Alan Keenan on Sun, 14 Apr 2002 16:12:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Hot Off the E-Presses: Chavez is Back

Below find a fairly evenhanded report on a remarkable change in fortune.
Perhaps politics is still alive in Venezuela after all?  If only "the
people" had been so alive, and lucky, in the US 18 months ago!


                  Chavez reclaims Venezuelan

                  Associated Press

                  14 April 2002

                  Hugo Chavez was freed by his military captors and
                  returned to reclaim the Venezuelan presidency today,
                  greeting a cheering throng of supporters as he stepped
                  out of a helicopter, smiled and raised a fist in triumph. 

                  Hundreds of people outside the palace in Caracas and
                  thousands in the street beyond began singing the
                  Venezuelan national anthem. 

                  Chavez arrived at the Miraflores presidential palace
                  shortly after 3 a.m. in a dramatic restoration of power
                  following the resignation of Pedro Carmona, who
                  stepped down amid violent protests after just one day in
                  office as interim president. 

                  Chavez's vice president, Diosdado Cabello, had
                  declared himself acting president until Chavez's return
                  from military custody. 

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

                  "Today we are celebrating a new democracy," said one
                  man who took a microphone to greet Chavez. 

                  The Organization of American States was sending a
                  delegation to Venezuela to assess the situation. The
                  OAS General Assembly planned to meet this week on
                  the crisis. Chavez is a former army paratrooper who led
                  a failed 1992 coup but was elected in 1998 on an
                  anti-poverty platform. His term was to end in 2006. 

                  Chavez's attorney general, Isaias Rodriguez, told
                  Carmona's ministers they were under arrest pending
                  possible charges. 

                  "They must take responsibility. They will be put on trial
                  with all their rights, but they will be put on trial,"
                  said. Some military officials also would be tried for
                  military rebellion, he added. 

                  Tens of thousands of people surrounded the presidential
                  palace Sunday after news of Carmona's resignation.
                  They set off powerful fireworks, awaiting Chavez's return
                  from military custody. 

                  "Chavez is coming! Chavez is coming!" said Dario
                  Fereira, an unemployed man wearing a tattered shirt.
                  "The people want him back. He works for the poor." 

                  Chavez administration officials ? many of whom had
                  evaded dozens of police raids under Carmona's brief
                  reign ? and loyalist military officers hugged each other in
                  the palace's marble-floored courtyard. 

                  "In these past two days they have persecuted us," said
                  Rafael Ramirez, president of the state-run national
                  gasoline company. 

                  Unshaved and with red-rimmed eyes, Ramirez said he
                  had hidden in friend's homes after Chavez's arrest on
                  Friday. Asked about the turnaround, Ramirez said: "It's
                  marvelous because the Venezuelan people responded
                  to this illegal coup attempt." 

                  Chavez was kept on Orchila Island off the Venezuelan
                  coast before his return Sunday, his labor minister, Maria
                  Cristina Iglesias, said. 

                  Carmona, a businessman and co-leader of a general
                  strike called last week that eventually led to Chavez's
                  ouster, was named president by the military high
                  command Friday, hours after generals arrested Chavez
                  for allegedly ordering gunmen to fire on a 150,000-strong
                  opposition protest on Thursday. Sixteen died and
                  hundreds were wounded in the melee. 

                  Dozens more died in rioting and looting yesterday. 

                  Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena said at least nine people
                  were killed and 40 wounded Saturday. But an
                  Associated Press reporter witnessed dozens of bodies
                  at city hospitals. 

                  "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 time. 

                  Demonstrators supporting Chavez ? or opposed to the
                  way he was ousted ? forced Carmona to step down. The
                  commander of a strategic air base in the central city of
                  Maracay rebelled Saturday, setting in motion nationwide
                  protests demanding Chavez's return. 

                  Thousands took to the streets, taking over state TV, to
                  demand that Chavez be reinstalled. Signaling a split in
                  the armed forces, several military commanders refused
                  to accept Carmona's appointment. 

                  Some Latin American leaders denounced Friday's
                  irregular transition of power. The United States said
                  Chavez was responsible for his own ouster because of
                  attempts to violently suppress Thursday's demonstration. 

                  The march capped a general strike called to support oil
                  executives who were protesting a Chavez-appointed
                  board of directors at the state oil monopoly Petroleos de

                  A work slowdown by the executives severely cut
                  production and exports in Venezuela, the No. 3 oil
                  supplier to the United States. 

                  At the palace, supporters displayed a huge poster of
                  Chavez lit by floodlights. A military brass band stood at
                  the ready. Red-bereted soldiers with automatic rifles
                  paced through the hallways; others pumped their fists
                  and egged on the crowd. 

                  "Chavistas" seized the state-run TV station late
                  Saturday. Even as gunfire rattled downtown streets,
                  pro-Chavez lawmaker Juan Barreto praised the
                  "peaceful insurrection" that called for Chavez's return. 

                  Carmona also lost the support of the 1 million-member
                  Venezuelan Workers Confederation, which co-led last
                  week's general strike, after Carmona decide to dissolve
                  Congress, said confederation director Jesus Urbietta. 

                  Jesse Chacon, president of Venezuela's
                  telecommunications agency, said TV stations' conduct
                  last week will be investigated. Chacon condemned
                  stations that failed to cover protests against Chavez's
                  ouster and said they falsely depicted a calm Venezuela
                  to help the new regime. 

                  At least 20 disturbances were reported in Caracas
                  yesterday. Unrest also was reported in the cities of
                  Maracay, Guarenas, Los Teques and Coro. Police
                  fought pitched battles with Chavez supporters in the
                  western Caracas slum of Catia, a Chavez stronghold. 

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