Venezuela says opposition sought protester's death

Thu Sep 2, 2010 1:55am GMT

* Hunger-striker's death in land protest stirs politics

* Chavez government says foes manipulated the farmer

* Supporters cry 'Justice' next to Brito's coffin

By Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Venezuela's government accused opposition parties on Wednesday of desiring the death of hunger-striker Franklin Brito to maximize political damage to President Hugo Chavez ahead of a parliamentary election.

"Like vultures, they desired and hoped for his death," a government statement said of the Brito case, which has stirred up Venezuelan politics before the Sept. 26 vote.

Critics have seized on the emaciated farmer's death, in a protest over land he says was seized illegally in south Venezuela, as evidence of Chavez's abuse of property rights and cold indifference to opposition.

But the government says Brito's complaint had no basis in law and that his ownership of 717 acres (290 hectares) in Bolivar state had been repeatedly ratified by land authorities.

"We are obliged to reject the Phariseeism of the rotten media, the electoral opposition and the Catholic Church who encouraged Mr. Brito's extremism with the sole aim of having a death for their dirty banners," the statement added.   Continued...

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