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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 23:19 GMT
Cracks in Venezuela strike
Blocked Venezuelan exports have hit US oil stocks
Oil tanker pilots in the west of Venezuela are reported to have ended their seven-week-old strike.

It could be the first crack in the nationwide protest that has halted the country's oil exports.

The end of the pilots' strike should allow exports to resume from the western Lake Maracaibo region, which pumps half the country's oil.

But ship agents said flows were unlikely to rise dramatically until foreign tanker operators began using the ports again.

"The pilots are all back at work," Maracaibo port captain Angel Rivas told Reuters news agency.

Strong support

The move caused alarm among opposition leaders, who sent a top-level delegation to try to persuade the pilots to reverse their decision.

After the talks, strike spokesman Cesar Vicente said some pilots had gone back to work for big wage packets, but he vowed to keep up efforts to restore full strike support.

"This could be serious for the strike, but the pilots have realised what the situation is... and the conflict continues," he said.

Thousands of other oil industry workers remain firmly behind the strike which is intended to force President Hugo Chavez from office.

The protests have already cut Venezuelan oil exports to a fifth of normal levels and helped push oil prices to two-year highs.

"We still have 90% of oil workers on strike," a strike spokeswoman said.

The protest in Venezuela, which normally supplies the United States with 13% of its imports, has drained global oil stocks to dangerously low levels.


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21 Jan 03 | Americas
21 Jan 03 | Americas
21 Jan 03 | Business
27 Dec 02 | Americas
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31 Dec 02 | Business
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