- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

CARACAS, Venezuela (Agence France-Presse) — At least 16 persons were injured yesterday, seven by gunshots, as police battled supporters of President Hugo Chavez near an anti-government demonstration.

Violence broke out when city police — controlled by anti-Chavez Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena — fired tear gas at Chavez supporters in the shantytown of Petare. The Chavez backers were protesting an anti-government rally being held in their neighborhood.

The pro-Chavez crowd responded with rocks and firebombs. Then the neighborhood turned into a battlefield, as police and Chavez supporters exchanged gunfire yards 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 Mr. Chavez, that organized yesterday’s march.

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

The mayor of the municipality that includes Petare, Jose Vicente Rangel Alvarez, was outraged that the protest was held in the area.

Authorities warned the anti-Chavez demonstrators not to hold their rally in a pro-Chavez neighborhood, said Mr. Rangel Alvarez, who is also the vice president’s son.

“What are they looking for? Violence, injured, perhaps some dead?” he asked.

It was the second anti-government demonstration inCaracas in one month that resulted in violence. One person was killed and more than 20 injured in an anti-Chavez rally May 14 in Catia.

Mr. Chavezsurvived 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.

In late May, Chavez agreed to be subject to a possible recall vote in a deal with opposition leaders brokered by the Organization of American States.

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