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Anti-Chavez Business Strike Paralyzes Venezuela

A one-day national strike in Venezuela against the economic measures of populist President Hugo Chavez has virtually paralyzed the country. But the Venezuelan leader says he will not reverse his policies.

Businesses, banks and many stores were closed Monday in Caracas and other cities as part of a 12-hour national strike called by Venezuela's largest business association and opposition-led labor unions.

The business group Fedecamaras organized the shutdown to protest a series of economic laws decreed by President Chavez last month. Fedecamaras says the laws restrict free enterprise. Fedecamaras President Pedro Carmona described Monday's strike as a complete success, and called on President Chavez to modify the laws.

But in a defiant speech, Mr. Chavez vowed not to reverse his policies, saying they are aimed at redressing social wrongs. He warned of civil war if what he called the "corrupt elites" try to go against the will of the Venezuelan people.

President Chavez, a leftist populist, was elected three years ago with overwhelming support, but has seen his popularity slide dramatically in recent months.