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Chavez supporters protest coup ruling

National Guard troops hurl tear gas grenades to disperse supporters of President Hugo Chavez.
National Guard troops hurl tear gas grenades to disperse supporters of President Hugo Chavez.  


CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- National Guard troops in Venezuela's capital blocked the streets and fired tear gas on Wednesday as supporters of President Hugo Chavez protested a Supreme Court ruling that four top military officers will not face trial for their role in an attempted coup in April.

Eleven justices voted in favor of the officers, eight voted against. There was no immediate response from Chavez.

Two army generals and two navy admirals argued in court that their actions in the military's takeover of the government came after armed forces commander Gen. Lucas Rincon said Chavez resigned on April 11 amid demonstrations and rioting, something that was later disputed by Chavez.

Just after the Wednesday decision by the court, troops formed a line across a downtown street to block pro-Chavez demonstrators from approaching the Supreme Court building. The troops fired tear gas to scatter groups milling about in front of them.

Live pictures from the scene showed one soldier being carried away in an ambulance.

By 8 p.m. EDT, some troops and civilians remained in the streets, but the confrontation had ended.

Chavez has faced growing opposition

National Guardsman and police form a line across Avenue Baralt to keep supporters of President Chavez from reaching the Supreme Court in Caracas on Wednesday.
National Guardsman and police form a line across Avenue Baralt to keep supporters of President Chavez from reaching the Supreme Court in Caracas on Wednesday.  

Since taking office in 1998, Chavez had faced growing protests from many in Venezuela who opposed his autocratic rule.

On April 11, Venezuela's military declared it was in control of the country after a day of demonstrations by tens of thousands turned violent, leaving 12 people dead from gunfire and dozens more wounded.

Accusations emerged that government supporters, under orders from the Chavez government, had fired on the demonstrators. That set off more street protests.

On April 12, with Chavez's whereabouts a mystery, Rincon announced the president had resigned and that businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga had been appointed interim president.

But the next day Carmona resigned and former Vice President Diosdado Cabello was sworn in as head of government.

That evening some 3,000 members of Chavez's national honor guard took control of the presidential palace, refusing to lay down their arms until they heard from Chavez himself.

Chavez's wife announced she had spoken with her husband by telephone and that he denied he had resigned; she said he had been forced into custody.

On April 14, Chavez was back in power, expressing regrets for the deaths of the 12 demonstrators and promising not to take reprisals against opponents who had briefly ousted him.

In July, the U.S. State Department found that the United States did not play a role in the coup attempt.

The administration did not deny reports that senior members of the Bush administration had met several times with leaders of the group that had toppled Chavez, but denied it gave any approval to coup planners.



 
 
 
 






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