CARACAS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed Sunday that petroleum production in the country had risen to 1.8 million barrels a day, which represents the "defeat" of the opposition's strike in this economic sector.
"We're producing 1,800,000 barrels a day of crude oil" said Chavez in his weekly TV and radio programs, and added that production will increase to "two million barrels a day." Before the petroleum strike, which began Dec. 4, Venezuela was the fifth largest exporter of crude oil in the world, producing nearly three million barrels a day, and the fourth most important supplier of the United States.
The state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) oil company has been semi-paralyzed since Dec. 4 when a number of its high-ranking managers and several captains from its oil tanker fleet joined the opposition's general strike, which began two days earlier.
Chavez said that currently in eastern Venezuela 1,080,000 barrels are being produced daily, while another 650,000 barrels of petroleum are being produced daily in western Venezuela. He added that the country exports 800,000 barrels a day and reiterated that the PDVSA has recovered full control of its tanker fleet.
"There were 12 striking vessels, now they are all in the hands of the country," declared the Venezuelan president.
He also announced that "the Amuay refinery, the largest in the world, is ready for start-up because it is receiving the gas" necessary for its operation.
Chavez characterized the strike by wealthy petroleum company managers as "the largest terrorist, pro-coup and sabotage plan that has been imposed on the country," and he asserted that it was "confronted and defeated" by its government and "the people."
"The petroleum industry is today in the hands of the people more than ever. We have advanced more in two months than in four years," added Chavez, referring to the fact that he had taken office Feb. 2, 1999.
He made the remark after affirming that the restructuring of the vital petroleum industry, which generates 50 percent of government income, will continue.
Chavez Supporters Torch TV Vehicle
A mobile broadcasting unit of Venezuelan television station CMT was set on fire here Sunday by alleged supporters of President Hugo Chavez.
No injuries were reported in the incident, which occurred sometime after 3:00 p.m. in a section of downtown Caracas.
Firefighters put out the flames and DISIP secret police agents also arrived on the scene, although they did not release a statement.
CMT reporter Rafael Fuenmayor expressed regret over the act of vandalism and told the Globovision private news channel that Venezuela's political and social conflict must be resolved through dialogue.
The opposition umbrella group Democratic Coordinator, meanwhile, was collecting signatures throughout the country in support of various constitutional measures they hope will bring an early end to the Chavez administration.
Near midday, groups of suspected Chavez supporters threw rocks at police in another area of downtown Caracas, although no injuries were reported.
In Venezuela, journalists have been the target of numerous attacks, particularly by Chavez supporters.
Like the president, the "Chavistas" accuse the private media of supporting the opposition and "lying" to the people about Chavez's "Bolivarian revolution." The leading private media outlets admitted on Dec. 13 that they became involved in the political conflict to defend themselves from "attacks" by Chavez, whom they accuse of attempting to restrict "freedom of speech" in Venezuela.
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