Banks to Drop Out of Strike in Venezuela

From Associated Press

Under intense pressure from President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's banks agreed Wednesday to abandon a 59-day-old opposition strike, delivering a new blow to the faltering drive to oust the controversial leader.

The National Banking Council said its members will return to normal operating hours Monday. For two months, banks have been open just three hours a day.

"I think it's great," said Juan Pardo, 50, as he stood in line to cash a check.

Chavez pressured the banks to reopen. He threatened to suspend and fine directors at striking banks and withdraw the armed forces' deposits.

Management at shopping malls, restaurants, franchises and schools also planned to resume work Monday. Many strike supporters fear a popular backlash because of strike-related food, medicine and cash shortages. Others say they'll go out of business if they stay closed.

Meanwhile, striking oil workers said they planned to stand firm, and opposition leaders insisted that the strike isn't over.

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