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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 01:16 GMT 02:16 UK
Chastened Chavez promises change
Hugo Chavez and Diosdado Cabello
Hugo Chavez (r) is welcomed back by his deputy
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has pledged to make necessary changes after completing a dramatic return to power, two days after being forced out by the country's military.

I come disposed to make corrections where I have to make corrections

Hugo Chavez

He formally resumed his presidential powers in a televised ceremony at the Miraflores presidential palace in the capital, Caracas.

The US called on Mr Chavez to make good use of his second chance and to recognise that his people had sent him a "clear message" to change.

But uncertainty remains about the country's vital oil industry where production had been cut to near half in a strike that was at the heart of the takeover by business leader Pedro Carmona.

In his strongest conciliatory gesture, Mr Chavez used his address to announce the resignations of the board of directors he appointed to the state-owned oil monopoly PDVSA.

Chavez enters the Miraflores palace
There were jubilant scenes at the presidential palace
Opposition to the appointments - viewed as an attempt by Mr Chavez to increase his power over the oil industry - swelled and triggered a general strike and massive demonstrations that were a precursor to the short-lived government takeover.

PDVSA workers will meet on Monday to consider whether to continue returning to normal.

A company statement on Friday said daily output for the world's fourth-largest oil producer had fallen to 1.4 million barrels from a norm of 2.6 million barrels.


Mr Chavez said he had to reflect on many things that had become apparent as opposition turned to bloody protests.

"I come disposed to make corrections where I have to make corrections," he said.

Mr Chavez said he had not expected to return so soon and had started writing poems, though he did not have a chance to finish the first one.

Soldiers on Miraflores Palace, Caracas
Soldiers loyal to Chavez had occupied the roof of the presidential palace
He also promised: "There will be no witch hunts, no persecution, no disrespect for free expression or thought."

But Mr Carmona has been arrested and his family - worried for his safety - have called on the Roman Catholic Church to intervene to protect him, according to news agencies in Venezuela.

Earlier, US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice called for national reconciliation.

"We do hope that Mr Chavez... takes advantage of this opportunity to right his own ship which has, quite frankly, been moving in the wrong direction for some time," she said.

The UK welcomed Mr Chavez's return to power, saying that any change of government should be achieved by democratic means.

Chavez comeback
Thursday: Anti-government protest in Caracas leaves 13 people dead
Friday: Military forces President Chavez to step down and appoints Pedro Carmona as interim leader
Saturday: Carmona resigns; Diosdado Cabello - a Chavez ally - sworn in to replace him
Sunday: Chavez flies back to Caracas
Mr Chavez's allies Iraq and Cuba were jubilant and Brazil also said it supported his reinstatement.

The surprise turnaround came after interim leader Mr Carmona resigned in the face of massive street protests and the loss of military support.

Vice-President Diosdado Cabello was then sworn in as president, but said he was simply waiting to return the country to his ally, Mr Chavez.

Thousands of supporters sang the national anthem and set off fireworks, while a military band played.

"Today we are celebrating a new democracy," said one man who grabbed a microphone to greet Mr Chavez.

An unemployed man, wearing a tattered shirt, said: "The people want him back. He works for the poor."

Nation divided

The BBC's Nick Miles in Caracas says Mr Chavez has come back to a deeply divided country.

Having risen from his own political ashes, he will have to practise political flexibility if he is to unite Venezuelan society and re-establish international confidence.

Mr Chavez fell from power early on Friday after military leaders blamed him for the deaths of at least 13 people in violent anti-government protests in the capital.

The BBC's Nick Miles reports from Caracas
"For many Venezuelans this was not just the return of a president but a hero"
US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
"It is time for national reconciliation in Venezuela"
Latin American politics expert Dr Francisco Panizza
"The return of Mr Chavez is a victory for democracy"
See also:

14 Apr 02 | Americas
In pictures: Chavez defies opponents
15 Apr 02 | Business
Oil prices rise on Chavez return
12 Apr 02 | Americas
Venezuelan media: 'It's over!'
13 Apr 02 | Americas
Latin America ambivalent over ouster
12 Apr 02 | Business
Oil prices fall as Chavez quits
14 Apr 02 | Media reports
Chavez calls for national unity
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