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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 May, 2003, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Pact to end Venezuela violence
Hugo Chavez
President Chavez is accused of authoritarian behaviour

An agreement has been signed by the government and opposition in Venezuela to end the political crisis that has gripped the country for more than a year.

The deal - which was brokered by the Organisation of American States (OAS) - sets out the framework for a referendum on the presidency of Hugo Chavez.

But no date for such a poll has been set, and the document is widely seen as a victory for the president.

At least 50 people have been killed in political violence over the past 14 months as critics accused President Chavez of amassing power and mismanaging the economy.

Under the new agreement, both the government and opposition have agreed to abide by the constitutional rules and try to avoid violence.

It says a referendum on President Chavez's rule can take place later in the year, although several procedural steps will need to be taken first.

Ease tensions

OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria said it had taken months of hard work by his negotiators to get the two sides to agree.

"This is a good agreement for all Venezuelans," he said.

Analysts say that while the accord may ease tensions in Latin America's most politically polarised society, it does not automatically guarantee a referendum.

Anti-Chavez protesters rally during a strike earlier this year
The two month general strike hit the economy hard

BBC correspondent Steven Cviic says the opposition - which brings together most political parties, business, the unions and the middle class - probably feels this is the best it is going to get in the short term.

At the end of last year, with a general strike hitting the oil industry hard, his opponents thought they had President Chavez on the run.

But he simply refused to budge, pointing out that he was the elected president.

The opposition seems to have recognised that if it is going to remove him from office, it has to be ready to settle down for a long haul, says our correspondent.

Venezuela talks venue blasted
12 Apr 03  |  Americas
Strike leader quits Venezuela
27 Mar 03  |  Americas
Venezuela violence warning
26 Feb 03  |  Americas
Venezuela signs non-violence pact
18 Feb 03  |  Americas
Venezuela's anti-Chavez opposition
17 Feb 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Venezuela
24 May 03  |  Country profiles

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