Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro referred to an opposition leader, shot to death in public on Wednesday, as a “gang leader” (“pran“) with a history of “homicide” and “general delinquency,” while on a television program Sunday.
Luis Manuel Díaz was killed in a shower of bullets Wednesday while attending a political rally to generate excitement for opposition candidates for the upcoming December 6 elections. Díaz, who was a regional leader of the Democratic Action political party, was to speak alongside Lilian Tintori, wife of Popular Will opposition party leader and political prisoner Leopoldo López. Tintori later recalled she was sprayed by so much of Díaz’s blood that she initially believed she herself had been shot.
Henry Ramos Allup, the head of Díaz’s party, has alleged than an armed Chavista gang organized the hit.
“I greatly lament Díaz’s death,” Maduro said on the state propaganda show La Hojilla, “…but it turns out that this person… was a pran, he had been on trial for extortion, for homicide, for general delinquency. May he rest in peace, but that is the truth.”
Maduro described the murder as “a hit between mafias” and insisted that Díaz “was using his ID as a Democratic Action member to try to hide [from the law] and Ramos Allup went out to accuse Socialist Party militants of shooting him.” Maduro accused the left of “trying to turn a battle between mafias in Guárico [state] into a political event.”
Shortly after Díaz’s death on Wednesday, Maduro accused the United States of paying gang members between $30,000 and $50,000 to kill opposition leaders to make the socialist regime look bad. “They are moving a lot of money to see if they can buy a place in the conscience of our armed forces,” he alleged. He also implicated the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, in the killing, calling him “garbage,” “that garbage,” “the garbage of the Organization of American States,” and “Mister Garbage” in an extended statement.
“Whosoever misinterprets my words and uses lies as political weapons lacks dignity and that is inadmissible,” Almagro responded on his Twitter account. Almagro has also published an open letter to Maduro, denouncing his ad hominem attacks. “It is not ‘being garbage’… to condemn the murder of a politician and call for the cessation of violence throughout the country, nor is it saying that ‘the violent death of any person is an execrable deed that our conscience cannot admit.'”
Maduro’s personal attack against Díaz is not the first such case of posthumous slander for the Latin American left. In March, two months after his death of a gunshot wound to the head, Argentine Presidential Chief of Staff Anibal Fernández referred to prosecutor Alberto Nisman as “licentious” and insisted he had a reputation for being seen in the company of prostitutes. Nisman was killed the day before he was to testify that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had jeopardized national security by securing a trade deal with Iran that would lower the price of Iranian oil in exchange for protecting Hezbollah terrorists.
Venezuela’s Public Ministry, which is in charge of investigating the Díaz case, announced on Monday there are four suspects being investigated in his killing. Three of those—William Méndez Quiaro (28), José Enrique Abad (25), and Ronald Ender Hernández (22)—are to be charged on Monday.