Hooded gunmen threatened Venezuela congress commission – opposition

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By Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS (Reuters) – A half-dozen hooded gunmen tried to break into the offices of the comptroller commission at the Venezuelan National Assembly on Friday, according to the president of the opposition-led commission, who said the incident was likely politically motivated.

The commission on Wednesday issued a report accusing PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] of corruption, saying about $11 billion in funds went missing from the state-run oil company while Rafael Ramirez was at the helm from 2004-14.

“What a coincidence,” said commission president Freddy Guevara in a statement. “Armed ‘colectivos’ arrive to threaten the personnel just two days after we denounced big corruption cases in PDVSA,” added Guevara, in reference to pro-government militant grassroots groups denounced by opponents as thugs.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the incident.

The country’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Guevara told Reuters that seven to eight men had tried to get into the commission’s offices. “They wanted to enter the commission, but didn’t give their motive,” said Jose Ramirez, adding they put a weapon in the mouth of one of the administrative assistants to force their way in.

The group was not allowed through, however, and the National Assembly’s security personnel briefly detained the men before letting them go, according to Ramirez.

“These people really act with total impunity,” he said.

Venezuela is one of the world’s most violent countries, and opposition figures say they are regularly followed and intimidated. Some opposition leaders and activists have also been jailed on grounds of seeking to stoke violence against the unpopular government of leftist President Nicolas Maduro, whosays they are masked coup plotters.

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PDVSA’s former head, Ramirez, has slammed the National Assembly’s corruption report, saying it was full of “irresponsible lies.”

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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