Three supporters of Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles were killed in a shooting on Saturday while participating in a campaign event in the western state of Barinas, the first fatal clash associated with the country’s turbulent presidential elections. El Universal reports that the men were participating in a caravan of vehicles attempting to pass through a pro-Chavez neighborhood when they encountered a roadblock. When one of the individuals got out of his vehicle, an unknown gunman opened fire, killing him and another member of the caravan. A third victim was also hit, and later died of his injuries.
The incident bears similarities to the September 12thclashes in the northern coastal city of Puerto Cabello, when 14 people were injured after Chavista protesters sought to prevent Capriles from campaigning there. No deaths were reported as a result of the riots, however.
In his last major campaign rally in Caracas on Sunday, Capriles condemned the violence and called for an investigation into the killings. “I want to tell [the victims’] families, and those angels in heaven, that we are going to defeat violence on October 7th.”
Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami announced yesterday that the culprit of the shootings had been arrested, and the Ministry of Justice released a statement saying that a total of three suspects had been linked to the incident.
The killings are the latest indication of the potential for political violence in Venezuela, recently addressed in a comprehensive analysis by the Wilson Center’s Latin America program. WOLA’s Venezuela Politics and Human Rights Blog published a tidy summary and review of the report’s main findings last week, available here.
- Also in Venezuela election news, Globovision reports that the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE) has announced that all votes for the Unidad Democratica party in the October 7th elections will go to third party candidate Reina Sequera instead of Capriles, despite the fact that Capriles’ image is featured under the Unidad Democratica’s logo on the ballot. As James Bosworth notes, the fact that this is the first image of Capriles that appears on the ballot when reading left to right is likely to cause some confusion among voters.
- The Miami Herald profiles Venezuela’s electoral process, with its thumbprint-recognizing voting machines. Although former President Jimmy Carter praised the voting system in the country last week as “the best in the world,” doubts about the integrity of electoral officials remain. Meanwhile, the AP has a piece on get-out-the-vote schemes in the country, and the Washington Post takes a look at the impact of Venezuelan youth on the elections.
- Mitofsky polling firm has released the results of opinion polls for the heads of state of 20 countries in the region. At the top of the list are Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and El Salvador’s Mauricio Funes, with 80 percent and 72 percent approval ratings, respectively. Honduras’ Porfirio Lobo and Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla are at the bottom, with 14 and 13 percent approval.
- FT has piece on Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, which this year is taking on a decidedly political theme. Justice Joaquim Barbosa, who is in charge of investigating the mensalão political scandal, is a favorite subject for costumes and masks in Rio at the moment.
- AP with an insightful Spanish-language analysis of the recent movement towards alternative drug policies in the hemisphere, and the political difficulties of openly supporting decriminalization or legalization.
- Central American Politics blog has a round-up of several recent news stories to come out about the intersection of economic development and climate change in Central America.
- Negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group have been postponed until October 14, according to TeleSur and Caracol Radio. While the Oslo peace talks had been slated to begin earlier this month, they have been delayed because judicial officials have not been able to suspend the arrest warrants of rebel negotiators on time.
- Former Colombian state legislator Sigifredo Lopez, who was accused of arranging his own kidnapping with FARC rebels, has been found innocent, reports El Tiempo and The New York Times.
- After hours of debate, Mexico’s controversial labor reform bill passed the country’s lower legislative house just past 4 a.m. on Saturday , and will now go on to the Senate, which has 30 days to approve or reject the bill.
- The Economist profiles the difficulties facing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who has alienated key sectors of the Peronist movement and many middle class voters with her economic policies.