January 11, 2018 / 11:39 PM / 3 months ago

Motorcycle gunmen kill pro-government legislator in Venezuela

CARACAS (Reuters) - A pro-government member of Venezuela’s controversial legislative superbody was shot and killed in the west of the country by two assailants riding a motorcycle, authorities said on Thursday.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers in Caracas, Venezuela January 11, 2018. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Lawyer Tomas Lucena, 31, was in his pickup truck with relatives on Wednesday afternoon when he was shot several times. He died in a hospital in Trujillo state, the public prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

A relative unknown in Venezuelan politics, Lucena was a member of the 545-strong ‘Constituent Assembly’ created last year by socialist President Nicolas Maduro in a move widely condemned by Western powers and fellow Latin American nations.

Speaking during an hours-long televised broadcast, Maduro alleged that Lucena, a father of three young children, had been targeted for political reasons.

“(He was) killed by right-wing hit men,” Maduro said.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (2nd L) speaks during a meeting with ministers in Caracas, Venezuela January 11, 2018. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

“Violence here, violence there... directed by the embassy of the United States,” he added, without offering any evidence.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Critics say Maduro routinely uses Washington as a scapegoat for the OPEC member’s political and economic meltdown.

Venezuela has one of the world’s highest murder rates, while a fourth straight year of recession has deprived millions of three square meals a day.

Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Corina Pons; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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