Military: Chavez resigns presidency


CARACAS, Venezuela, April 11 (UPI) -- A Venezuelan business leader has taken over as president of the country after President Hugo Chavez resigned under pressure from the military, El Nacional newspaper reported Friday.

Pedro Carmona Estanga, the widely respected president of Fedecamaras, Venezuela's largest business organization, assumed the presidency at 5 a.m. Friday, saying he would lead a government of national unity and would organize fresh elections as soon as possible.


The business leader said his government would seek to achieve a consensus between "all the institutions including civil society and the military."

Chavez's resignation followed a day of riots by tens of thousands of citizens. At least 10 people were killed and an estimated 100 more were wounded when members of Bolivarian Circles, local groups of government supporters formed to promote the ideals of Chavez's revolution, apparently fired on a peaceful crowd calling for Chavez's resignation.


El Nacional reported Finance Minister Francisco Uson said in the name of the National Armed Forces Chavez was asked to step down with the "intention of facilitating the development of a new government."

The newspaper said Chavez resigned to three generals of the army. He was thought to have been transferred under high security to Fuerte Tiuna military base. The presidential family had left Caracas by airplane earlier.

The newspaper reported there was joy in the streets of Caracas. It quoted an army official as saying the military was not engaged in a coup and wanted a peaceful transition of power.

The calm followed a volatile day Thursday as thousands of Venezuelans demonstrated in the streets of Caracas against Chavez, who was elected in 1998. Battles between police and demonstrators erupted Thursday night, leaving at least 10 dead and 43 injured amid the facedown between the military and the presidency.

Chavez ordered television broadcasts cut off, saying they were inciting the violence. Countering, Vice Adm. Hector Ramirez Perez took to the air on radio and said the generals of the four military forces opposed the decision to cut the television broadcasting signals, El Nacional reported.

The demonstration began with union leader Carlos Ortega, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Workers or CVT urging protesters to head for the presidential palace and tell Chavez, "You leave today," the El Nacional reported.


Earlier, government ministers tried to counter the union's protest by calling on the population to leave their houses and fight for "the Bolivian revolution" and the president, Venezuela's El Universal said. And then in the midst of the demonstrations, the inspector general of the National Armed Forces, Lucas Rincon Romero, denied Chavez was being held by the military.

The Metropolitan Police said an estimated 50,000 people were participating in street demonstrations, El Nacional reported earlier. The British Broadcasting Corp. later said that some local media reports had estimated as many as 150,000 eventually had taken to the streets.

The interior of the country also was shaken by demonstrations and strikes.

The huge demonstration in Caracas followed a two-day work stoppage begun in sympathy with the union representing employees -- both workers and managers -- at the state-owned Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA.

Workers have been demanding the new board appointed by Chavez be removed -- and the president also go.

Venezuela is one of the largest suppliers of American oil.

(With reporting by Owain Johnson in Caracas.)

Latest Headlines