor was appointed to investigate along with the police.

Capriles was whisked away in a vehicle when the gunfire erupted.

Campaign manager Armando Briquet said that Capriles, who is running against Chavez in the Oct. 7 election, plans to keep up with his public events throughout the country in the run-up to the campaign, which formally begins in July.

"They aren't going to intimidate us," Briquet said at a news conference.

Another member of Capriles' team was struck in the head with a hurled object during the violence, Briquet said.

The anti-Chavez television station Globovision said a camera crew also was attacked and that their camera was stolen by an unidentified group of people.

Some members of Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela have said four party members were injured during the incident. The authorities had yet to publicly confirm details of that account.

Briquet demanded the investigating authorities should say whether the violence was a "spontaneous action" by people who happened to be carrying guns, or whether it was "a political mandate" encouraged by the government.

Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, was accompanied by two unarmed police officers who were serving as his bodyguards, Briquet said. He said Capriles has no plans to step up his security.

Vice President Elias Jaua told radio station Union Radio that the opposition has launched "a premature and illegal campaign."

Capriles, who won an opposition primary vote to become the single candidate to face Chavez in October, did not immediately respond to that accusation.

By Salon Staff

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