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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Venezuela's new dawn
An employee of Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) waves the Venezuelan flag as she walks through the main entrance  on Friday
Employees of PDVSA had been on strike
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By Adam Easton
BBC correspondent in Caracas
line

Venezuelans awoke on Friday to a country transformed by the dramatic and violent events of the last 24 hours, which left at least 11 people dead and more than 80 injured.

A general strike and an escalating oil industry stoppage that had threatened to cripple the country's economy were no more - and the country not only had a new president, business leader Pedro Carmona, but a new name.


I think people are happy because Chavez has fallen. But there's also a feeling of uncertainty about how the country's obvious problems are going to be solved

Eyewitness Euridice Ledesma
The country was no longer the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in honour of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar, one of former president Hugo Chavez's heroes.

Now it is simply the Republic of Venezuela. The name change was Mr Carmona's first act as head of the transition government.

His second was to announce the end of the three-day general strike he had called with the head of the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) leader Carlos Ortega in support of protesting managers from state oil company PDVSA.

Shellshocked

Managers were striking because Mr Chavez had filled the company's board of directors with his supporters.

Despite the announcement, traffic was lighter than a normal Friday and many Venezuelans did not turn up for work.

The country is in shellshock. On Thursday a peaceful rally of more than 100,000 mainly middle class Venezuelans had ended in bloodshed.

Pedro Carmona
Business leader Pedro Carmona is to head a transitional government
As marchers called for Mr Chavez's resignation outside Miraflores, the presidential palace, shots were fired into the crowd. Eyewitness Euridice Ledesma said snipers fired on the marchers from rooftops near the palace.

Film footage also caught armed supporters of Mr Chavez firing indiscriminately at the marchers.

Later army chief, General Efrain Vasquez said some "Bolivarian" groups were indeed armed.

"It was horrible. These groups were shooting at defenceless people," said photographer Luis Gomez.

Chavez's last day

At the time, Mr Chavez was addressing the nation to assure them his government respected people's right to demonstrate and freedom of the press.

Moments later he announced that he had taken five national television channels off the air for "telling lies about the government".

The shootings were the final straw for the military. A succession of officers filled the TV screens to say they supported the people and that the killings were "not tolerable".

Protesters waiting at the airport in Caracas
Anti-Chavez campaigners are celebrating his departure
As tanks surrounded Miraflores, Mr Chavez was holed up with senior military officers in a bid to save his presidency.

In the early hours of the morning, chief of the armed forces General Lucas Rincon held a brief news conference to say Mr Chavez's resignation had been demanded and accepted.

Earlier his wife, Marisabel, and children had left Caracas in the cover of darkness on a PDVSA jet for Barquisimeto in western Venezuela.

Mr Chavez is currently detained at Fuerte Tiuna army base in Caracas and could face possible charges for his role in the killings.

News of Mr Chavez's resignation caused hundreds of flag-waving and whistle-blowing Venezuelans to surround the city's air force base, La Carlota, in the hope of seeing Mr Chavez' departure from the country.

Mr Chavez's exit has left Venezuela with a power vacuum and no obvious long-term leader. The challenge now is to heal the deep social divisions that exist within the country.

"I think people are happy because Chavez has fallen. But there's also a feeling of uncertainty about how the country's obvious problems are going to be solved," said Ms Ledesma.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Easton in Caracas, Venezuela
"President Hugo Chavez's resignation has been accepted"
The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"Venezuelan television is reporting that President Chavez has surrendered"
See also:

12 Apr 02 | Americas
Venezuela army blocks Chavez exile
12 Apr 02 | Media reports
Venezuela press condemns 'autocrat' Chavez
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