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DATE=8/27/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=VENEZUELA CLASH NUMBER=2-253202 BYLINE=DAVID RUSSELL DATELINE=CARACAS INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 Palace 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 Guard. 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 years. 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. NEB/DR/JO. 27-Aug-1999 17:18 PM EDT (27-Aug-1999 2118 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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