PDVSA Workers Renew Protests

PDVSA managers and executives have started a protest campaign this week which could turn into a national strike against President Hugo Chavez.

Resisting what they claim is the politicization of the firm by Chavez, PDVSA office workers have staged noisy demonstrations outside facilities across the country. So far the protests have not affected oil shipments or production.

The employees have also joined calls by anti-Chavez business and labor groups in demanding an immediate referendum on the leftist leader's rule. Chavez has refused to resign or call early elections and says the constitution only allows for a referendum on his mandate in August 2003. "I think the matter now is becoming a policy clearly intended to heat up the situation for a general strike that obviously could incorporate or try to incorporate the national oil industry as well," Ali Rodriguez, PDVSA President, said in an interview on a local television news program.

Many PDVSA executives and managers have taken part in anti-government demonstrations recently, including marches and a one day work stoppage. Leaders of their unofficial union say it would be up to individuals to decide if they would take part in an indefinite general strike.