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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 12:20 GMT
Venezuela protests: Your experiences
Anti-government protests have brought Venezuela's oil industry to a virtual halt.
Captains of ships carrying oil cargoes have dropped anchor and refused to continue to ports, while Venezuela's largest refinery was said to be "virtually paralysed" by the walk-out.
The protestors want President Hugo Chavez to submit to a referendum on his rule.
Mr Chavez has ordered the military to secure refineries and tankers in an attempt to maintain the flow of oil, which brings in most of the country's revenues.
Deputy Oil Minister Bernardo Alvarez warned that the stoppage could generate "irreparable damage" to the stability of Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter.
Have you been affected by the Venezuelan strikes? Send us your comments.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below
Brian Toth, Baltimore, USA
The real problem is not Chavez, but the deep class and racial polarisation Venezuela suffers.
I was in Caracas until I and others were obliged to leave on Tuesday 10th December because basic amenities were no longer available. My hotel was close to the Altamira square. What I saw and heard convinced me that the protests were artificial. The Venezuelans I met in the normal way were open, warm-hearted, good-looking people shocked at the ill-state of their country. Those protesters I heard and saw looked like hired thugs.
It is sad countries in the world are doing nothing to avoid the killing in Venezuela. We are paying the price (deaths), you will pay some too (oil prices).
Please help Venezuela human rights. Our freedom is in danger. Support is all we ask for new elections before is to late.
Venezuelan protests are not only from the oil industry, but from all Venezuelans. I do not understand how the international news show a distorted image of our problem, where the government appears as a victim fighting against a group of rich people, when in reality 80% of the population want him out. My town was completely empty today proving that opinion pulls are correct.
Daniel Duffaud, San Felipe, Venezuela
There is a pattern of readers from outside of Venezuela writing in favour of Chavez. Unfortunately they have been exposed to the Venezuelan Government propaganda, paid with the taxes extracted from the Venezuelan middle class that Mr. Chavez has vowed to obliterate with his "circulos bolivarianos", a bunch of common criminals.
So to set the record straight with those readers (like the one from Malaysia), no, Mr. Chavez is not a peace-loving democrat, Mr. Chavez is a left over communist that wants to destroy his country as it is and turn it into a second Cuba, with the help of his friend Fidel Castro. So my foreign friends, don't believe everything you hear from the Chavez government. Instead, try and help the Venezuelan people by sending Chavez questions about why he refuses to have the deaths of April 11 and December 7 2002 investigated.
This massive never-seen-before strike isn't just a game. We're more than 85% of disappointed Venezuelans who were tricked by this government and won't let it go on with its communist obsolete and unworkable ideals; last Friday three more people died in an awful and disgraceful massacre whilst protesting in a peaceful protest against the dictator Chavez. How many more deaths shall we carry on our shoulders to get rid of this man with his thirst for power? No turning back. We will regain our democracy.
Only about 30% of the population still wants Chavez to stay, people who say that the opposition is made of the upper class has to do some research and calculations. The number of Venezuelans living under the poverty line is about 80%.
The strike is creating a dull sensation among the inhabitants of Venezuela. Anything could happen, because there is no regard for the people. President Chavez doesn't care whether the country collapses, otherwise he would have submitted and let the democracy carry on in our country. However, we must calm down and ponder about all this, otherwise the outcome will be plain unpredictable.
I understand that the poor people need help, but Chavez is not helping anybody except himself. You cannot help people by taking away from others, who have worked very had to give food and a home to their families, to give it to some people who is standing in the way waiting for the government to give them help. Democracy is easy to say but hard to put into practice. I'm very sad to read that we are crying for help and there are still people who don't believe that people who support Chavez are bad people who want to live as the rich without working for it. The good people who supported Chavez are now against him because they realise he isn't going to do anything for the poor.
What a sad moment for Venezuela!
By our vote and by our ignorance we gave Chavez a mandate. But it is still our mandate as he is there to serve us. We now have the obligation to see that this communist tyrant leaves. Remember the start of our national anthem: "Gloria al Bravo Pueblo que el Yugo Lanzó", our brave people will again liberate the country.
Liberty today, democracy tomorrow!
I cannot believe what is happening in my country. I'm a 25 year old professional with a dream to live in a country with peace, and Chavez doesn't let us. What he says and what he does stimulates and supports violence... I'm crying for help! I don't know what else can we do when our human rights have been violated by Chavez's goverment, and we don't have any credible institutions to ask for justice. Things are getting very bad in Venezuela!
Noemi Obenza, Caracas, Venezuela
It is amazing to see how some Europeans can easily talk about Chavez being elected democratically. Yes, he was elected with a majority, most of them now repentant; but he is not a democratic president. And don't tell me about the rich people fearing losing their wealth. I am just an oil employee, and this government is far from fighting corruption and poverty.
What can Spain do for Venezuela? Or do they not deserve our help? Many Spaniards emigrated from Spain to Venezuela in the twentieth century. The silence of the Spanish government about what is happening in Venezuela is very sad.
Carlos José Torres, Barquismeto, Venezuela
I wish I could say that I am surprised at what is happening in Venezuela right now. Sadly, I am not. Chavez is where he is, not because he deserves it but because people had nothing else to lose. Chavez's only qualification is to have led a failed coup back in the early 90s. I have no doubts he will be out of power soon. The question with an answer scarier than I want to admit is: who will be the next one in power?
It's difficult to understand the Venezuelan problem from outside. It's true that Chavez was elected democratically by the majority of the people but, since he started to rule the country, we have had the worst political and economic crisis ever. If we let Chavez to fulfil his mandate there isn't going to remain a bit of democracy in Venezuela. He attacks all the media and the persons that don't support him. I love my country and I can not watch how Chavez is destroying Venezuela and promoting hate between brothers.
René Pravia, Caracas, Venezuela
I also wanted to say, this talking point has inadvertently excluded those Venezuelans who can not afford to browse the internet, and cannot afford to learn English. That is why it seems that Everyone in Venezuela wants Chavez out. This is definitely not the case! The only ones writing here are the rich kids enjoying their "strike" from school.
I'm very sorry my country is giving this impression to foreign nations. The government holds control of most of the information that escapes our borders, depicting itself as a fair government victimised by the rich and powerful. However, I can assure you that this national strike is a perfectly constitutional way of protesting to find a way out of this outrageous situation. If it is true that Chavez was once democratically elected, it is also true that he lost most of his supporters. I live in a very poor area, and most of the people I know are barely making ends meet. I myself have to moonlight to be able to pay the rent. Most of my colleagues, whose monthly salary was about $2000, now are being paid in food! Please, help us. We need to overcome all this before the situation is worse and more Human Rights are violated.
Marcos, Caracas, Venezuela
I have read statements from people who live outside Venezuela and they all say one thing: Chavez was democratically elected , so why not leave him in peace? And it is true, he was fairly elected and in fact he won the elections by a vast majority. BUT, what happens when all that was promised during his campaign is never carried out? What happens when for the first two years of Chavez's mandate all of his efforts are put into getting as much power as he can? During his time as president the Venezuelan economy has plummeted, crime levels are at an all time high and the Venezuelan people have been divided into two separate bands; something never before seen in this country. We do not want to see our country turned into the next Cuba. We will do anything that is in our legal power to stop it, and we hope that we will receive support from the international community when and if this crisis is resolved.
We can't deny that all of us have been affected by this strike. It's the only option we have to make the government realize that we want Venezuela to be peaceful, democratic, and safe, but we are willing to pass through any circumstance as long as it bring us back the Venezuela we deserve. Democracy is priceless and economic consequences are not an obstacle to make us step aside.
Chavez is the only true president since he was elected to power. all of the people who oppose his regime are rebels and as such should be treated. They should have thought of everything before electing Chavez. Chavez is the answer and the key to Venezuela's future.
Chavez is a champion of the poor and the Indigenous Peoples. His constitution is one of the most progressive in the world. Its sad that the poor are yet again held at ransom by the elite through these strikes. I hope God hears the cry of the poor
María Ortiz, Venezuela
This is the most corrupt government Venezuela has had in one hundred years. Let us hope we get rid of it
Chavez was elected fairly and democratically by the people, and is still supported by them. The reason he is in a strong position is this very fact. Unions are controlled by big business, and were probably pressed to go on strike. Why can't this man be allowed to fulfil his mandate? His administration has been attacked from day one by the forces of the corrupt right and powerful.
Chavez is a terrible president and should go but the fundamental problem in Venezuela is the lack of political opposition. Every time there is a presidential election the loser packs in his political aspiration and leaves no opposition to the president.
I am of Venezuelan Nationality and I would just like to say it really is a shame that all these problems are happening in the most beautiful country I have ever been in. The people of Venezuela don't deserve this. Something needs to be done. the question is who will?
I'm a high school student and I haven't had classes since Monday, the day the strike began. It's been 4 days and the strike is still on. Despite this, nothing is more valuable than democracy and freedom, both being threatened by the authoritarian and communist-sympathising government of Chavez. I'll keep supporting the strike and I and my family will "stop" for as long as it is necessary to make my rights respected by the government.
It is terrible to raise your kids under this regime that is taking away our liberties
What can the world do for Venezuela? Or we do not deserve international help for our human rights? At this moment, the UN's Blue Helmets are welcomed in our country.
Debby Kemball, Venezuela
I've been marching ever since last year, because I want to have the opportunity to live a decent life. Not under a crazed "president" who wants to imitate Fidel Castro!
I believe in my country, I believe in God in I believe that Venezuela is going to be better when Chavez is gone.
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