Three men were arrested by Venezuelan authorities on Monday in connection with the murder of an opposition parliamentary candidate.
Luis Diaz, the secretary general of the Democratic Action party in the state of Guarico, was shot and killed last Wednesday at a public meeting ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections on Dec. 6. The shooting represents increasing tensions in the Latin American nation over a plummeting economy and repeated rumors of corruption, CNBC says.
The prosecutor’s office said the suspects, between the ages of 22 and 28, were being held in Altagracia de Orituco, the town where Diaz was shot.
Opposition leaders have alleged that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government is behind the murder. But the ruling party denies the claims, saying instead that Diaz was a criminal involved in gang disputes that turned deadly, according to Reuters.
The attack was quickly condemned by the U.S. “This was the deadliest of several recent attacks and acts of intimidation aimed at opposition candidates,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement, Reuters reports. “Campaigns of fear, violence, and intimidation have no place in democracy.”
The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela is lagging in the polls behind the Democratic Action party, but still holds the advantages of deep campaign coffers and the loyalty of poorer voters still fiercely dedicated to the memory of former leader Hugo Chavez, Reuters says.