Venezuela: At least four killed in confusing clashes

The situation in Caracas remains uncertain. According to reports from the news agencies present at the Capital City of Venezuela, at least four are reported dead and over 20 wounded after a shooting in France Square, headquarters of the rebel Army officials.

The slaughter took place minutes after the opposition called for the sixth consecutive day of general strike, against President Chavez. A similar scenario in 11th April led to a frustrated cup, which toppled Chavez for less than 48 hours.

The National media very quickly blamed Chavez supporters for the shooting, where among the victims, could be found a 7 years old girl. Almost immediately, opposition leaders confirmed they would go on with the strikes and protests all over the country. It is very noticeable, that after five days of strike, important sectors of the private industry and commerce started coming back to work as the tension decreased.

Venezuela's Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel, told the international press that the Government condemned the attacks and assured that responsible would be punished "no matter to whom they support."

The Oil factor

During the fourth day of the general strike and civil disobedience to Cahvez's authority, the crew of an oil tanker mutinied and anchored the ship in Maracaibo Bay. Rioters claimed for President Chavez resignation, while according with reports, at least five other tankers followed in Western port of Maracaibo.

Navy officials seized the ship Thursday and were talking with its crew, said General Alberto Gutierrez, head of the army command in Zulia state. The vessel didn't block shipping channels in Lake Maracaibo, where 1 million barrels of crude are shipped daily. Protesters on tugboats circled the Pilin Leon - named after a Venezuelan former Miss World - blowing whistles to support the crew.

In turn, President Chavez said the mutiny was "an act of piracy" and accused rebels of being interested in privatising the National Oil Company Petroleos de Venezuela - PDVSA-. Venezuela is the fifth largest oil producer of the world, and the industry is country's main activity. However, the four days general strike has partially halted new oil operations as exports stopped because 33 tankers were unable to load cargo.

The anti-Chavez protest turned, as usual, into turmoil all along the country. As cities become no man's land, clashes between opposition forces, Chavez supporters and the police dominate the scene. The opposition blamed Chavez this week for provoking chaos by placing snipers inside public buildings. The Government, in turn, assured it would use the Army to prevent any attempt to paralyse the oil industry activity.

After peace talks failed and OAS could not find a negotiated solution to the crisis, the use of force has replaced democracy in a long running political conflict. Analysts fear new bloodshed as happened eight months ago.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

Photo (AFP): Strikers in Venezuela halted oil exports.

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