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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 22:25 GMT 23:25 UK
Venezuela to hold elections within year
Soldiers at Fuerte Tiuna base, Caracas, where Chavez is being held
Military pressure forced Chavez from power
The transitional government which has seized power from ousted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced that it will hold presidential elections within a year.

The administration has also dissolved the country's National Assembly and will hold legislative elections by December, a decree read by a spokesman on Friday said.

Pedro Carmona, who has agreed to lead the interim government at the request of the army, will not be allowed to stand.

Mr Chavez, who resigned after a three-day general strike in protest against his policies ended in violence, has issued a plea to be allowed to go into exile in Cuba.

But the army has rejected this, saying the ex-president must be brought to account for the deaths of at least 13 people during protests on Thursday night.


He has to be held accountable to his country

Army General Roman Fuemayor

Mr Chavez is being held at a military barracks in the capital Caracas after being forced to resign by the country's military. His former interior minister has been arrested in connection with the protesters' deaths.

Mr Carmona, head of Venezuela's business association Fedecamaras, was due to be sworn in as head of an interim government made up of military and civilian personnel on Friday.

As he accepted the new role, he announced an immediate end to the general strike which has crippled the oil industry in Venezuela - the world's fourth largest oil exporter.

Coup accusation

Oil prices dipped on Friday amid hopes that Mr Chavez's resignation would restore stability to Venezuela.


It is a lie, all lies, he said he never resigned, that a group of military took him away and he is being held incommunicado

Maria Gabriela Chavez
Daughter of Hugo Chavez

The end of Mr Chavez's three years in power came after a three-day general strike ended in a violent demonstration on Thursday.

Eyewitnesses said snipers had opened fire on a crowd of more than 150,000. At least 11 people died and more than 80 were injured.

On Friday, a mob tried to lynch former Interior Minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, as police arrested him over the killings.

Mr Chavez resigned following the violence, after the military high command insisted that he step down.

International reaction

Army General Roman Fuemayor told Venezuelan television that Mr Chavez had asked to go into exile in Cuba, but the military turned him down.

"He has to be held accountable to his country," General Fuemayor said.

Pedro Carmona
Business leader Pedro Carmona is to head a transitional government
International reaction to the former president's removal from power has been mixed.

The United States said the Chavez Government had provoked the crisis by suppressing a peaceful demonstration.

Several Latin American countries expressed concern, while France described it as an attack on institutional order.

But the strongest criticism came from the Cuban government. The communist party newspaper, Granma, said a counter-revolutionary conspiracy by what it termed the economically-dominant classes had been responsible for bringing down Mr Chavez's Government.

'Coup'

Mr Chavez is being held at the Fuerte Tiuna military barracks in Caracas, while investigators decide what charges he could face for Thursday's violence. But Mr Chavez's daughter has rejected the military's version of events, saying he was the victim of a coup.

"It is a lie, all lies, he said he never resigned, that a group of military took him away and he is being held incommunicado," Maria Gabriela Chavez told Cuban television station.

Ousted president Hugo Chavez
Chavez befriended Cuba's isolated leader Fidel Castro
Mr Chavez forged close relations with Cuba during his time in power, and the Communist state became Venezuela's main trading partner.

Mr Chavez won a landslide election victory in 1998, six years after he led an abortive coup as a young army officer.

Thursday's opposition rally was in support of striking managers at the state oil company, who said Mr Chavez had tried to take it over by filling the board with his supporters.

Military

Mr Chavez appeared on the state-run television channel denouncing the protest, while independent TV channels were taken off the air by order of the government.

However, Finance Minister Francisco Uson, who is an army general, and National Guard chief Luis Camacho Kairuz resigned in protest at the killings.

They were joined by 10 other high-ranking military officers rebelling against Mr Chavez.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Easton in Caracas, Venezuela
"President Hugo Chavez's resignation has been accepted"
Protester Carmen Gothwald
"We could not stand anymore"
See also:

12 Apr 02 | Americas
Venezuelan media: 'It's over!'
12 Apr 02 | Americas
Venezuela's new dawn
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