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Venezuela Court Postpones Coup Ruling After Violent Pro-Chavez Riot ^ | August 1, 2002 | Pascal Fletcher, Reuters

Posted on 08/01/2002 4:09:58 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela's Supreme Court postponed until next week a final ruling on four alleged military coup plotters after police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse several hundred rioting supporters of left-wing President Hugo Chavez.

More than 1,000 riot police and National Guard soldiers sealed off a section of central Baralt Avenue outside the court building to break up fighting between the pro-Chavez militants and smaller groups of opponents of the government.

Black smoke rose from the rubble-strewn avenue after stone-throwing Chavez supporters fought running battles with police and set fire to tires and piles of garbage. There were several arrests and several people were reported hurt.

Followers of Chavez, a former paratrooper who has ruled since 1998, want the senior military officers implicated in a short-lived April coup against the president to be jailed. Foes of the populist president say they should be acquitted.

After police drove the violent pro-Chavez demonstrators back, the 20-member Supreme Court failed to approve a proposal by one of its magistrates for the two generals and two admirals to be tried for rebellion.

Another magistrate on the tribunal was chosen to draw up a new proposal on the officers which would be presented to the court for its decision in five working days.

Supporters of the officers hailed the postponement as an early victory. The Supreme Court decision had been eagerly awaited by the government and its opponents, who blame each other for the deaths of more than 60 people in violent street protests and looting that accompanied the April 11-14 coup in the world's fifth-largest oil exporter.

"What we did in April was not rebellion. We avoided a massacre," one of the accused officers, Vice-Adm. Hector Ramirez said. "Justice is taking its course," he added.


The government alleges the four officers -- army Gen. Efrain Vasquez, air force Gen. Pedro Pereira, navy Vice Adm. Ramirez and Rear Adm. Daniel Commisso -- were ringleaders of the April coup and are guilty of rebellion.

The officers, who have been allowed to stay out of jail at home during the official inquiry, deny this. Government supporters had threatened to riot if the officers were not sent to trial and punished.

"These coup plotters should be tried, otherwise the country is going to burst at the seams," leading pro-Chavez militant Lina Ron told reporters before the court decision was known.

But the president's foes have warned that if the officers are sent for trial it could trigger an opposition backlash and inflame tensions in the armed forces, where the April coup revealed deep splits over Chavez's rule.

Supporters of the president threw bottles and fruit at government opponents, including retired military officers, who arrived at the court to support the officers.

Blows were exchanged and police fired tear gas canisters, scattering the crowd and filling the courtyard outside the tribunal with gas.

Retired military officers opposed to Chavez blamed his supporters for the fighting on Wednesday. "We cannot allow a group of thieving bandits to attack civil society," retired Vice Adm. Rafael Huizi Clavier told reporters.

The officers say they acted legally to briefly assume control of the country after anti-government protesters were killed on April 11 and Chavez's top military chief announced on television that the president had agreed to resign.

Chavez was held for 48 hours by the dissident officers, who appointed a civilian interim leader for a day before loyal troops and supporters reinstated the president.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: chavistas; latinamericalist
"These coup plotters should be tried, otherwise the country is going to burst at the seams," leading pro-Chavez militant Lina Ron told reporters before the court decision was known.

April 5, 2002 - Chavistas: Venezuelan street toughs: Helping "revolution" or crushing dissent? ****CARACAS, Venezuela - From her bed in a Caracas military hospital, the wiry, chain-smoking prisoner vowed to continue a hunger strike and risk becoming the first death in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's "revolution." "Comandante" Lina Ron, who considers herself a modern version of "Tania," a woman who fought alongside Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, says she is a willing martyr for Chavez's cause. She was arrested after leading a violent pro-Chavez counter-protest against demonstrating university students. Thousands follow her lead in Venezuela and they have increasingly quashed dissent, breaking up anti-government protests, intimidating journalists and alarming the president's critics.

…..Chavez has called Ron a political prisoner. "We salute Lina Ron, a female soldier who deserves the respect of all Venezuelans," he said recently. *** Hugo Chavez – Venezuela

1 posted on 08/01/2002 4:09:58 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
This is not going to be pretty.
2 posted on 08/01/2002 5:16:51 AM PDT by marron
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To: *Latin_America_List
Index Bump
3 posted on 08/01/2002 8:23:18 AM PDT by Free the USA
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Maybe the CIA needs to do some work here...

A 187 on a few of those folks would not be a bad thing.
4 posted on 08/01/2002 8:33:01 AM PDT by hchutch
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