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Anti-Chavez Strike Causing Gas Shortages, Panic Buying in Venezuela - 2002-12-09

In Venezuela, a week-long general strike is causing shortages of gasoline and panic buying in the few stores that remain open. There is no sign that President Hugo Chavez and his opponents will resolve the crisis anytime soon.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the headquarters of Venezuela's state-owned oil company Monday in support of the strike that has shut down the industry.

Opposition leaders are calling on President Chavez to step down. Even the president's estranged wife, Marisabel Rodriguez, has joined the chorus of voices calling on him to resign. But President Chavez says he will not.

He says the strike leaders are trying to create chaos through the petroleum company strike so as to justify a military coup d'etat.

Mr. Chavez survived a coup in April and since that time the division between his opponents and supporters has deepened. The Organization of American States is trying to bring the two sides together for negotiations, but so far there has been no progress in that effort.