4/11/02 10:48:48 PM Pacific Daylight Time

Just wanted everyone to know that it happened tonight and FreeRepublic says CNN is quiet! Dad......gonna be a big big down day tomorrow on the market........I'd go gold and Defense and put my seatbelt on.

What about the oil?

General Says Venezuela's Chavez Out of Power

April 11, 2002 11:00 PM ET

By Pascal Fletcher

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - A Venezuelan general said on Thursday that President Hugo Chavez's government had "abandoned its functions" and the South American country was under the control of the armed forces.

National Guard Gen. Alberto Camacho Kairuz made the announcement on local television after senior military officers blamed the president for violence during a huge anti-Chavez protest march in which at least 10 people were killed.

"All of the country is under the control of the national armed forces," Camacho said.

"The government has abandoned its functions," he added.

Camacho, accompanied by other officers, said he did know exactly where Chavez was, but he made a public call for a group of armored cars around the Miraflores presidential palace to withdraw.

The violence erupted in the world's fourth-biggest oil exporter after half a million Venezuelans clamoring for Chavez to resign after three years in power had marched to the presidential palace in the capital Caracas earlier on Thursday.

In addition to the deaths, more than 80 were injured when violence and shooting erupted during the protest march. "Ten people are dead," Caracas mayor Alfredo Pena told local television.

The shooting broke out as Chavez was giving a broadcast, carried on all national television and radio channels, in which he criticized as "irresponsible" and "subversive" an indefinite general strike called by business and labor opponents who organized the march.

Chavez, a left-wing former paratrooper who has ruled Venezuela since winning a 1998 election, announced he was taking off the air three private television channels that he said were involved in a plot to topple his government.


There was panic and confusion near the Miraflores presidential palace as police exchanged shots with unidentified gunmen and rooftop snipers. Riot police also fired tear gas at anti-Chavez protesters who had approached within a few blocks of the palace in downtown Caracas.

Late on Thursday, local TV stations showed pictures of armored vehicles rolling through the streets of central Caracas. One TV station showed heavily armed soldiers and armored vehicles around Fuerte Tiuna military headquarters in Caracas.

In another prerecorded TV statement, a group of at least 10 officers from different branches of the armed forces denounced Chavez.

"We, generals and admirals of the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard ... we have decided to address the Venezuelan people to reject the current government, the authority of Hugo Chavez Frias and the military high command," said an officer dressed in a white uniform.


"We cannot accept a tyrant in the presidency," said the officer, who identified himself as Adm. Hector Ramirez.

He accused the Chavez government of violating democratic principles and human rights. Ramirez also accused the president of "massacring innocent people with sharpshooters."

"There were snipers firing from the rooftops," a Reuters cameraman said. Police took cover and returned fire.

"I saw the body of a street vendor who had been shot lying on the ground. He was covered with a plastic sheet," he said. "I also saw the body of another person in his 20s who had been shot, with a rucksack, apparently a demonstrator."

A local television station showed a body on the ground, with blood seeping from a wound in his head. Police were examining identity documents taken from the body.

Other unconfirmed reports said a policeman and a journalist had also been killed.

People scattered and ran for cover in the streets near the presidential palace as police fired tear gas and supporters of the president attacked anti-Chavez protesters.

The huge opposition march, one of the biggest ever, went ahead hours after the embattled government offered a dialogue to its foes in a bid to ward off the threat of economic chaos caused by two days of a nationwide work stoppage.

The labor and business shutdown, combined with a continuing protest by staff of the state oil giant PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela), sapped economic activity and disrupted oil operations in Latin America's fourth biggest economy.

His critics have accused Chavez of trying to impose a Cuban-style left-wing regime. They also criticize him for failing to deliver election promises to reduce chronic poverty, widespread unemployment and serious crime.

Chavez, who defends his self-proclaimed "revolution" as a campaign to help the country's poor majority, initially dismissed the strike organizers as a handful of "corrupt oligarchs and petty politicians." (Additional reporting by Fabian Cambero, Tomas Sarmiento, Silene Ramirez and Matthew Robinson)