- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

CARACAS, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez threatened yesterday to declare the equivalent of martial law as weeping opponents buried a teenager felled in violence that has crippled the country's giant oil industry.
Relatives held an overnight wake before burying Keyla Guerra, 18, the youngest of three persons killed Friday night when gunmen opened fire on a peaceful opposition rally demanding Mr. Chavez's resignation.
"If my daughter's death contributes to the freedom of my country, I will have some consolation," her mother said at the private wake, according to family friend Marisabel Hernandez.
As the oil crisis caused by a general strike deepened, Mr. Chavez sent national guard troops to many gas stations to prevent unrest. He said he might call a state of emergency the equivalent of martial law if his opponents extend the week-old strike.
"It's a possibility, depending on the evolution of the situation," Mr. Chavez said. "You have to be patient when making this kind of decision. Like a good batter, you have to take a strike, sometimes even two."
After the killings Friday night, opposition leaders vowed to extend their strike indefinitely. While most businesses are now open, Venezuela's oil industry the world's fifth-largest has remained shut down.
Several hundred mourners celebrated Mass at a Caracas cemetery yesterday morning and sang hymns. They took Miss Guerra's coffin down to a green field on a hillside overlooking a wealthy neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Well-wishers left flowers as they filed past to offer tears and hugs to her grieving parents.
On Friday, Miss Guerra accompanied her father to the Plaza Francia, an opposition rallying point, in support of the general strike against Mr. Chavez's rule.
At about 7 p.m., shots ran out among the crowd of hundreds. Demonstrators carried bloodied victims to ambulances and draped a red, blue and yellow Venezuelan flag over one of the dead. Three persons were killed and 28 were wounded.
As her family buried Miss Guerra, hundreds of supporters marched in solidarity across town. Waving Venezuelan flags, protesters demanded an end to the escalating political violence.

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