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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 11:34 GMT
Striking Venezuelan oil workers sacked
PDVSA offices
Managers at PDVSA have been key strike leaders
A total of more than 5,000 Venezuelan oil workers have been fired since they walked out eight weeks ago in an anti-government strike.

The official Venpres news agency quoted state oil company boss Ali Rodriguez as saying 5,111 employees had been dismissed for "dereliction" and that the number would rise.

PDVSA head Ali Rodriguez
Rodriguez warns there will be more sackings
The government had already announced about 3,000 job cuts since the strike began at state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which had about 40,000 employees.

Oil production almost ground to a halt in the world's fifth largest oil exporting country because of the strike, which helped send crude oil prices to two-year highs.

But striking oil workers have conceded that crude output has reached 1.05 million barrels a day, a third of pre-strike levels, after the military and foreign workers restarted production.

Strikers split

Venezuela's opposition has denied that the strike is faltering after businesses started to reopen, oil production increased and public infighting took place between strike leaders.

"This strike has not failed and will not fail," said Carlos Ortega, a union boss opposed to President Hugo Chavez.

Many blue-collar oil workers have returned to work, but PDVSA managers and skilled oil professionals say they will continue to strike until Mr Chavez resigns or holds elections and reinstates fired workers.

The split between the right-wing business and labour groups mirrors that during the coup last April when a similar alliance temporarily ousted the democratically elected Mr Chavez.

The then head of the business chamber Fedecameras, Pedro Carmona, seized power, dismissed parliament and the Supreme Court and excluded the labour co-conspirators from his cabinet.

Dubbed "Pedro the Brief" by the press, he was himself ousted after 48 hours and Mr Chavez returned to office.


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28 Jan 03 | Business
27 Jan 03 | Americas
22 Jan 03 | Business
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