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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 03:32 GMT
Venezuelan business bosses call for strike
Graffiti saying
Chavez's popularity has plummeted
Venezuela's business leaders have called a nationwide strike on 10 December in protest at the government's failure to consult the private sector over several key economic laws.

Fedecamaras, the country's largest business association which claims to represent two thirds of the country's private industry, gave the decision a unanimous vote of approval.

The strike will be a test for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who has derided the decision as an "oligarch's strike".

Chavez, who was elected in 1998 after styling himself as a man of the people, says that the new laws have the country's interests at heart, and urged the Venezuelan people to take to the capital Caracas' streets in a show of support, saying the strike was part of a "counter-revolutionary conspiracy".

"Oligarchs, welcome, hold your strike and we'll see who is the stronger, you or the Venezuelan people," he said.

However recent opinion polls have shown his popularity has dipped dramatically, and criticism of his government has increased.

Controversial laws

The business leaders are furious that the president used his executive powers to rush through reforms hours before his powers to legislate by decree came out.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Chavez: strike is a "counter-revolutionary conspiracy"

The BBC's Adam Easton says that the laws included a controversial land reform law which allows the government to appropriate private property and a hydro-carbons law which many critics say is hostile to private investment.

Fedecamaras says that the shut down, which will affect all businesses except the state-run petroleum and gas industry and all essential utilities services, was called to urge the government to revise the legislation.

"This is a strike to call on the government to change its ways," said Fedecamaras president Pedro Carmona.

Embarrassment

Reuters news agency also reported that Venezuela's Workers Confederation was considering the possibility of an indefinite labour strike.

The shutdown is believed to be the first since the Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez was toppled from power in 1958.

If the strike succeeds, it will prove embarrassing for a government considered by many Venezuelans to be unable to govern.

See also:

30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Venezuela
31 Jul 01 | Americas
Timeline: Venezuela
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