Tens of thousands march against Venezuela court decision

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Aug 25 20:10:43 MDT 2002

Defiant, Venezuela's Chavez rallies supporters
August 24, 2002
Posted: 9:48 PM EDT
(0148 GMT)

CARACAS, Venezuela, (Reuters) -- Venezuela's President
Hugo Chavez on Saturday rallied supporters against a
supreme court ruling to absolve four military officers
accused in an April coup to topple his government.

"If anyone would try again to oust this government
or stop this revolution, be it through politics, the
economics or the law, they'll have the response of the
people, of the revolutionaries," Chavez said.

Chavez, wearing the red beret of his former paratrooper
unit, urged the national assembly to investigate the judges
who ruled against proceeding with the trial of the officers
accused in the April 11-14 uprising.

Earlier, tens of thousands of supporters jammed streets of
central Caracas, chanting for justice after marching from
the eastern part of the capital toward the assembly

"Take them to jail, take them to jail," chanted the crowd as
the president spoke.

Venezuela's top court ruled on August 14 there was
insufficient evidence to try the officers for rebellion. The
two generals and two admirals have denied plotting a coup
and say they acted to fill a power vacuum after hearing
Chavez had resigned.

The president was ousted for about 48 hours before loyal
troops and massive street rallies helped restore him to
power. More than 60 people were killed in the upheaval and
the rioting and looting that followed.

The court ruling stoked fears of fresh political tension in
the bitterly divided South American nation after it sparked
violent street protests by supporters of the president.

Chavez, seething over the ruling, has accused the judges of
corruption, favoritism and even drunkenness and urged his
supporters to take to the streets in a peaceful
"revolutionary counterattack."

"We cannot accept quietly ... a decision that has already
passed into dark history, into black history," the president
said on Saturday.

Many protesters wore yellow stickers printed with the phrase
"Yes there was a coup." Some wore T-shirts printed with the
president's face. Others waved banners with the portrait of
Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

"These judges were bribed with outside money," said
Carlos Gonzalez, 27, a salesman taking part in the rally.

But foes of the president have hailed the court ruling as a
victory as they explore constitutional means to oust the
Venezuelan leader.

Recently they have filed lawsuits accusing the president
of embezzlement, crimes against humanity and mental
instability. His opponents also are examining a referendum
to trigger elections or shortening the president's term in

Opponents of Chavez blame his leftist reforms for driving
Venezuela into recession and for fomenting class divisions
in the oil-rich nation.

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