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Venezuela’s Opposition Plans March

July 11, 2002

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Opposition leaders called for a march in Caracas Thursday in memory of 20 people gunned down during a massive demonstration that provoked an April coup.

Expected to draw thousands, Thursday’s march alarmed President Hugo Chavez’s government, which accused some organizers _ whom it didn’t identify _ of plotting to kill Chavez.

The government declared an off-limits security zone around the presidential palace and called in paratroopers from a central Venezuela military base to increase security.

Chavez planned to be in the central city of Maracay on Thursday for a military ceremony.

In a televised address late Wednesday, Chavez urged restraint on both sides. He also told his supporters to allow journalists to do their job at Thursday’s march without being harassed. Venezuelan reporters have been assaulted by government sympathizers during past demonstrations.

``I ask for calm _ calm, patience, prudence,″ Chavez said.

Chavez also said his government would welcome international mediation to resolve Venezuela’s political crisis, as urged by former President Jimmy Carter during a visit this week.

Carter left Venezuela Wednesday after a mission in which he failed to salvage government-sponsored reconciliation talks. Most political parties, business groups and labor groups say Chavez is deaf to their calls to ``rectify″ the leftist direction of his revolution for Venezuela’s majority poor.

Carter said his Carter Center will work with Venezuela’s Catholic Church, the Organization of American States, the United Nations and foreign governments to promote talks.

Venezuela’s main opposition parties insist Chavez, whose term ends in 2007, cannot govern the country, which is mired in recession and social unrest. They are organizing a referendum to shorten his term.

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