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 Sunday, 5 January, 2003, 08:06 GMT
Police wounded in Venezuela protest
Supporters of President Chavez hold rally in Caracas
Chavez supporters defend his leftist policies
Two police officers have been shot and wounded during further violent protests in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.

The incident came a day after two people were killed by gunfire which erupted as supporters and opponents of embattled President Hugo Chavez clashed in the city.

They're trying to blame us for the deaths and I imagine that's what motivated the attack against us

Police chief Henry Vivas

Caracas police chief Henry Vivas said the latest shooting broke out during a wake held by Chavez supporters for one of Friday's two victims.

He said police came under fire from handguns and responded with tear gas and shotgun pellets.

A male officer was hit in the thigh and a female officer was hit by fragments when a bullet ricocheted off a wall, he said.

Tensions with police

Earlier, the Venezuelan Vice President, Jose Vicente Rangel, said the police were responsible for Friday's deaths.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Chavez says the strikers have "a date with defeat"

Correspondents say tension between the Chavez government and the police force has been high since the president tried to take command of the force late last year.

Several thousand Chavez supporters waving national flags marched through Caracas on Saturday.

But in other cities anti-government protesters took to the streets in support of the opposition campaign to topple Mr Chavez.

Friday's clashes involved thousands of rival demonstrators in Caracas and security forces, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas to separate the two sides.

Click to see pictures from the clashes

A crippling strike aimed at forcing Mr Chavez to step down or call early elections is now in its second month.

Mr Chavez has stressed his government's determination to defeat the strike, which has slashed the country's oil output.

Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter, and the stoppage has helped push oil prices to two-year highs as US stockpiles have fallen to 26-year lows.

But the alliance of business, trade unions and opposition parties who want early elections to remove him from office have issued tough public statements.

His opponents have even threatened a tax revolt, a dire prospect in a country where vital oil revenues have collapsed.

Mr Chavez, who was elected to serve until 2007, has consistently rejected the opposition's demand for him to stand down or hold early elections.

He says the earliest constitutional date for a referendum would be August 2003 - half way through his term of office.

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  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Sarah Gregory
"This dispute shows no sign of being resolved"

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05 Jan 03 | Americas
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