Venezuela: Chavez gets stronger as strike weakens

Private banks abandon strike and Government takes the initiative. Coca Cola and McDonald's to leave the country

"I will never surrender to the pretensions of the oligarchy," Chavez said in a speech in the town of Guasdualito in southwestern Apure State. After resisting the longest ever strike - lock out in Venezuela's history, the populist leader prepares himself to counterattack.

According to the last reports from Caracas, demonstrations against the Government are far away from gathering as much people as before. Furthermore, strike leaders had to acknowledge PDVSA, the State oil monopoly, will normalize its production within the next month, as already hits 1 million barrels a day.

After vowing to defeat the strike, Chavez flatly rejected any amnesty for oil workers, whom he has accused of treason for leading the stoppage that has crippled production in the world's No. 5 petroleum exporter.

Besides, what looked like the most terrible threat for Chavez's regime, private banks lock out, has passed and the so-called financial crack has been avoided by the moment. However, the Government announced new measures to strengthen exchange controls and avoid a general slump of the local currency.

After seizing food-producing plants in the outskirts of Caracas to distribute products among the population, the Government sparked an open confrontation with foreign companies. Sources in Maracaibo, country's second largest city, confirmed to PRAVDA.Ru that the US based giant Coca-Cola would leave the country. Coca-Cola was directly affected by Government's order to seize production.

By the way, McDonald's is also studying the possibility of leaving Venezuela, as its activities have been seriously affected by the political crisis.

Nearly two months into the grueling stoppage, Chavez and his opponents seem no closer to breaking their deadlock and ending the strike, which driven Venezuela's fragile economy deeper into recession and rattled global energy markets.

Representatives from six nations, led by the United States and Brazil, are scheduled to begin talks on Friday to try and bolster those brokered by the Organization of American States. However, now, Chavez will be in a better position to negotiate a total surrender of his foes.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

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