Venezuelan President Resigns Under Pressure
President Hugo Chavez resigned Friday under pressure from Venezuela's military after street violence in which National Guard troops and pro-Chavez gunmen clashed with 150,000 opposition protesters. At least 13 people were killed and as many as 110 wounded in the violence.
Pedro Carmona, head of Venezuela 's largest business association, announced he would head a transitional government to be installed later Friday. He also announced an immediate end to a general strike called earlier this week against Mr. Chavez. He also said on local radio that he will reinstate managers at PDVSA, fired over the last few weeks for their part in a production slowdown. "They will have the opportunity to return to their jobs with the honor they deserve," Carmona said.
Mr. Chavez handed his resignation to three generals at the presidential palace, said Army Col. Julio Cesar Anzola. Mr. Chavez then left the palace for Fort Tiuna, Caracas ' largest army base, where he is being held while investigators decide what charges he could face for Thursday's violence, said army commander Gen. Efrain Vasquez Velasco.
The Jose Maria Vargas hospital said Thursday that 12 people were killed and as many as 110 wounded. Diario 2001 newspaper later confirmed that Jorge Tortoza, a 45-year-old photographer, died of a gunshot wound, becoming the 13th person killed in the violence. Mr. Tortoza was shot in the face by a man in civilian clothing while he was covering the protest, said reporter Angel Arraez. After the violence, Army Cmdr. Gen. Efrain Vasquez Velasco ordered his subordinates, including Chavez loyalists, to join him in rebellion against Mr. Chavez. "We ask the Venezuelan people's forgiveness for today's events," he said. "Mr. President, I was loyal to the end, but today's deaths cannot be tolerated." More than 40 other high officers rebelled, including Gen. Luis Alberto Camacho Kairuz, vice minister for citizen security. "The Constitution obliges us to maintain internal order and avoid more spilling of blood and the destruction of our brave people and their institutions," the officers said in a statement read by Navy Vice Adm. Hector Ramirez.
Gen. Vasquez Velasco said later that 95% of Venezuela 's army forces were under his control, as well as all airports and major military bases. Incoming international commercial flights were canceled until further notice.