Police battle Chavez supporters

At least 16 people were injured in the Venezuelan capital Caracas as police battled supporters of President Hugo Chavez.


    Venezuelan police action
    angers top politicians

    Violence broke out when city police fired teargas at Chavez supporters who were protesting against an anti-government rally being held in their neighbourhood, in the shantytown of Petare. 

    Police forces in the city are controlled by Mayor Alfredo Pena who is opposed to Chavez.


    The pro-Chavez crowd responded with rocks and firebombs. The neighbourhood then turned into a battlefield, as police and Chavez supporters clashed and exchanged gunfire just 300 meters away from the anti-government rally.


    Chavez supporters destroyed a police shed and an office belonging to Copei, a once powerful political party now opposed to Chavez.


    Warning ignored


    Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel blamed police and the mayor and state governor Enrique Mendoza -- also a Chavez opponent -- for starting the violence, and vowed to sue them.


    Authorities had warned the anti-Chavez protesters not to hold their event in a pro-Chavez neighbourhood, but it was not heeded.


    It was the second anti-government protest in a poor pro-Chavez neighbourhood of Caracas in one month that had resulted in violence.

    One person was killed and more than 20 injured in an anti-Chavez rally held on 14 May in Catia.


    Chavez, an outspoken former paratrooper, survived a 63-day general strike that ended in February. He earlier survived a civilian-military coup that briefly ousted him from office in April 2002.


    Venezuela's government and opposition, seeking to end months of feuding, have agreed to hold a referendum on Hugo Chavez's presidency after 19 August.


    Chavez has said he is willing to submit to the constitutional referendum on his mandate. But his foes accuse him of trying to avoid a vote.


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