March 11, 2015 / 6:23 PM / 3 years ago

Venezuela opposition seethes after OAS envoy's bullet comment

CARACAS (Reuters) - Mocking remarks by Venezuela’s envoy to the Organization of American States suggesting a bullet would pass easily through the “empty” head of an opposition sympathizer have set off a social media firestorm.

Veteran diplomat Roy Chaderton made the controversial comment on state TV earlier this week when discussing how projectiles did not distinguish among political colors.

“Snipers aim for heads ... a squalid (opposition) head cannot be distinguished from a ‘Chavista’ head - except in its content,” Chaderton said, using terms that became common during President Hugo Chavez’s polarized 1999-2013 rule.

“The sound produced in a squalid head is like a click because the skull is empty. So it goes through fast. But you only know that after the projectile passes,” he added on an irreverent, late-night chat show hosted by young presenters.

Though strong and often offensive comments have become commonplace on both sides of Venezuela’s political divide in recent years, Chaderton’s remarks touched a raw nerve given recent deaths around political protests.

A policeman shot dead a teenager near anti-government protests last month, and there were 43 fatalities last year in violence sparked by demonstrators against President Nicolas Maduro.

The 2014 deaths included pro-government supporters, opposition activists and members of security forces.

Venezuela’s Twitter-sphere was abuzz with calls from opposition supporters for Chaderton to apologize or resign.

“What on earth is Chaderton talking about?” tweeted one opposition mayor, David Smolansky. “The OAS should pronounce on this immediately and suspend Chaderton.”

As well as being plagued by political violence, Venezuela has the world’s second-worst homicide rate, according to the United Nations. The country is also awash with guns.

Government officials have not commented on the matter.

Maduro, like Chavez before him, is often subjected to scathing insults online, as are opposition leaders in Venezuela’s often-vitriolic political atmosphere.

Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Matthew Lewis

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