Violent clashes between police and workers protesting outside Mitsubishi Motors Corp's car assembly plant in eastern Venezuela left two people dead and two police officers injured, officials said.
Tarek William Saab, governor of eastern Anzoategui state, told state television that two people died of gunshot wounds received during clashes with police on Thursday outside the plant in the city of Barcelona.
Prosecutors are investigating the incident, Saab said.
"There were gunshots fired, and it's not clear where they came from," said President Hugo Chavez, speaking during a televised address yesterday. "Those responsible must be imprisoned."
Roughly 200 of the plant's 5,000 employees, joined by 1,000 contract workers, called a strike and seized control of the assembly plant on January 12.
Striking workers are demanding that Mitsubishi renew a contract with a local cleaning company.
Jorge Diaz del Castillo, Vice President of Mitsubishi Motors Corp's Sales Department in Venezuela, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that a Mitsubishi employee and another man were killed in Thursday's clashes. He said that some strikers are armed.
Diaz del Castillo said the company is losing $1.4 million a day as a result of the strike.
Saab is serving as a mediator between the company and workers in the dispute, he said.