Skip to comments.Venezuela President Resigns in Tumult - asks for exile in Cuba
Posted on 04/12/2002 6:40:56 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez, the former army paratrooper who polarized Venezuela with his strongarm rule and whose friendship with Cuba and Iraq irritated the United States, resigned under military pressure Friday after a massive opposition demonstration ended in a bloodbath.
Chavez, 47, presented his resignation to three officers after he was confronted by the military high command at the presidential palace, said the Air Force chief, Gen. Regulo Anselmi, who was present at the time.
At 3 a.m. Friday, Chavez, wearing military fatigues and a red beret - as he did when he led a failed 1992 coup against then-President Carlos Andres Perez - left the palace for Caracas' Fort Tiuna army base. He was being held there while investigators decide what charges he could face for Thursday's violence, said army commander Gen. Efrain Vasquez Velasco.
Chavez asked to be allowed to go into exile in Cuba, but the miltiary turned him down, army Gen. Roman Fuemayor told Globovision television. "He has to be held accountable to his country," Fuemayor said.
Oil prices dipped on news of Chavez' downfall, amid expectations it would bring an increase in production at the world's fourth biggest oil exporter. Venezuela is the No. 3 supplier to the United States. Output had been sharply cut amid a strike at the state-run oil monopoly, which spiralled into a massive protest against Chavez.
Pedro Carmona, head of Venezuela's largest business association, announced he would head a transitional government to be installed later Friday. He also announced an immediate end to a general strike called earlier this week against Chavez.
Thousands of Venezuelans celebrated overnight, waving flags, blowing whistles and jamming a main highway in Caracas. Police warned that Chavez supporters reportedly were distributing weapons, especially in the hillside slums surrounding the capital. Officers raided storehouses, seizing dozens of firearms.
Downtown, streets were littered with debris - and in some places, stained with blood. Shops and businesses remained closed, and most people simply stayed home, stunned and wondering what would come next. Buses were half-empty, and those reporting to work hurried amidst rubble-strewn sidewalks.
Chavez quit just hours after at least 13 people were killed and 110 wounded during a 150,000-strong opposition demonstration in downtown Caracas. Chavez had ordered National Guard troops and civilian gunmen, including rooftop snipers, to stop the marchers from reaching the palace, military officers said.
The demonstration was the culmination of a strike called by the 1 million-member Venezuelan Workers Confederation and the business association Fedecamaras. The strike was in support of executives at the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, who were protesting Chavez's appointments to top company posts.
"I urge Venezuelans to maintain calm, to keep faith, to continue working on the road toward democracy, freedom and peace," said retired Gen. Guaicaipuro Lameda, who until February headed the oil company and was a leader of the movement to oust Chavez. "It's with sadness that to reach this point, so many people had to die, so many wounded."
The Bush administration said it was closely monitoring the political upheaval in Venezuela. "Our interests are in democracy and democratic institutions," said a senior U.S. official traveling with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Jerusalem.
In London, Brent crude oil opened 44 cents down from Thursday at $24.60 per barrel. In New York, May contracts of light sweet U.S. crude fell 46 cents a barrel to $24.53.
During Thursday's clashes, National Guard troops fired tear gas at the front ranks of marchers bearing sticks and throwing rocks. Tear gas drifted into the presidential compound. Rooftop snipers and
Chavez supporters repeatedly fired upon the protesters and even ambulance crews trying to evacuate the wounded. As many as 110 people were wounded, Greater Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena said.
As the bloodbath unfolded, Chavez ordered five Caracas television stations off the air - charging they were inciting violence. Most Venezuelans were denied images of "Chavistas" repeatedly firing on unarmed protesters, bodies lying in pools of blood on the streets, and hooded thugs attacking police until after the military rebelled.
The rapid developments stunned this oil-rich, yet poverty-stricken nation. But opposition to Chavez's three-year presidencey had been growing for some time.
He had irritated Washington with his close ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro visits to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and to Libya, and criticism of U.S. bombings in Afghanistan.
And he had alienated virtually every sector of Venezuelan society, with his attacks on the news media and Roman Catholic Church leaders, his refusal to consult with business leaders, and his failed attempt to assert control over labor groups.
Chavez's government also inherited a staggering $21 billion in back wages and pensions owed workers by previous administrations - a debt he was unable to pay.
His suspected ties to Colombia's leftist guerrillas angered many in the military and abroad.
Domestic opponents claimed his government was secretly arming neighborhood block committees known as "Bolivarian Circles," named after South American liberator Simon Bolivar, to defend his revolution. The Circles were created after Castro urged Chavez's supporters to organize during a 2000 visit.
Chavez also exasperated Venezuelans with his frequent use of "cadenas" - hours-long presidential speeches that by law had to be broadcast by all Venezuelan TV and radio stations.
For Chavez, who on Tuesday boasted he would remain president until 2021, the end came quickly.
Just last Friday, he refused to negotiate with the striking oil executives, who were demanding that he remove a company board he had appointed Feb. 25. The executives claimed Chavez was trying to strengthen his hold on a multinational corporation that cherishes its autonomy.
The oil executives launched a slowdown last week that cut production at the Paraguana refinery complex, one of the world's largest, to below 50 percent capacity. They closed another refinery, disrupted gasoline deliveries and all but stopped loading of oil tankers. Oil generates 80 percent of Venezuela's foreign earnings.
Anselmi said the military urged Chavez on Wednesday to negotiate. He agreed, but by then the Petroleos de Venezuela executives had rejected such overtures.
After Thursday's violence, the high command decided Chavez had to go, and they confronted him en masse in his offices, Anselmi said. Troops seized the government television station as tanks rumbled on the streets. Chavez's longtime mentor, former Interior Minister Luis Miquilena, condemned the repression.
Chavez, surrounded by a nervous Cabinet, finally handed his resignation to Anselmi, Armed Forces Inspector General Gen. Lucas Rincon Romero and National Guard commander Gen. Belisario Landis.
"Being a friend of his for many years, I advised him to resign and allow Venezuelans to avoid a bigger bloodbath," said Gen. Francisco Uson, who until Thursday served as Chavez's finance minister.
Vasquez Velasco, the army commander, said 95 percent of army forces were under his control, as well as all airports and major military bases. Incoming international commercial flights were canceled until further notice.
"We ask the Venezuelan people's forgiveness for today's events," said Vasquez Velasco. "Mr. President, I was loyal to the end, but today's deaths cannot be tolerated."
I think this bastard should be kept in close-hold where the dogs can't bite him.
This is good news. The revolution of the people against socialist oppression continues.
Long live freedom!
Chavez is partly responsible for the increase in oil prices and a "popular" uprising occurs. I think we should give credit where credit is due on this one.
Business leader Pedro Carmona takes the reigns of a Venezuela in crisis - Fri Apr 12, 9:24 AM ET - [Full Text] CARACAS, Venezuela - Pedro Carmona Estanga, the president of Venezuela's leading association of businesses picked by the military as interim president, played a key role in the protests against ousted President Hugo Chavez.
Carmona, 60, is expected to rule this South American nation until new elections. "My only interest in these last days was the fight against the government of Hugo Chavez. But I didn't fight to arrive at this, (I fought) only because it was necessary," Carmona told reporters early Friday morning.
Chavez resigned under military pressure early Friday after a massive opposition demonstration ended in a bloodbath.
Carmona, an economist who studied in Venezuela and in Belgium, worked most of his life in private enterprise although he also represented Venezuela in economic and commercial missions abroad.
Since his election in June 2001 as the president of the association of businesses, Fedecameras, Carmona led a revolt within the business sector against Chavez in reaction to the former paratrooper's statist economic policies.
Between 1988 and 1989 Carmona was president of the Venezuelan-Colombian Chamber for Commerce and Industry. From 1995 to 1997 he presided over the Venezuelan Confederation of Industries.
Juan Calvo, an executive who has worked side by side with Carmona for over 30 years, described him as "a balanced and intelligent man, a leader, who knows how to resolve problems." [End]
This is the kind of military junta members I'm talking about. This guy, along with all the top military brass, ought to be canned in a New York minute, as well as other high ranking government offficials
When Chavez said no to US planes "drug flights" & turned downed the IMF , his destiny was sealed.
>When Chavez said no to US planes "drug flights" & turned downed the IMF , his destiny was sealed.
From the article- "At 3 a.m. Friday, Chavez, wearing military fatigues and a red beret - as he did when he led a failed 1992 coup against then-President Carlos Andres Perez."
I just call it karma.
That's when you can end up with a situation like in Sudan or many other places where people unarmed by the law are mysteriously subject to attack by roving, politically connected gangs amazingly not subject to the same gun control laws. Best to nip it in the bud.
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