Ariana Cubillos / AP Photo

Venezuelan opposition politician shot dead

Luis Manuel Diaz assassinated during a public speech days elections seen as challenging socialist rule

A Venezuelan opposition politician was shot dead during a public meeting days before a legislative election that has raised tensions around the politically polarized nation.

The shooting took place in the central town of Altagracia de Orituco, said the leader of Democratic Action party, Carolos Prosperi. He said he heard gunshots as the rally was breaking up and the party's leader for the town, Luis Manuel Diaz, was hit.

"He's just been assassinated by gunshot," Henry Ramos said in a tweet, adding Diaz was sharing the stage at the time with Lilian Tintori, wife of Venezuela's best-known jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez.

Tintori is one of the best known faces of the forces opposing Venezuela's socialist government lead by President Nicolás Maduro.

On her Twitter account Wednesday night, she denounced the "terror" that she charged was carried out by the governing party and said she had suffered multiple attacks in Altagracia de Orituco.

The Dec. 6 elections in Venezuela are being fiercely contested as the opposition coalition, of which Democratic Action is a part, mounts one of its strongest challenges yet to the government amid severe economic problems in the oil-exporting country.

The opposition says several activists have been wounded in recent days as government supporters crashed campaign events.

The socialist party has denied that it is trying to intimidate the opposition with violence and called the allegations nothing more than the latest craze among the government's foes.

Polls show the coalition has a good chance of wresting the legislature from the ruling socialists for the first time in 16 years.

No immediate confirmation of the incident came from Venezuelan authorities.

Wire services

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