With Collapse of U.S.-Masterminded Coup Chavez Returns

Tehran Times, Arpil 14, 2002
CARACAS -- A teary-eyed Hugo Chavez returned to the presidency of Venezuela in a ceremony at the presidential palace Sunday, his voice choked with emotion after a two-day sojourn as a leader ousted in a coup d'etat.

"I am still stupefied. I am still trying to assimilate the process," Chavez said, speaking directly into the television cameras.

Chavez returned by helicopter from detention on a Caribbean island early Sunday and entered the presidential palace in Caracas where he resumed the presidential functions he was ousted from two days prior.

"We can write I don't know how many books for Venezuelan history and for the world of what this counterrevolutionary process is about," said Chavez in a defiant tone.

Chavez was sworn in wearing civilian clothing and spoke at length of continued civilian-military collaboration.

He joked, sang, thanked the military and was interrupted repeatedly by applause and singing during the 60-minute speech.

"These events that brought blood and pain should be a lesson for all," Chavez said, in apparent reference to the violent demonstrations that led up to the coup and continued during his captivity.

"I call for peace. I call for calm, for rationality, for the unity of the country," he said in a conciliatory tone that his supporters used earlier in the day when addressing the Venezuelan people who are at best deeply divided over their president and his policies.

A delegation of Chavez supporters picked up Chavez from the Caribbean island of La Orchila early Sunday and escorted him back to Caracas after his military detention.

Chavez administration Vice President Diosdado Cabello took an oath late Saturday to serve as acting president only until Chavez could return to Caracas.

Cabello was sworn in as Venezuela's acting president, when the interim government that deposed the administration of Hugo Chavez resigned Saturday, after holding power for one day.

Pedro Carmona, who on Friday led the interim government that ousted Chavez, announced his resignation in a radio address to the nation just moments before announcing that the legislature had named Cabello acting president of Venezuela.

"The national legislature has decided to assign the post of president to Vice President Diosdado Cabello, after the interim president presented his resignation to the Venezuelan people," said Carmona, speaking of himself in the third person.

The announcement restored the constitutionally-stipulated succession that had been interrupted by Carmona's provisional government for twenty-seven hours.

The Carmona government also dismissed the Supreme Court and called for new elections within a year.

Carmona and other members of the interim government are now under military custody.

General Lucas Rincon was returned to his post as commander of the armed forces, which he held under Chavez, said Vice Rear Admiral Hector Ramirez, who had been named defense minister under the provisional government.

Carmona reinstated the national assembly once military leaders made that a condition of their continued support and the Organization of American States threatened sanctions to punish what most hemispheric leaders called a coup.

As Chavez supporters across Venezuela voiced their outrage at his ouster, near-anarchy reigned in some sectors, eyewitnesses said.

At least three people were shot dead in Caracas, and at least Eighteen people were wounded, doctors and humanitarian workers said. Among the casualties were Chavez supporters who said they were fired upon while demonstrating near the Miraflores presidential palace.

Iran also on Sunday congratulated Venezuela on the return of rule of law and reinstatement of the legitimate government of President Hugo Chavez after a two-day coup collapsed.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi described the event, in which Chavez was forced out of power Friday and reassumed presidency Sunday, as a very important victory for democracy and materialization of the Venezuelan people's will'.

"Resorting to force, coup d'etat and other illegal means in order to change legitimate and populist governments, is a censurable and indecent move which has no acceptance in today's world and must be totally abolished," he said.

Assefi welcomed the return of peace and halt to violence which led to the coup and was followed by street clashes between the people and police.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to expand its ties with the Republic of Venezuela, he added.

Tehran on Saturday condemned the ouster of democratically elected president of Venezuela, saying resorting to coup and using force is not an acceptable method in bringing about political changes and the method is not in conformity with the norms of present human society'.

Chavez is a staunch supporter of oil production cuts in order to boost prices in the world market. He initiated a successful Caracas OPEC summit in September 2000, the second in the 40-year existence of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

According to a report, Adel Elzaballar, a representative of the Venezuelan National Parliament, said that in fact what happened in Venezuela was a military coup against a democratic government.

Referring to the role of the United States in the recent developments in Venezuela, Elzaballar said that the U.S. had applied pressure on Hugo Chavez for some days. He added that the U.S. played the main role in the Venezuelan coup.

He said that the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and diplomats of the U.S. Embassy participated in the demonstration against Hugo Chavez before the military coup.

He also stated that those who staged the coup against the Chavez government raised the issue of those killed in order to justify their action, although most of those who were killed were supporters of Chavez.

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