Venezuela strike entering fifth week

| 1/2/2003

Thousands of people took to the streets in Venezuela Dec. 29 demanding the resignation of President Hugo Chavez. The event marked the 28th day of a nationwide strike that has virtually halted oil exports and evaporated domestic fuel supplies in the South American nation, The Associated Press reports.

The strike has slashed oil exports, forcing the world's fifth-largest oil supplier to barter with other countries for food and fuel.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked the Bush administration to release oil from the stockpile in order to keep refineries well stocked. A spokesman for Tauzin said there's been no official notice about the status of the request.

Speaking to Reuters, spokesman Ken Johnson added, "We continue to be concerned that events in Venezuela will have a chilling effect on consumers in the United States."

Meanwhile, crude oil prices Dec. 30 hit a two-year high of $33.65 per barrel as traders bet on a U.S. attack against Iraq early next year. The prices later fell on indications from OPEC that it will fill supply gaps caused by events in Venezuela and Iraq, Reuters reported.