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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 18:08 GMT
Views from Venezuela
Venezuelans queue at cash machines in Caracas
People take the opportunity to get their cash
Jose Perez, manager of a Caracas off-licence shop, has seen a sudden stream of customers coming into his store.

But they are not interested in buying alcohol.


When [Venezuelans] love a man, they'll follow him to the death

"People are only coming to ask if we've got water or soft drinks," Mr Perez told the Associated Press. "We've got enough right now, but water might be gone today."

Panic-buying is on the increase as the nationwide strike against President Hugo Chavez, now into its second week, begins to bite.

The country's all-important oil industry has been brought to a near standstill and long queues formed at petrol stations as people try to stock up before the pumps run dry.

Supermarket shelves are rapidly emptying as shoppers try to get their hands on essential goods. Many cash machines are reported to be running out of money as worried savers withdraw their cash.

Media blamed

The stoppage, which was called by opposition groups to try to force President Chavez to step down, has also closed private schools and universities. International and national flights have also been affected.

But in many working class areas of Venezuela the strike is being ignored, with the president's hard-core supporters angry at what they say is a media-led campaign to discredit their hero.

A passenger waits at the Simon Bolivar airport in Caracas
Going nowhere: Venezuela is stuck in conflict
"The Venezuelan people are like a woman. When they love a man, they'll follow him to the death," Cesar Buenavida told Reuters as he grilled skewers of meat to sell in a Caracas street market.

Mr Buenavida, 27, said he was ready to fight if the strike manages to force President Chavez out.

"I just want to see how far they want to go, whether they want to make the people rise up and fight a civil war," he said.

Rich v poor?

Feelings are running high, and opinions polarised.

"I don't know anything about the strike. It's for the rich people; nothing has stopped here," Reinato Alvarez, 52, a retired health worker told Reuters.

But a simple split of rich equals anti-Chavez, poor equals pro-Chavez is rejected by Josse Gonzalez of Maracaibo.

"In reality 80% of the population want him out," Mr Gonzalez told BBC News Online. "My town was completely empty today proving the opinion polls are correct."

Others are hoping that the tensions that have spilled over into violence in the capital will not spread across the country.

His town of San Felipe has escaped the amount of viciousness seen in some areas, Daniel Duffaud told News Online.

"How long we'll be blessed is anybody's guess."


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10 Dec 02 | Americas
03 Dec 02 | Media reports
29 Nov 02 | Americas
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