One person was reported dead and at least other nine injured after Caracas' metropolitan police clashed with President Chavez’s supporters on Tuesday.
Government followers were blocking entrances to the city mayor’s offices, where the opposition was holding a meeting to define its strategy after a number of failed attempts to overthrow the government.
Caracas' police respond to the authority of City Mayor, Alfredo Pena, a declared Chavez a political enemy. Officers attacked the 200 demonstrators using tear gas and opening fire on the crowd.
After a short period of peace, street violence broke out again in Caracas, while General Secretary for the Organization of American States Cesar Gaviria made efforts to negotiate a solution to country's long-running conflict. Gaviria initiated last month a round of talks with opposition groups, weakened after the failed general strike, and the government.
The opposition, a heterogeneous alliance of corporation owners and unions, strongly supported by the local mass media, insists on an immediate referendum on Chavez. Such action is not allowed by the Constitution, which contemplates the revocation of mandates only after half of the period has passed.
Consequently, the Venezuelan leader, elected in 1998 on a platform of social reform, refuses to step down and insists that the Constitution only guarantees a binding referendum on his rule in August 2003. Chavez still enjoys a very important support among the working class, as became evident after the massive demonstration in his favor last month.
After the failed coup seven months ago, and the successive stumbles of last month, the opposition now looks divided. The failed assassination attempt on Chavez on October 19th and the subsequent failed general strike on the 21st made part of the opposition retreat and expect outcomes from the ongoing mediation talks. However, the most radical of them pathetically took over a square in a residential area of Caracas to call for Chavez’s resignation. The government, in turn, takes control on the situation and lets them protest "only if they must not block the traffic.”
Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina
Photo (Reuters): Political violence in a divided country.
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