The Associated Press
March 28, 2001

Vandalism Closes Venezuela University


              CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Students and employees claiming to support
              President Hugo Chavez's leftist government ransacked the offices of Venezuela's
              oldest and largest university, forcing classes to be suspended indefinitely.

              Several dozen protesters scuffled with officials and security guards and tossed back
              tear gas canisters at the Central University of Venezuela before hundreds of students
              forced them off campus. To stop the violence from spreading, rector Giussepe
              Giannetto suspended classes Wednesday. There were no arrests.

              Giannetto insisted that the vast majority of the university's 51,000 students ``reject
              violence as a way to force change.''

              Among the vandals were a group of students and employees who demanded the
              replacement of the state-owned university's leadership, whom they consider part of
              a conservative elite that has been frequently criticized by Chavez's government.

              Police officials appealed for calm, telling protesters to pursue their goals peacefully.

              Elected in 1998, Chavez has, through a series of elections and referendums, enacted
              a new constitution, Congress and Supreme Court as part of a ``peaceful revolution''
              to benefit Venezuela's poor.