Chavez Warns of Plans to Murder Opposition Candidate Capriles

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Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has warned of a murder plot against his main rival in the upcoming elections, Henrique Capriles Radonski, and indeed there are many groups who might wish to stop a handover of power.

The president said on state television that he had information about a plan to kill Capriles, candidate of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD).

Chavez emphatically denied that his government was behind the alleged plot. “There is information that they want to attack him, but it is not the government, no way. Quite the contrary,” he insisted. Chavez said that the intelligence agency was investigating the reports.

Capriles responded via Twitter that Chavez’s comments “bordered on irresponsible,” and said that he didn’t know if they were a “warning” or a “threat.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The president did not say who might be behind the plan, but state news agency AVN published the story under the headline; “Sectors of the right plan attack against opposition candidate.”

Rather than reflecting the existence of a credible plot, Chavez’s assertion could be part of an attempt to link Capriles the threat of instability, which is one of the top concerns for voters in the October election. Venezuela saw a record number of murders last year, making it the most violent country in South America. Chavez may be trying to present Capriles as a candidate who would not be able to combat crime — he said when announcing the threats that the government was the guarantor of stability, while the opposition was the guarantor of violence.

However, it is not unlikely that there are people who want Capriles dead. Earlier this month the candidate and his entourage were attacked while campaigning in the Caracas neighborhood of Cotiza. Shots were fired, wounding one of the group. Capriles attributed the attack to activists from Chavez’s party.

In addition to the pro-government armed groups active in various Caracas neighborhoods, who could have been behind the Cotiza attack, there are other, more powerful, criminal organizations who benefit from the status quo and might want to stop Capriles taking the presidency. During Chavez’s time in office, the country has been used as a haven by Colombian groups from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to the Urabeños, while, under Chavez, it has become the biggest transit point for Colombian cocaine. Elements in the military are enmeshed with the drug trade, and would strongly resist any effort to crack down on it. It could be that Chavez leaving power, and Capriles taking over, is seen as a serious enough threat to encourage one of these groups to try to stop it.

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