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Venezuela's Chavez Says United States Must Explain Reaction To Coup
Posted: Friday, May 10, 2002

Published on Friday, May 10, 2002 by the Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela - The United States must explain its reaction to last month's failed coup in Venezuela, said President Hugo Chavez. Washington had initially blamed Chavez for his own brief overthrow.

Chavez made the comments in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS television's "60 Minutes."

"The government of the United States ... I believe that they really owe an explanation ... to the people of the United States and also to us," Chavez tells interviewer Steve Kroft, according to excerpts of the interview released in advance on Thursday.

Chavez was deposed on April 12 by military generals who announced the president's resignation following bloody demonstrations against his rule. The populist former paratrooper was restored to power two days later by loyalist troops and thousands of civilian protesters. Chavez said he had never resigned.

Believing the generals' claim that Chavez had resigned, the United States was slow to condemn Chavez's ouster a reaction that contrasted sharply with that of most Latin American governments.

The day after the coup, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Chavez's government had "suppressed what was a peaceful demonstration of the people ... It led very quickly to a combustible situation in which Chavez resigned."

The United States later signed a resolution of the Organization of American States condemning the coup as undemocratic. Washington has repeatedly denied allegations that it was somehow involved in or supported Chavez's overthrow.

Venezuela's attorney general and military intelligence police are investigating allegations that U.S. military officials accompanied coup leaders at a military base the night of Chavez's ouster. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has denied those allegations.

Chavez told CBS that he did not believe the United States was involved. However, he added, "we're looking into" the allegations. The interview took place April 24.

The United States and Venezuelans have had rocky relations since Chavez's 1998 election. Chavez has irritated Washington by cozying up to Cuba, Libya and Iraq. Washington also reacted sharply after Chavez criticized the allied bombing campaign against Afghanistan.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

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