Legislators Storm Capitol Venezuela Clash Leaves 30 Injured

Article excerpt

CARACAS, Venezuela -- In a chaotic confrontation, Venezuelan lawmakers broke through crowds of protesters and climbed over the fence of the Capitol building yesterday, defying a constitutional assembly's order that virtually shut down Congress.

As the embattled lawmakers tried to force their way into their chambers, police and the National Guard fired tear gas and water cannons to control a melee between hundreds of supporters and opponents of President Hugo Chavez.

About 30 people were injured as the two sides punched and yelled at each other.

New disturbances broke out last night when lawmakers attempted to return to the Capitol, but were blocked by Chavez supporters wielding sticks and bottles. Police dispersed the crowd by firing new rounds of tear gas.

Rep. Julio Castillo of the opposition Project Venezuela Party said yesterday that the legislature was declaring itself in permanent session, and that the Chavez government was engaging in "repression."

At stake was the existence of the South American nation's legislature, whose powers were sharply curtailed this week by the constitutional assembly dominated by Chavez forces.

Chavez, a former paratrooper who staged a failed coup attempt in 1992, says a major shake-up of Venezuela's institutions is necessary to root out decades of bad government.

The assembly is writing a new constitution for Venezuela. …