President of Venezuela's elections council condemns slaying of regional director

The president of Venezuela's elections council condemned the slaying of the institution's regional director in Amazonas state on Friday and demanded the killers be brought to justice.

Jorge Rodriguez, president of the National Elections Council, said the killing of Oswaldo Rodriguez appeared to be aimed at intimidating the council ahead of congressional elections in December.

The victim had received repeated death threats prior to his murder, according to Rodriguez. Federal investigator Dionisio Gutierrez told the state-run Bolivarian News Agency that unidentified attackers had kidnapped Rodriguez at gunpoint before stabbing him to death early Friday.

Rodriguez said several of the council's other regional directors have also received anonymous death threats over the telephone. He said the acts of intimidation seem to be aimed at interrupting preparations for the Dec. 4 congressional vote.

"They are not going to stop us. We are going to hold the Dec. 4 elections," Rodriguez told a press conference in Caracas.

Some opposition leaders claim the elections council is biased in favor of President Hugo Chavez and his political allies. They argue that vote-rigging and irregularities in Venezuela's voter registry allowed Chavez to survive the recall referendum last year.

Observers from the Organization of American States and the Atlanta-based Carter Center saw no evidence of fraud in the Aug. 15 recall vote.

Several thousand candidates are slated to participate in the Dec. 4 elections to pick members of the 167-seat National Assembly, which is currently controlled by a majority of Chavez supporters, AP reported.

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