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Chavez supporters attend funerals

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People carry the coffin of Oscar Aponte Gomez, who was killed during political clashes, at a funeral procession in Caracas, Venezuela, on Sunday.

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Protesters and riot police clash during demonstrations in Caracas, Venezuela (January 3)
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CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- Thousands of supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attended the funeral Sunday of two people killed in gun violence during clashes with the opposition.

Top government ministers, headed by Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel, led the procession of flag-draped coffins, which passed in relative calm through the capital.

Oscar Aponte Gomez, 24, and Jairo Gregoria Moran, 23, were killed in clashes Friday between pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez demonstrators outside Venezuela's military headquarters.

Each camp has blamed the other for the heightened violence -- some of the worst to date in the opposition's general strike aimed at ousting Chavez. The strike has paralyzed Venezuela's oil industry and crippled the country's economy.

Before heading for cemeteries on the outskirts of the city, the procession stopped at the Melia Hotel, headquarters of negotiators with the Organization of American States who are trying to mediate an end to the monthlong standoff between Chavez and his opponents.

Rangel said at Sunday's funeral that the government was intent on maintaining order, and charged the opposition was "meeting dialogue with violence."

Rangel also said the government will take "strong action" to rein in elements of the metropolitan police he said were causing trouble.

His comments follow accusations by pro-government supporters that the police were siding with the opposition and were behind Friday's killings.

State-run television has run grainy video purported to show the metropolitan police shooting at pro-government demonstrators Friday. But opposition witnesses say the pro-Chavez supporters at Friday's demonstrations were also armed.

Banking officials met Sunday to discuss whether banks would fully join the strike by closing this week. So far, banks have maintained partial hours.

Rangel said the government has already put measures in place to prevent a full closing of the banks, but he did not say how that would be done.



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