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Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 01:28 GMT 02:28 UK
Interim Venezuelan president sworn in
Soldiers at Fuerte Tiuna base, Caracas, where Chavez is being held
Military pressure forced Chavez from power
Business leader Pedro Carmona has been sworn in as Venezuela's caretaker president at the request of the armed forces after Hugo Chavez was ousted from office.

The interim government has promised to hold presidential elections within a year but Latin American leaders have refused to recognise the new regime.

Pedro Carmona
Pedro Carmona: "The strongman era has ended"
Mr Carmona has repealed dozens of controversial economic laws and dissolved the Supreme Court and the National Assembly.

Venezuela's Attorney General, Isaias Rodriguez, a Chavez ally, said Mr Chavez had not resigned but been ousted by a coup prompted by outrage at the deaths of at least 13 anti-government protesters in violence on Thursday night.

Mr Chavez is being held at the Fuerte Tiuna military base in the capital, Caracas.

The army has rejected his plea to be allowed to go into exile in Cuba, a country which has been a staunch supporter of his left-wing policies.

Army General Roman Fuemayor said: "He has to be held accountable to his country."

Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin was saved from a lynching by police who arrested him in connection with the deaths at Thursday's demonstration.

Domestic changes

Mr Carmona, 60, is a respected economist who leads Venezuela's main business chamber, Fedecameras, which joined with trade unions to call the general strike against Mr Chavez and in particular his replacement of the state oil company's board.

At his swearing in, he said: "We are going to bring this ship to a safe port.

"We can achieve the governability required to improve Venezuela's image.

"The strongman era has ended."

In his first hours in power, Mr Carmona:

  • Dissolved the National Assembly, promising elections by December

  • Pledged presidential elections - in which he will not stand - within one year

  • Declared void a 1999 constitution introduced under Mr Chavez

  • Promised a return to the pre-1999 bicameral parliamentary system

  • Repealed 48 laws that gave the government greater control of the economy

  • Reinstated retired General Guaicaipuro Lameda as president of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

Oil production and distribution was beginning to return to normal for the world's fourth-largest oil producer after workers abandoned their action, and the stock market rose 7.7%.

But PDVSA has suspended oil exports to Cuba in protest at that country's support for Mr Chavez who agreed cheap rates with President Fidel Castro.

International reaction

Cuba said Venezuela had suffered a "counter-revolutionary" plot by the "subversive" rich.

Ousted president Hugo Chavez
Chavez befriended Cuba's isolated leader Fidel Castro
Latin American leaders, at a Group of Rio meeting in Costa Rica, said they were upset by the loss of life and by the actions that followed.

President Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Costa Rica read out a joint statement that said: "We condemn the interruption of constitutional order."

Mexico's Vicente Fox, Argentina's Eduardo Duhalde and Paraguay's Luis Gonzalez Macchi have called the new government illegitimate while Panama said it would not grant asylum to Mr Chavez or his family.

"It is a lie, all lies, he said he never resigned

Hugo Chavez's daughter Maria Gabriela
The United States was initially unsympathetic, saying the government had tried to suppress a peaceful demonstration.

Washington blamed Mr Chavez for creating the conditions that led to his removal.

The US and Spain later issued a joint statement calling for calm, an end to violence and a swift return to normality with a "guarantee of fundamental rights and freedoms".

Chavez's version

Military leaders said Mr Chavez resigned at their insistence after he ordered troops and civilian gunmen to fire on a crowd of more than 150,000. At least 13 people died and more than 240 were injured.

But Mr Chavez's daughter rejected that and said 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 a Cuban television station.

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

The BBC's Donna Larsen
"Pedro Carmona has his work cut out if the new administration is to survive"
Protester Carmen Gothwald
"We could not stand any more"
See also:

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