Violent groups linked to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution burned a truck Wednesday and started a brawl that left at least four people wounded in an effort to sabotage the visit to Puerto Cabello of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who was forced to arrive by boat instead of plane.
The incident occurred three days after Capriles had to suspend a visit to La Pastora sector in Caracas, amid warnings that armed groups linked to president Chávez’s administration had intended to assassinate him.
This week’s incidents show a growing trend of Chávez’s followers to use violence to intimidate Venezuelans amid warnings from the president that the country could fall into a civil war if he loses the Oct. 7 election.
A mob of 200 people used a truck to block La Sorpresa-Muelles highway in front of the Bartolomé Salom Airport in Puerto Cabello to prevent Capriles from visiting the city.
The group of government supporters then started a confrontation with Capriles’ followers, hurling stones and bottles at them and setting at least one vehicle on fire.
The opposition candidate had to abandon his plans to land in the airport and opted to come to the city by boat.
“This is what they are trying to do to make people afraid of voting on Oct. 7, but nothing will stop the storm of the future,” Capriles said.
“When the tree yields good fruits, stones are thrown at it,” he added in a statement broadcast by television news channel Globovision. “Now they are throwing stones at me for anything […] We Venezuelans are pursuing a path to peace and we will seek a government that would offer peace.”
Venezuelans will go to the polls next month in a presidential election that many consider decisive for the future of the country amid promises made by Chávez that he will use a new six-year term to finish the foundation of a socialist revolution.
A series of polls favoring the government has Chávez leading by 15 to 30 points, while those favoring Capriles give the opposition candidate four points ahead of the president.
The peak in the opposition candidate’s popularity also coincides with the hardening of the campaign rhetoric of the president, who warned recently that Venezuela would plunge into civil war if he were to lose the election.
The comments, rejected by the international community, are seen as a new commitment of the leader of the Bolivarian revolution to use fear and intimidation to prevent voters from supporting his rival.
Capriles was forced Sunday to suspend a planned visit to La Pastora sector of the capital city after his campaign received a call from a high-ranking intelligence officer warning that armed groups were set to ambush them and that they could not guarantee the candidate’s personal safety.
“Since yesterday, we had information that this was going on […] That is why we made the decision this morning to cancel the candidate’s commitment to attend the event where these organized groups were waiting for him,” Capriles’ campaign chief, Armando Briquet, said in a press conference.
“We asked the president to separate himself from these acts of violence, to separate himself from the agenda of the leaders that were there […] organizing the violence, armed with weapons and attempting to ambush the future,” Briquet added.