- Title: VENEZUELA: VENEZUELANS PRAY FOR PEACE AND END TO NATIONAL STRIKE
- Date: 24th December 2002
- Summary: (U7) CARACAS, VENEZUELA (DECEMBER 24, 2002) (REUTERS) WIDE OF OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS IN DEMONSTRATION FOR PEACE VARIOUS, OF PROTESTORS WAVING FLAGS AND SINGING (3 SHOTS) SCU (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) OPPOSITION SUPPORTER, JAVIER RUIZ, SAYING: "A prayer for peace for all Venezuelans, Chavistas (Chavez supporters) or not. We are all Venezuelans and we all want peace. I am sure of that." WIDE OF DEMONSTRATOR WITH GIANT HAND WITH FINGER POINTING UPWARDS SCU DEMONSTRATORS (2 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 8th January 2003 12:00
- Location: CARACAS, VENEZUELA
- Country: Venezuela
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAEX1VHHRTMDF8F1S7C42EV8OS0
- Story Text: Venezuelans have prayed for peace as they celebrated a Christmas marred by political discord and an opposition strike crippling the oil-reliant economy.
Anti-Chavez demonstrators who are demanding that the populist president resign and call early elections, demonstrated in the streets waving flags and calling for peace.
"A prayer for peace for all Venezuelans, Chavistas (Chavez supporters) or not. We are all Venezuelans and we all want peace. I am sure of that," said Javier Ruiz.
Opposition leaders, who launched their strike on Dec. 2, say Chavez's self-styled "revolution" has ruined the economy and accuse him of trying to install Cuba-style communism.
Late Tuesday (December 24, 2002) , former paratrooper Chavez broadcast a brief Christmas message, wishing all Venezuelans a happy Christmas of "infinite tenderness and love".
"Brothers and Sisters from this country and the world, welcome baby Jesus with the spirit to fight for equality, for peace, and for the happiness of us all," Chavez said while holding a baby Jesus doll.
Cries of "Merry Christmas" competed with shouts of "Chavez out!" and "Long live Chavez!", reflecting the fierce political and social divisions tearing at the South American country as followers and foes of leftist President Hugo Chavez welcomed Christmas Day with rival overnight parties in Caracas in the fourth week of a strike that has slashed oil output and throttled exports by the world's No. 5 petroleum exporter.
On Wednesday (December 25), in a Christmas homily, the Archbishop of Caracas, urged the inhabitants of this largely Catholic South American country to set aside hatred and unite.
"May Chavez decide for elections, that is what we need.
If he stays, perfect, we will all accept it, but if it is the other way around, many of us would benefit," said one parishioner, Mariluz Rivas.
Long lines of cars and trucks formed Wednesday outside gas stations in Caracas as some motorists prepared to spend their Christmas waiting for scarce fuel supplies. The gas drought meant many Venezuelans had to cancel planned family reunions.
"Despite it being Christmas, instead of being home with the family, I had to come pump gas because I have to work tomorrow and my work is far, I cannot find transportation.
Unfortunately we don't have any choice than to make these lines on Christmas," Yolanda Richie.
The Venezuelan oil shutdown and growing fears of a U.S.
war on Iraq have jolted world oil markets, pushing oil prices close to two-year highs. Venezuela normally supplies more than 13 percent of U.S. oil imports.
Chavez, who was elected in 1998 and survived a coup in April, refuses to quit and has vowed to beat the strike, which is costing the economy millions of dollars a day in lost income and has caused gasoline shortages and food supply disruptions.
Chavez has pledged to wrest control of the oil company from his striking foes. They have vowed to stay out on strike and keep it shut down until he leaves office.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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