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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Venezuela's political disarray
Venezuela protests
There has been widespread unrest for months
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By Americas regional editor Robert Plummer

The resignation of Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela leaves the country's political system in disarray.

Calm has now returned to the streets of Caracas after Thursday's violent protests, and oil supplies are no longer in jeopardy now that the general strike has come to an end - but the impact of Mr Chavez's "Bolivarian revolution" on Venezuela's institutional framework will prove harder to reverse.

During his three years in power, Mr Chavez presided over a complete re-drafting of the constitution, in order to concentrate more power in the hands of his own political party, the Movement of the Fifth Republic (MVR).


The old Venezuelan Congress, consisting of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, was swept away and replaced with a single-chamber National Assembly.

Suddenly the two parties that had dominated Venezuelan political life for decades, the social democrat Accion Democratica and the Christian democrat Copei, found that their presence in the legislature had shrunk dramatically.

President Hugo Chavez
Mr Chavez planned to remover the "rotten elites"
Instead of occupying a majority of seats, they were forced to the margins by Mr Chavez's party and its allies, who won an overwhelming victory in the July 2000 elections.

This apparent death-knell for the former political establishment was all part of Mr Chavez's plan to dismantle what he called the rotten elites of Venezuelan society - elites that were widely blamed for rampant corruption and frittering away the country's vast oil wealth.

But in recent months, some of Mr Chavez's former friends in the assembly had already begun to turn against him, including most of what had been the second-largest party in his coalition - the Movement towards Socialism (MAS).

'Restoring democracy'

Now it appears that Mr Chavez has laid waste to the existing two-party system while failing to replace it with anything more durable than a personality cult.

Pedro Carmona
Business leader Pedro Carmona is to head a transitional government
In forming a transitional government, Venezuela has looked not to an existing politician, but to the head of the business leaders' association, Fedecameras, to head the new administration.

The Fedecameras President, Pedro Carmona, has said that his new government will include both civilian and military personnel.

In his first public statement in his new role, Mr Carmona said his aim was to restore a democratic and pluralist vision of society, and that he intended to run the country until free elections could be held.

No further details have been given, but observers say that retired general Guaicaipuro Lameda, who had been president of the state-owned oil company PDVSA until he was removed by Mr Chavez in February, is likely to play a major role in the interim administration.

See also:

07 Apr 02 | Americas
Venezuela's escalating oil dispute
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