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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 06:32 GMT 07:32 UK
Chavez poised for comeback
Crowds of pro-Chavez supporters
"Chavistas" rushed to the presidential palace
Supporters of Venezuela's ousted President Hugo Chavez are expecting him to make a dramatic return to power following the resignation of the interim leader who replaced him.

Less than 48 hours after being appointed by the military, business leader Pedro Carmona stood down in the face of massive street protests in support of Mr Chavez.


With full responsibility before the nation and the Venezuelan people, I present this resignation

Pedro Carmona

Former Vice-President Diosdado Cabello has now been sworn in as president, but says he is simply waiting to return the country to his ally Mr Chavez as soon as he reappears.

The BBC's Nick Miles, in Caracas, says that Mr Chavez could arrive in the capital in a matter of an hour or two.

Mr Carmona, the 60-year-old leader of the Fedecamaras business chamber, had apparently lost the support of the military and the National Assembly.

After being sworn into office, he quickly dissolved the National Assembly and the courts, while promising elections within a year.

But he was soon forced to reverse his decision on the National Assembly after armed forces chief General Efrain Vasquez said he would only support Mr Carmona if the congress was restored.

He was then forced to suspend the inauguration of his new cabinet.

While this was happening, police were firing water cannon and tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of Chavez supporters who had surrounded the presidential palace which had been taken over by troops loyal to Mr Chavez.


I, Diosdado Cabello, am assuming the presidency until such time as the president of the republic, Hugo Chavez Frias, appears

Reports said at least nine people had died in clashes between the police and demonstrators.

It is still not clear whether General Efrain Vasquez will now back the return of Mr Chavez.

Several television stations in Caracas have been taken over by supporters of Mr Chavez.

He himself has not been seen since Friday morning, when the armed forces said he had resigned at their request.

Mr Chavez was initially held at the Fuerte Tiuna military base in the capital, but there are reports he was later moved to the Turiamo naval base on the coast, about 100km (60 miles) away.

Pro-Chavez crowds which gathered in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities said they were not convinced the president had stepped down.

Protesters said they wanted to see the letter of resignation which the provisional government said it had.

Vice-President Diosdado Cabello is sworn in
Diosdado Cabello says he is waiting for Mr Chavez to return
Mr Chavez's administration fell on Friday after violent street demonstrations triggered by a national strike left 13 people dead and more than 240 wounded.

Military leaders blamed Mr Chavez for the deaths and rebelled against him.

Mr Chavez won a landslide election victory in 1998, but has recently been facing serious political problems.

The national strike had been called by business and labour leaders after the president appointed his supporters to head the national oil company. Venezuela is the world's fourth largest oil exporter.

After leaving office, Mr Chavez reportedly asked for exile in Cuba, where his friend and ally Fidel Castro is in power.

Leaders from Latin American countries have called meetings to discuss the situation in Venezuela and most have not recognised the change of government, although they were critical of Mr Chavez.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Haley
"Troops took over the presidential palace"
The BBC's Nick Miles
"We are seeing a remarkable political comeback"
See also:

13 Apr 02 | Americas
Election pledge for Venezuela
12 Apr 02 | Americas
Venezuelan media: 'It's over!'
13 Apr 02 | Americas
Profile: Pedro Carmona
12 Apr 02 | Americas
Venezuela's new dawn
12 Apr 02 | Business
Oil prices fall as Chavez quits
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