Thousands of Venezuelans March to Support Fired Oil Workers

Thousands of Venezuelan people marched here on Saturday in support of the oil workers fired by the government of President Hugo Chavez for taking part in the two-month general strike staged by Chavez's opposition forces.

The demonstrators gathered near the hotel where the government and the opposition held negotiations under the mediation of the Organization of American States (OAS) which proposed an electoral solution to the conflict.

The "Solidarity March", called by the opposition representative Democratic Coordination (CD), also included collecting signatures to demand the return of fired workers to the state-run oil company PDVSA.

The figures from the PDVSA showed that 7,000 employees have been sacked since the strike began on Dec. 2, and it was announced that 2,000 more could be dismissed.

On Friday, a representative of the Group of Friends of Venezuela suggested that the sacked PDVSA employees should be re-hired as a token of good will to put an end to the standoff between the government and the opponents.

President Chavez described the suggestion as impossible, noting that such a gesture had been offered to the opponents last April.

The strike was launched by opposition leaders to press Chavez to quit and call early elections. It made the Andean country suffer food and fuel shortages, and lose its position as the world's fifth largest oil supplier.



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