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Bomb at Venezuela business chamber kills 1

Venezuela Explosion
A cameraman records images of the area where a small bomb exploded outside the headquarters of Venezuela's leading business chamber Fedecamaras, in Caracas on Sunday.Fernando Llano / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A small bomb exploded outside the headquarters of Venezuela's leading business chamber on Sunday, killing one person, police said.

The blast occurred near the entrance of the Fedecamaras business chamber headquarters in Caracas's middle-class district of La Florida at approximately 1 a.m. local time (2 a.m. EST), killing an unidentified man and shattering windows, Federal Police Chief Marcos Chavez said.

"There's a person who was close by, and presumably could have been hit by the shock wave," Chavez said in a brief telephone interview. "We still have not identified the person."

The explosion could have been meant to scare business leaders who have been critical of President Hugo Chavez, said Fedecamaras President Jose Manuel Gonzalez.

"These actions do not intimdate us. They commit us to continue fighting for Venezuela," Gonzalez told Union Radio.

Lope Mendoza, the chamber's deputy vice president, noted that unidentified people have tossed several small explosives at Fedecamaras offices in recent years. Like Sunday's blast, those explosions occurred at night.

Hit by vandals repeatedly
The chamber's headquarters have been repeatedly vandalized. Last year, dozens of government supporters wearing red — the color of Chavez's ruling party — gathered outside the building during the day, spray-painting pro-Chavez slogans on its walls. None of the demonstrators were arrested.

Government officials have denied that Chavez's administration was behind previous attacks.

Last week, Gonzalez strongly criticized Chavez for accusing local businesses of stockpiling products to sell later at inflated prices as Venezuelans struggle with sporadic food shortages.

Chavez warned recently that any business caught hoarding goods such as chicken, eggs and milk "should be seized and taken under government control" — threats that alarmed Fedecamaras.

The socialist leader called Empresas Polar — Venezuela's largest food producer — a "clear example" of the kind of business that is ripe for takeover.