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
Monday, 16 December, 2002, 00:51 GMT
Venezuela troops storm oil tanker
Opposition boats gather around the anchored tankers
The tankers have been at the centre of a tug of war
The besieged Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has deployed army troops to seize an oil tanker, in a gesture of defiance to opponents leading a general strike which is now entering its third week.

On Sunday, troops arrested and replaced the crew of a tanker anchored in Lake Maracaibo, 500 kilometres (300 miles) west of Caracas, according to its captain.

Chavez during his weekly public broadcast
Chavez showed no signs of yielding to his opponents on Sunday
In his weekly live broadcast, President Chavez said the country - the world's fifth largest oil exporter - had restarted oil exports despite the work stoppage by many executives at the state oil company, PDVSA.

Much of Venezuela has been hit by the general strike organised by opposition groups demanding that the president step down or call a referendum on his controversial rule.

Opposition groups say one million protesters attended a massive anti-Chavez rally in Caracas on Saturday.

The order to seize oil tankers was the latest attempt by the government to regain control of ships and refineries hit by the stoppage.

Troops were also ordered to board another nearby tanker, the Pilin Leon, which has become emblematic of the dispute since a previous attempt to commandeer the vessel earlier this month was halted by a judge.

'Fascists'

In his marathon five-and-a-half hour TV and radio address, President Chavez insisted that oil exports had begun to return to normal and that two million barrels had been shipped since Thursday, compared to a normal average of 2.5 million barrels a day.

He warned he would take "every measure allowed by the constitution" to put an end to the strike.

Enlarge image
Show map

Click above to see Venezuela's oil export terminals

Mr Chavez told PDVSA employees and managers that "abandoning one's functions is ground for dismissal. The time has come to apply the law."

"I will not leave under pressure from a group of managers, a group of coup-plotters, a group of fascists, a group of entrepreneurs or mass media," he said.

The strike has been led by business and labour leaders and championed by much of the privately-owned media.

Chavez's 'despair'

Mr Chavez reacted angrily to the US backing of opposition calls for elections.

"Venezuela cannot accept that any country interfere with its internal affairs," he said.

Opponents, meanwhile, repeated their determination to continue with the protest, and insisted Mr Chavez was unfit to lead the country.

"Calling us coup plotters is a result of your fears and despair," said Carlos Fernandez, head of the large employers' group Fedecameras, quoted by the French news agency AFP.

Another strike leader, unionist Carlos Ortega, said: "You are not democratic, you want violence and confrontation."


Key stories

Background

TALKING POINT
See also:

13 Dec 02 | Americas
11 Dec 02 | Americas
10 Dec 02 | Americas
15 Dec 02 | Business
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