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Sunday, 7 July, 2002, 06:41 GMT 07:41 UK
Carter begins Venezuela mission
Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez was briefly ousted from power

Former US President Jimmy Carter has begun a four-day visit to Venezuela to try to mediate in the country's political crisis.

He arrived on Saturday night and is expected to see President Hugo Chavez later on Sunday.

In April, President Chavez was briefly forced to step down by the country's armed forces following a national strike and huge street demonstrations. At least 50 people died in the violence


There is no civil war here. We are very happy (the Carter mission) is coming

Hugo Chavez
The last two months have seen an uneasy calm returned to the country.

The president has removed a number of deeply unpopular ministers from his cabinet, but there are still widespread calls for Mr Chavez to leave office.

Crunch time

Jimmy Carter's visit comes at a crucial time.

He was invited to the country by Mr Chavez to try to build bridges between his government and the numerous opposition groups.

The Carter Center - set up by Jimmy Carter when he left office in 1980 - is an organisation with a long track record in helping to foster political dialogue, from North Korea to Bosnia.

Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter hopes to bring reconciliation
President Chavez has tried to open discussions with opposition groups who say his government's largely populist and left-wing agenda has harmed the country's economy and encouraged a near class war.

But to a large extent it has been to no avail.

The sounds of pots and pans being banged in the streets of Caracas have continued to echo out during the large opposition rallies calling for him to step down.

Mr Carter's mission may prove one of his toughest to date.


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17 May 02 | Newsmakers
29 Jun 02 | Americas
16 Jun 02 | Americas
09 Jun 02 | Americas
14 May 02 | Americas
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