Violence erupts in Venezuela when challenger campaigns in Chavez stronghold
A large crowd of supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez turned violent when opposition candidate Henrique Capriles campaigned in a Chavez-leaning area.
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Jorge Rodriguez,Chavez's campaign manager, blamed government opponents and said the Carabobo police, which are under Salas' command,attacked Chavez's partisans.Skip to next paragraph
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Rodriguez said government supporters "have a right to protest and demonstrate freely" against Capriles< visit.
"The police arrived and savagely attacked the people," Rodriguez said on television, adding that Chavez<s campaign has photos of Carabobo police officers in civilian clothing participating in the violence.
Kelvis Olleda, a 15-year-old Chavez supporter, blamed the opposition for provoking the incident.
"They started this. They were looking for us," Olleda said, holding a stick as he joined the pro-Chavez crowd.
Endris Quintero, a Capriles supporter, stood watching as people threw rocks. "It isn't fair," he said. "It's an act of vandalism."
Jaime Castillo, a criminologist watching the clashes, called the violence serious. "The government has led us to confrontation," said Castillo. He said that local government officials had put out calls on Twitter and radio for Chavez supporters to take to the streets.
He also blamed National Guard troops for not acting immediately, even though troops were stationed at a post right next to the area.
In previous incidents during the campaign, four people were injured in a shooting that erupted during a voting drill earlier this month.
In July, stone-throwing Chavez supporters clashed with opposition sympathizers who joined Capriles as he led a march in a poor Caracas neighborhood.
In another incident on March 4, gunfire rang out while Capriles was visiting a traditionally pro-Chavez neighborhood in Caracas, injuring one supporter of the opposition leader.
Wednesday's violence occurred just as former Patrick Duddy, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, said in a report released this week that in the coming months Venezuela "could experience significant political unrest and violence that lead to the further curtailment of democracy in the country."
In the report, which was published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Duddy wrote that while Chavez has said he will respect the result of the vote, "most plausible scenarios for instability and conflict in Venezuela derive from the premise that the Chavistas will not willingly surrender power and would be willing to provoke violence, orchestrate civil unrest, or engage in various forms of armed resistance to avoid doing so."
Associated Press writer Jorge Rueda, in Caracas, contributed to this report.