Chavez Returns

Sabri Oncu soncu at
Sun Apr 14 01:58:49 MDT 2002

Top World News

04/14 03:26
Venezuela's Chavez Returns to Presidential Palace From Prison
By Peter Wilson, Alex Kennedy, Patrick Gordon, and Toby Muse

Caracas, April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez returned
to power from an island prison two days after being ousted from
the presidency as his followers seized the presidential palace,
demanding his reinstatement.

Chavez landed by helicopter at the palace as thousands of his
supporters erupted into cheering and singing the national anthem.

"The law of order has been reestablished in Venezuela," Acting
President Diosdado Cabello told a press conference, just hours
before Chavez's return. Cabello said he would hand the reins over
to Chavez upon the latter's return.

Chavez's return follows a day of rioting by his supporters
Saturday that left at least nine dead and dozens injured as
thousands of his supporters seized the presidential palace,
demanding his reinstatement. Only three days ago, 12 people died
and more than 100 were injured when his opponents demonstrated,
leading to Chavez's ouster by the military.

Chavez didn't immediately make a statement upon landing.
Brigadier General Raul Beduel earlier said that Chavez had been
beaten during his confinement, and required medical attention for
liver and bladder damage.

Looting occurred Saturday in at least seven Caracas
neighborhoods, according to the city's mayor. Protesters blocked
the highway connecting the capital with Simon Bolivar
International Airport, prompting airlines to cancel flights
scheduled out of the airport this morning. One airline turned
back a plane en route to the airport.

Causes of Chavez Ouster

Three years of high unemployment and crime in the country of 24
million people, the U.S.'s second-largest oil supplier, combined
with a dispute over Chavez's control of the state oil company
brought about his removal from power.

Chavez, a former lieutenant colonel who led a failed coup attempt
in 1992 and spent three years in jail, was elected in December

"We want our president back," said Anna Mendez, one of thousands
of Chavez supporters waving flags and placards outside the
presidential palace during the day.

Cabello assumed the presidency as interim President Pedro Carmona
resigned in the face of mounting protests.

Carmona, who had sought to preserve his two-day-old government by
blunting criticism that he and the military committed a coup
d'etat, on Friday dissolved the country's democratic
institutions, including Congress and the Supreme Court. He
restored Congress yesterday after military pressure.

"We elected Chavez," said Juan Padilla, who marched eight miles
to the presidential palace from the Petare shantytown with a
group of friends to show his support for Chavez. "They say that
Chavez is not democratic, but what is democratic about this coup?
Our vote has to be respected."

One of the dead today and three of the injured are policemen,
according to Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena.

Broadcast Stations Attacked

Broadcasts showed crowds attacking the Radio Caracas and
Venevision television stations, which largely avoided covering
thousands of Chavez backers converging on the Miraflores
presidential palace, where the government has its administrative

"The television did itself and the Venezuelan people a great
disservice by carrying out a news blackout," said Eric Ekvall, a
political analyst in Caracas. "They're doing exactly the same as
Chavez did."

Soldiers on the roof and balcony of the palace raised their fists
in solidarity with the protesters.

"We will fight to the death to support Chavez," said Pvt. Luis
Vallana, one of the soldiers of the contingent protecting the

Members of Chavez's former government gathered at the palace as

"Chavez is in jail, but we have Miraflores," said Maria Cristina
Iglesias, who served as labor minister under Chavez.

Travel Alert

The U.S. embassy issued a travel alert.

"We are telling American citizens to stay home and to monitor
events from there," said Lisa Gisvold, a spokeswoman at the U.S.
embassy in Caracas. "American citizens should cancel plans to
come to Venezuela."

Delta Airlines said its flight to Caracas from Atlanta was called
back after Venezuelan civil air authorities told it to turn
around. Jacqueline Demora, of the United Airlines booking desk,
said that the United flight Saturday night was canceled and the
one leaving Caracas this morning was also canceled.

Taxis refused to carry passengers to Simon Bolivar International
Airport from the capital because of disturbances in the western
neighborhood of Catia, which straddles the main highway to the

"There's lots of police in Catia because there was looting this
morning," said Josefina Veneri, who saw protesters attacking
stores. "I ran, I was scared."

Supermarkets and stores, fearing a replay of 1989 riots and
looting, closed in many neighborhoods. Hundreds were killed then
as people struck out at the government on speculation it would
raise bus fares after having boosted prices for many other goods
and services.

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