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Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 04:01 GMT 05:01 UK
Latin America ambivalent over military coup
Troops battle protesters
Venezuela had become 'polarised', leaders said
Latin American leaders have called for a crisis summit to discuss the new situation in Venezuela.

Many openly condemned the military ouster although only Cuba had any sympathy for the overthrown President Hugo Chavez.

But while anxious about the manner of the change of power, doors were left open for the possible recognition of the interim government at a later date.

A newspaper pinned up on a gate
Verdicts have yet to be passed on the new government in Caracas
By coincidence, many heads of state of Venezuela's neighbours were together for a meeting of the Rio Group in Costa Rica.

Venezuela's own delegation had left hurriedly as the coup unfolded.

The Rio Group summit asked the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, to call a special meeting of the group's Permanent Council to discuss the situation in Venezuela.

Mexican President Vicente Fox said Mexico "will abstain from recognising - or not - the new government of Venezuela."

Resignation query

Mr Fox - himself under pressure at home - said Venezuela's crisis had been caused by policies that polarised society and by the "erratic ways of the government".

Chile's Ricardo Lagos agreed but said solutions using force were not acceptable in the 21st century.

We are operating in a sea of unknowns

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo
El Salvador's President Francisco Flores, however, said he supported the new leadership.

"We consider President Chavez's resignation as the culmination of a process of polarisation, confrontation and abuses of democratic principles," he said.

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo said it was still too early to say whether the rest of Latin America could accept the new government as legitimate.

"I wasn't the greatest fan of the Chavez government and I recognise that the people have the right to remove their government, but they have to do so through democratic channels in adherence to the rule of law," he said.

One issue to be cleared up was whether Mr Chavez had signed a written resignation.

"We are operating in a sea of unknowns and we need more information. It would be premature to issue any definitive conclusion," Mr Toledo said.

But both Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde and Paraguayan President Luis Gonzalez Macchi called Venezuela's new government illegitimate.

Asylum claims

Chile's President Lagos said his country had been asked whether it would grant asylum to members of Mr Chavez's former government, but no formal requests had been made.

Officials in Panama, a country that has harboured several ousted leaders in the past, denied that Mr Chavez or any of his family members had asked for asylum and said it would not be granted if sought.

Mr Chavez appeared to have friends only in Cuba - a relationship he cultivated since taking office.

Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Mr Chavez was still considered the constitutional president of Venezuela.

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

President Fidel Castro - who treated Mr Chavez like a son and talked to him shortly before he was ousted - has made no public statements.

See also:

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