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Venezuela Conflict Intensifies

November 19, 2002|From Times Wire Services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan national guard troops firing tear gas and shotgun pellets skirmished for a second straight day Monday with demonstrators angered by President Hugo Chavez's militarization of the Caracas police.

Four people were wounded by shotgun pellets after the heavily armed troops riding motorcycles and wearing gas masks swooped in on protesters blocking major highways in the eastern part of the capital.

After scattering to avoid the gas, the protesters regrouped and briefly set up barricades of burning tires and garbage.

Chavez said he sent in the army during the weekend because Mayor Alfredo Pena, a political foe of the president, had lost control of the police. But rather than imposing order, the takeover only deepened the chaos in the Venezuelan capital, where political fighting between Chavez and those who want him ousted has fostered increasing unrest.

Monday, police didn't know whom to report to: Gonzalo Sanchez Delgado -- a retired sergeant appointed by Chavez -- or Police Chief Henry Vivas, a 30-year veteran who refused to resign. Patrol officers peered from precinct windows at army soldiers equipped with machine guns.

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