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UK tells nationals to leave Venezuela

Anti-Chavez protests in Caracas
Anti-Chavez protests in Caracas

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CNN's Monita Rajpal reports on the oil strike in Venezuela that has shut down gas stations and drained the economy. (December 20)
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LONDON, England -- Britons have been advised to leave Venezuela unless they have urgent reason to remain.

The Foreign Office warning, issued on its Web site on Saturday, follows advice issued by officials on Wednesday against travelling to the South American country.

Families of British diplomats and non-essential members of staff will be withdrawn, a Foreign Office statement issued in London said.

"The decision has been taken as a result of the ongoing political crisis and the deteriorating security situation in the country," it said.

Tensions in Venezuela have been stoked by an ongoing strike by including oil workers which is now in its 20th day. (Story)

On Friday, striking executives of Venezuela's state-owned oil company defied a Supreme Court order to return to work, the Associated Press reported.

Thousands of people marched in the capital, Caracas, to demand that President Hugo Chavez step down or hold early elections.

The Foreign Office added: "An important factor in taking this decision is the serious shortage of petrol in Caracas and other major cities.

"This is likely to impact on critical supplies of essential commodities in coming days and might in turn trigger disturbances."

More than 60 people were killed when rebel military officers toppled Chavez in a chaotic and short-lived coup in April and the atmosphere in Caracas has remained tense.

Chavez, elected in 1998, dismisses his foes as "coup-plotting oil elites" opposed to his "revolution" that favours the poor.

He says the constitution allows for a binding referendum on his rule in August but not for early elections.



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