Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that his administration has asked for a special meeting of Organization of American States (OAS) foreign minister to denounce what the president labeled another coup attempt. ”My government has requested an extraordinary meeting of OAS foreign ministers to denounce with evidence, videos (and) documents, the running roughshod over the Venezuelan people and another coup attempt,” Chavez said in an impromptu press conference.
Chavez said the "coup attempt has a military component, with the officers in Altamira Plaza calling for rebellion, and a political component, with leaders who publicly call (on the people) not to recognize the government and institutions." The president also claimed that business and labor leaders and much of the privately owned media were involved in the alleged plot. The announcement came on the 12th day of an opposition-sponsored national strike aimed at forcing Chavez to step down. "He's cornered. He has no other choice but to leave immediately. His time is up," union leader and opposition spokesman Carlos Ortega said. Ortega also called on opposition activists to be ready for the "great taking of Caracas," which he said will be "the largest demonstration Latin America has ever seen." The "taking of Caracas," according to Ortega, will entail occupying the capital's streets and avenues and, perhaps, a subsequent march on the presidential residence. A similar opposition march in April ended with a failed coup attempt that left 19 people dead and Chavez briefly ousted. OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria, who is mediating talks between the government and the opposition aimed at securing an agreement on an electoral solution to the impasse, has repeatedly warned of the "danger of the streets" and urged both sides to come up with a prompt solution to the crisis. Earlier Friday, the United States called for early elections as a way to break the deadlock, which includes an opposition-sponsored general strike that began Dec. 2 and has crippled the nation's crucial oil industry. There is a pervading fear that clashes could result between the thousands of government supporters and opponents who have taken to the streets. On Thursday night, police cleared La Candelaria Plaza in downtown Caracas with tear gas after skirmishes broke out between government sympathizers and critics of Chavez. Police said two people were injured in the melee.
Venezuela: OPEC offers to send help for oil sector Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that OPEC has offered to send the personnel needed to help the country's state-owned oil company (PDVSA) resume normal operations, which have been crippled by a general strike.
"They asked us what we need. They are willing to send us anything we ask for: engineers, ships, gasoline, (fuel) gas," Chavez said. "They know that the blow to Venezuela is also against the oil organization." The nation's crucial oil sector has been paralyzed by dissident executives and tanker captains who have joined the national strike, thereby threatening PDVSA's ability to fulfil export contracts. Although the effect of the stoppage remains unclear, PDVSA officials say it has been considerable. Most observers say production has been cut by about two-thirds. Offers of assistance have also come from independent oil exporters, such as Russia, Chavez said. "A call to Moscow was all it took to get one of their top oil industry officials in Caracas within 48 hours to evaluate our needs and offer us help," he added. The president is the focus of the general strike and widespread protests by the opposition, which is demanding his resignation. The strike entered its 12th day Friday. PDVSA, besides being the world's fifth largest oil exporter, is vital to the Venezuelan economy since it funds about 50 percent of the national budget and provides the country with 80 percent of all its hard currency.