Police repress pro-Chavez demonstration in Venezuela

One person was reported dead and at least other nine injured, after Caracas' metropolitan police clashed with President Chavez supporters on Tuesday.

Government followers were blocking entrances to city's mayor offices, where the opposition was holding a meeting to define its strategy after a number of failed attempts to overthrown the constitutional administration.

Caracas' police respond to the authority of City Mayor, Alfredo Pena, a declared political enemy of Chavez. Officers attacked the 200 demonstrators using tear gas and opening fire to the crowd.

After a short period of peace, street violence broke out again in Caracas, while the General Secretary for the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, makes efforts to negotiate a solution to country's long-running conflict. Gaviria initiated by the end of 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 ruling.  Such action is not allowed by the Constitution, which contemplates 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 popular classes as became evident after the massive demonstration on his favour during last month.

After the failed coup seven months ago, and the successive stumbles of last month, the opposition looks now divided. The frustrated assassination of Chavez on October 19th and 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 claim for Chavez resignation. The Government, in turn, takes control on the situation and let them protest "only if they do not block the traffic".

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Olga Savka