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Venezuela opposition party says govt supporters take over its HQ

CARACAS (Reuters) - A Venezuelan opposition party said government sympathizers who had taken over its headquarters threw tear gas at those who attempted to enter on Monday, as the country heads toward legislative elections the opposition plans to boycott.

The country’s supreme court in recent months put Democratic Action and two other opposition parties in the hands of politicians expelled from those parties on accusations they were in cahoots with socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Rank-and-file members of opposition parties overwhelmingly dismissed the court-appointed leaders as Maduro’s stooges, which the appointees have denied.

The takeover of Democratic Action’s headquarters, which began on Sunday, is part of an effort to give the court-appointed party leaders access to its buildings, legislator Williams Davila said in a statement.

“Democratic Action is being taken over because Maduro wants to create confusion. He’s trying to create a false opposition to make people believe that he has democratic support that doesn’t exist,” Davila said.

The party published a video of men inside the headquarters throwing what appeared to be improvised fireworks and later a tear gas canister onto the sidewalk where party members had gathered.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The supreme court in June ruled that Democratic Action should be put in the hands of politician Bernabe Gutierrez. He was then immediately expelled from the party.

Gutierrez in a tweet said two Democratic Action buildings had been “rescued from abandonment and laziness in which they had been found.”

Two other opposition parties, Popular Will and First Justice, now also have expelled party members who have been installed as party leaders.

Democratic Action, which was created in the 1940s, is a crucial element of the opposition coalition led by legislative chief Juan Guaido.

The opposition agreed to boycott the Dec. 6 legislative election on the grounds that it is rigged to maximize Maduro’s control over the legislature.

The court-appointed opposition party leaders are struggling to find candidates to run under their leadership due to broad mistrust among the opposition’s rank and file.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Richard Chang

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