- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 14, 2002

CARACAS, Venezuela Venezuela's interim president resigned yesterday a day after taking office in the face of protests by thousands of supporters of the ousted president, Hugo Chavez.
"Before the nation, before the Venezuelan people, I present this resignation," Pedro Carmona told Union Radio.
Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets earlier yesterday some taking over state TV demanding that the ousted Mr. Chavez be returned to power. Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena said nine persons were killed and 40 injured yesterday in the violence.
Mr. Carmona said he was handing over power to the National Assembly, but Mr. Chavez's vice president, Diosdado Cabello, went on Union Radio to say he was acting president until Mr. Chavez returns to power. He was shown being sworn in on television.
Labor Minister Maria Christina Iglesias had said on state TV that Mr. Chavez was about to be flown out of the country by a military plane from Orchila Island off the Venezuelan coast.
Earlier in the day, with control of the military appearing to unravel, Mr. Carmona postponed inaugurating his Cabinet.
The military of oil-rich Venezuela forced Mr. Chavez out on Friday after demonstrations against him. Some commanders refused to accept the appointment of Mr. Carmona, head of Fedecameras, Venezuela's largest business association.
Tens of thousands of Chavez supporters surged toward the presidential palace as night fell yesterday, demanding Mr. Chavez's return.
Chavez backers took over state TV and went on the air to insist that Mr. Chavez was still president, applauding the "peaceful insurrection in the streets" that called for his return. Juan Barreto, parliamentary deputy in Mr. Chavez's party, called the new government "fascist" and urged that the protests continue.
"The tyrant has been deposed," Mr. Barreto said, referring to Mr. Carmona. He said Mr. Chavez would not quit, even as he remained in military custody.
Police drove back smaller groups of protesters from the presidential palace with tear gas earlier yesterday, 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 demonstrator.
As the massive crowd approached the palace at nightfall, 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 Mr. Chavez's rule.
Bowing to demands by restive army commanders, Mr. Carmona said yesterday that Mr. 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," Gen. Vasquez said.
Mr. 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. Mr. Barreto, speaking on state TV, said Mr. Chavez "is kidnapped right now on Orchila Island," and that several military bases across the nation are under the control of pro-Chavez forces.
He urged the dissolved National Assembly to report to the TV station and said Mr. Chavez's Cabinet was in the presidential palace with Mr. Cabello.
"Very soon we will have President Hugo Chavez directing, once again, affairs of state in Venezuela," Mrs. Iglesias said. She called for the military high command and Mr. Carmona to meet with Mr. Chavez's forces.
Mr. Carmona, during an earlier interview with CNN en Espanol, said Mr. 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 yesterday, 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 Paredes. Like most violent demonstrations here, gunfire can erupt from any side.
Mr. Chavez's family, supporters and former government officials insisted he never resigned, as Mr. Carmona and Venezuela's high command have claimed.
Mr. Chavez was ousted by Venezuela's military on Friday after national guard troops and pro-Chavez gunmen clashed with opposition protesters. A pathologist at the Caracas morgue said 30 bodies had been brought in by early yesterday, most with bullet wounds. Authorities said hundreds were injured.
In Caracas, downtown shopkeepers hurriedly closed as word of isolated disruptions spread yesterday. At least 20 small disturbances were reported in Caracas, the new government said. Unrest was also reported in Maracay, Guarenas, Los Teques and Coro.
Police shot tear gas, including in front of the presidential palace, at 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 regrouped under a haze of tear gas.
About 500 Chavez supporters also marched overnight on the army fort where Mr. Chavez was held earlier, facing off with soldiers and tanks, witnesses said.

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