Chavez supporters- II

Sabri Oncu soncu at
Sat Apr 13 20:20:12 MDT 2002

Protesters: Return Chavez to Power
Sat Apr 13, 9:29 PM ET
By ANDREW SELSKY, Associated Press Writer

Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets — some taking over
state TV — demanding that Hugo Chavez be returned to power.
Control of the military also began unraveling Saturday, forcing
the interim leader to postpone inaugurating his Cabinet.

The military of oil-rich Venezuela forced Chavez out on Friday
after demonstrations against him. Some commanders refused to
accept the military's appointed successor, Pedro Carmona, but
there have been no reports of fighting within Venezuela's
security forces.

Tens of thousands of Chavez supporters surged toward the
presidential palace as night fell Saturday, demanding Chavez's

Chavez backers took over state TV and went on air to insist that
Chavez was still president, applauding the "peaceful insurrection
in the streets" that called for his return. Juan Barreto,
parliamentary deputy in Chavez's party, called the new government
"fascist" and urged that the protests continue.

Earlier in the day, police drove back smaller groups of
protesters with tear gas, and gunfire was heard in the nearby
Catia slum, a Chavez stronghold.

"We want to see Chavez. The Venezuelan people don't buy it that
he has resigned," shouted Maria Brito, a 36-year-old

As the massive crowd approached the palace, there was no tear
gas, and soldiers on a nearby roof urged the demonstrators on by
pumping their fists and waving Venezuelan flags and their red
berets, a symbol of Chavez's rule.

Several pro-Chavez lawmakers and former Cabinet members were
inside the palace, a source said, but the purpose behind the
presence was unclear.

Bowing to a demand by restive army commanders, Carmona said
Saturday that Chavez will be allowed to leave the country and
promised to reinstate the country's National Assembly, which he
dissolved on Friday after being sworn in.

The army commander, Gen. Efrain Vasquez, made the demands at a
news conference at a base on the outskirts of Caracas. The army
"is doing what's necessary to immediately correct the errors
committed in this transition process," Vasquez said.

Chavez, a former army paratroop colonel who led a failed 1992
coup but was elected in 1998 on an anti-poverty platform, was
being detained at an undisclosed location. Barreto said on state
TV that Chavez "is kidnapped right now on Orchila Island" off the
Venezuelan coast and that several military bases across the
nation are under control of pro-Chavez forces.

He urged the dissolved National Assembly to report to the TV
station and said Chavez's Cabinet was in the presidential palace
with Chavez's vice president, Diosdado Cabello.

"Very soon we will have President Hugo Chavez directing, once
again, affairs of state in Venezuela," said Labor Minister Maria
Cristina Iglesias. She called for the military high command and
Carmona and his aides to meet with Chavez's forces to discuss the

Carmona, during an earlier interview with the CNN en Espanol,
said Chavez was well and would soon leave Venezuela for an
unspecified destination. He also acknowledged that air force
officers were rebelling in the central city of Maracay.

Police fired at protesters in various Caracas slums Saturday,
wounding several.

"We have every right to protest, but they are gunning us down out
there," said Edgar Paredes, his clothes soaked in blood as he
brought his wounded brother to a hospital. He didn't know who
shot Luis, and probably never will. Like most violent
demonstrations here, gunfire can erupt from any side, at any

Chavez's family, supporters and former government officials
insisted he never resigned as president, as Carmona and
Venezuela's high command have claimed.

Carmona's presidential secretary, Jesus Briceno, said that
"President Chavez is going to resign and we are going to send him
abroad." Briceno declined to explain the contradiction about
Chavez's alleged resignation, other than to say: "We have an
audio recording (of Chavez resigning). What we don't have is a
written declaration."

Chavez was ousted by Venezuela's military on Friday after
National Guard troops and pro-Chavez gunmen clashed with
opposition protesters. At least 16 people were killed and some
350 wounded, authorities said Saturday.

Chavez's exact whereabouts weren't known. His daughter, Ana
Gabriela Chavez, told Cuban television in a telephone interview
that Chavez may have been taken to the Venezuelan island of La
Orchila in the Caribbean and that he had been mistreated by his

The Organization of American States said it was sending a
delegation to Venezuela on Sunday to assess the situation and
that the OAS General Assembly will meet Wednesday on the matter.

In Caracas, downtown shopkeepers hurriedly closed as word of
isolated disruptions spread. At least 20 small disturbances were
reported in Caracas, the new government said. Unrest also was
reported in Maracay, Guarenas, Los Teques and Coro.

Police shot tear gas, including in front of the presidential
palace, at spontaneous pro-Chavez demonstrations in wide areas of
this tropical city of 5 million. Protesters, chanting "Chavez
will be back!" and "Democracy, not dictatorship," dispersed, then
reformed under a haze of tear gas.

About 500 Chavez supporters also marched overnight on the army
fort where Chavez was earlier held, facing off with soldiers and
tanks, witnesses said. Troops fired rubber bullets, injuring some
protesters, said Brito, the demonstrator.

In contrast to Chavez's strained relations with the United
States, Venezuela's new foreign minister-designate, Jose
Rodriguez, said Saturday he wants tight relations with Washington
and called Colombian rebels "double enemies of humanity."
President Bush (news - web sites) wants to increase military aid
to Colombia to fight the rebels, and Venezuela's cooperation
would be an important aspect.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rodriquez denied that
Friday's swearing in of Carmona was a coup in disguise. Mexico,
Argentina and Paraguay are among other Latin American countries
that have denounced Venezuela's new government as illegitimate.

"I don't think this has been viewed objectively," Rodriguez said.
"Here there was no military action, nor is the military in power.

"What we need to explain before our colleagues in the continent
is that this is not a coup, although the situation is obviously
not normal, legally and constitutionally, as we would wish,"
Rodriguez said.

Washington said Chavez was responsible for his own ouster because
of attempts to violently suppress Thursday's demonstration
against him.

The demonstrations were part of a strike called to support oil
executives battling Chavez management at the state oil monopoly
Petroleos de Venezuela. Venezuela is the No. 3 oil supplier to
the United States.

Chavez had ordered National Guard troops and civilian gunmen,
including rooftop snipers, to fire on the marchers, military
officers said.

A pathologist at the Caracas morgue said 30 bodies had been
brought to the morgue overnight and into Saturday, most with
bullet wounds. How the people were killed was not immediately

Government security forces continued searching for members of
"Bolivarian Circles" — Chavez supporters who allegedly are armed.

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