INTRO: Violent clashes erupted outside the Capitol
building in Caracas Friday - injuring several people.
At issue is a political battle over reforms and re-
writing Venezuela's constitution. David Russell
reports from Caracas.
TEXT: Government supporters clashed with protesters
Friday morning outside of Venezuela's Congressional
Police broke up the crowds with tear gas and water
cannons. There were minor injuries but no arrests.
The clash was the first popular show of force by the
Democratic Action party and supporters who oppose the
new National Constituent Assembly. The Assembly was
elected in July to re-write the constitution and is
supported by President Hugo Chavez.
The Assembly suspended most congressional activities
Wednesday, planning to investigate charges of
corruption by members of parliament.
Some congressmen called an extraordinary session
Friday in defiance of the assembly. But they were
blocked from entering the building by the National
Supporters of President Hugo Chavez control more than
90 percent of the Assembly and enjoy wide popular
support from the millions of poor Venezuelans who
blame the Democratic Action party of running this oil-
rich country of 23 million into its worst recession in
Critics say Mr. Chavez wants to use the Assembly to
eliminate all opposition and concentrate power in his
own hands. The President addressed the nation after
the clashes saying his government is not trying to
impose authoritarian rule or destroy institutions.
Members of the Assembly and the Congress have agreed
to meet Monday with Catholic Church leaders as
mediators in an effort to end the showdown.
27-Aug-1999 17:18 PM EDT (27-Aug-1999 2118 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list