On Monday night, an emaciated Brito, 49, died in
It marked the first time that a hunger striker had died on President
"This does not mean that
Venezuelan officials said the government had tried to keep Brito alive. They added that the state had tried to find a solution for Brito, who claimed the government had expropriated his farm in the name of land reform.
During a campaign stop in
"The counter-revolution says we are taking peoples' land," Chavez said. "It's the other way around. They are the ones who are taking peoples' property by making it private."
Brito's death has to be considered state-sponsored murder, said
During a news conference, Colina asked
"The political leadership has to capitalize on this situation come
Polls suggest Chavez's allies and the opposition are almost evenly divided heading into the race. But new rules governing how votes are counted in each district mean Chavez supporters are likely to hold onto their majority.
While Brito's death came as a shock in
"This is just one more case that illustrates the government's willingness to trample on private property," he said.
"Brito's case is another warning to people about what's happening in the country," Koeneke said.
Brito began his public battle against the government in 2004 after local authorities in the southern state of Bolivar gave neighboring farmers the green-light to take over his property.
Such takeovers are not uncommon, as the government
has reclaimed fallow and under-utilized land in the name of boosting
food production and helping the landless. Over the past eight years,
the administration has seized more than 5 million acres of farmland,
Brito always claimed that his land was taken as a result of a personal vendetta with the local mayor, but government officials said Tuesday that Brito never had clear title to the land.
In 2009, the government agreed to remove the invaders and even gave the family agricultural credits and a tractor. But because the authorities presented the decision as a favor, leaving him in a legal limbo, Brito resumed his protest.
In December, while on hunger strike in front of the
(c) 2010, The Miami Herald.
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