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Venezuela's Chavez Calls for Massive Turnout in Sunday's Pro-Government Rally - 2002-10-13

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his populist revolution is unstoppable, and will not be de-railed by a general strike called for later this month by the opposition. Mr. Chavez, who spoke Saturday, also called on Venezuelans to turnout in massive numbers Sunday to show their support for his government.

A defiant President Chavez Saturday vowed to remain in office saying the opposition has no leaders capable of replacing him.

Mr. Chavez, who spoke for more than five hours Saturday in his regular radio and television program Hello, Mr. President, said his populist revolution is unstoppable.

He also called for a massive turnout Sunday for a demonstration in Caracas to show support for his government. "Carry the Venezuelan flag, and your copy of the constitution, the symbol of the populist struggle," he said.

The Venezuelan leader was referring to the new constitution drafted and approved in referendums in 1999, his first first year in power.

Sunday's call for a march follows a huge anti-Chavez demonstration Thursday in Caracas of hundreds of thousands of people, demanding the populist leader either resign or hold early elections. The protest, the largest ever against Mr. Chavez, ended with a call for a general strike on October 21, if he does not heed the opposition demands.

The last time a general strike was called, in April, Mr. Chavez was deposed briefly by elements of the military. But he was returned to power less than 48 hours later with the support of loyalist troops and his supporters.

Mr. Chavez was overwhelmingly elected President in 1998, on promises to end corruption, and alleviate the poverty that affects 80 percent of the population in the oil rich nation. He was re-elected again in 2000 for a six-year term under Venezuela's new constitution. However, since then his popularity has declined substantially and opposition to his populist policies has grown.

The opposition accuses Mr. Chavez of bringing economic ruin to the South American nation because of his populist policies and his ties to communist Cuba. However, Mr. Chavez and his supporters accuse the opposition of trying to reverse the progress made in helping raise the standard of living for the poor in Venezuela.