BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 06:10 GMT
Chavez opponents mass on streets
Amaris Fernandez waves her Venezuelan flag during rally against Hugo Chavez at a highway in Caracas
Opposition say up to a million people joined the protest
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken part in a rally in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to demand the resignation of President Hugo Chavez.

Correspondents say the march is the largest demonstration since a general strike began two weeks ago.

This response should bring the head of state to make the decision he needs to make about Venezuela's crisis... to leave

Carlos Ortega,
strike leader
The president's mostly middle-class opponents say they will continue their campaign until Mr Chavez stands down or calls a referendum on his controversial rule.

But though Venezuela's vital oil industry has been badly hit by the strike, on Saturday Mr Chavez again said he would not resign.

His government responded to the latest opposition rally by organising an open-air Christmas party in the centre of the city for the presidents' supporters.

'Quit'

Opposition leaders said up to a million people had joined their demonstration - occupying a stretch of about two kilometres (1.2 miles) of a four-lane highway.

They converged from different points in the capital into one massive rally near an east Caracas square where three protesters were shot dead on 6 December.

Dissident army officers, union leaders and comedians addressed the crowd, which chanted "let him leave today".

Trade union leader Carlos Ortega said: "This response should bring the head of state to make the decision he needs to make about Venezuela's crisis - and that is none other than to leave, quit, so Venezuela can restore confidence, peace and calm."

US calls

But the government of Mr Chavez mustered its own supporters, many of whom surrounded the presidential palace.

A free open-air Christmas party, complete with music and beer, took place there.

A Venezuelan guard at a petrol station
President Chavez ordered the National Guard to restart the oil industry
Both sides warned of possible violence following on from clashes earlier in the week.

But the protest started peacefully if noisily, with participants chanting, singing and blowing whistles as the marched waving national flags.

Earlier this week, Washington backed opposition calls for elections as a way to solve the crisis.

But Mr Chavez told an American television network: "There are no early elections planned here...

"I don't think that the United States Government is suggesting to the world that Venezuela must break with its constitution just to satisfy the pretensions of coup-mongers," he said.

Enlarge image
Show map

Click above to see Venezuela's oil export terminals

President Chavez ordered the National Guard to ensure that the oil distribution network continued to run.

The stoppage has drastically reduced oil production and exports in the world's fifth largest oil exporter, leading to increases in oil prices around the world.

In Venezuela, people have been stocking up on petrol and other supplies.

The Organization of American States (OAS) has been trying to mediate between the sides but with little success.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Miles
"The theme of the banners was a familiar one"
Mariusa Reyes, former correspondent in Caracas
"I think he will insist again he won't resign"

Key stories

Background

TALKING POINT
See also:

13 Dec 02 | Americas
11 Dec 02 | Americas
10 Dec 02 | Americas
10 Dec 02 | Americas
29 Nov 02 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes