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Venezuela: Grenade Explodes Near Offices of Chavez Associate - 2002-12-24


A grenade has exploded outside the offices of a Venezuelan business association that is playing a leading role in a campaign to oust President Hugo Chavez. The blast late Monday shattered windows and left gouge marks on the outer walls of offices belonging to Venezuela's Fedecamaras business association. No one was hurt in the attack.

Arriving on the scene, Caracas opposition-loyalist mayor, Alfredo Pena, indirectly blamed President Hugo Chavez for the incident. The mayor says, it is very difficult to control acts of violence because, in our case, lamentably, the highest levels of our own government are promoting violence.

Hours earlier, Fedecamaras President Carlos Fernandez spoke at a news conference where he blasted Mr. Chavez for a long list of alleged abuses and repeated calls for his resignation.

The grenade attack came as tens of thousands of Chavez opponents mounted a torch-light march in Caracas. The demonstration was called to show the opposition's determination to stand firm in the face of recent threats by the president to fire and prosecute managers of Venezuela's petroleum company. The vast majority of oil workers are taking part in a 23-day opposition-led national strike.

Earlier, troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who blocked the road to an oil refinery in the west of the country. Several people were wounded.