A large crowd of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s supporters blocked a main road near an airport Wednesday prior to the arrival of opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. The crowd congregated near the Bartolomé Salom airport in the coastal town of Puerto Cabello, causing turmoil during Capriles’ campaign rally. A truck and motorcycle were set ablaze and both sides hurled rocks, giving 14 people minor injuries.
At an outdoor rally afterwards, Capriles said, “Those actions aren’t spontaneous. There’s someone responsible for those actions.” Referring to Hugo Chávez without mentioning the president’s name, he added, “It’s you who wants that scenario. It’s you who wants to sow fear.”
Chávez recently claimed that his rival has a hidden right-wing agenda “that would lead Venezuela to a civil war.” As the melee erupted, some of the red-shirted government supporters went into the airport compound and carried away speakers and a generator. In a separate incident, the AFP and Reuters reported that one of their assigned photographers was beaten and kicked as Chávez supporters attempted to get hold of his camera.
Jorge Rodríguez, Chávez’s presidential campaign manager, blamed government opponents and said that the Carabobo police, which are under Governor Henrique Salas’ command, attacked Chavez’s supporters. He said the crowd had “a right to protest and demonstrate freely” against Capriles’ visit.
Carabobo state Governor Henrique Salas Feo, a Chávez adversary, condemned the violence on television and said, “the country needs peace.” Yesterday was the third time in less than a month that Capriles has visited Carabobo state, and each time his presence has sparked altercations between Venezuela’s current administration and the opposing party.