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NBC

Opposition insists national strike still on

Leslie Mazoch / AP
Workers at the National Elections Council, or CNE, verify 2 million signatures presented by the opposition which petitioned for a nonbinding referendum on the rule of President Hugo Chavez, at the CNE in Caracas, Venezuela.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov. 26 — A national strike to demand a vote on President Hugo Chavez's rule will go ahead next week despite calls for it to be suspended, a strike organizer said Tuesday.

''A suspension of the strike is not planned under any circumstances,'' said Antonio Ledezma, a member of the Democratic Coordinator opposition group. ''In fact I think it should be brought forward.''
Others in Venezuela's opposition said the strike could be avoided if the National Elections Council, or CNE, sets a referendum date this week.
One of the biggest strike organizers, the one million-member Venezuelan Workers Confederation (CTV), will discuss on Wednesday suspending the strike pending the council's decision.
''I think the (Democratic) Coordinator would revise the strike decision at the end of this week'' if the CNE fixes a date and the government agrees to stand by it, CTV Secretary General Manuel Cova said on local radio.
In the meantime, strike preparations continue at full steam, Cova said shortly before entering a round of peace talks between the government and the opposition.
Organization of American States Secretary General Cesar Gaviria is mediating the talks, and hopes to make a breakthrough before next week's strike.
The CNE is charged with verifying 2 million signatures submitted by the opposition petitioning for a nonbinding referendum. More than two thirds have already been checked, CNE Vice President Jose Manuel Zerpa said Monday.
Chavez, who was elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2000, argues the earliest a referendum on his rule can be held is August 2003 — halfway through his six-year term.
The opposition — which includes labor, business and political parties — insists Venezuela is too polarized and too mired in economic recession to wait that long. It is calling the fourth general strike in less than a year to seek a swifter solution.

© 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/ap11-26-173409.asp?reg=AMERICAS

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