Skip to main content
CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!

Venezuela power-struggle takes to streets

National guard soldiers patrol the police headquarters in Caracas on Saturday.
National guard soldiers patrol the police headquarters in Caracas on Saturday.

   Story Tools

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- National guard troops were in the streets of the Venezuelan capital late Saturday, after the country's interior minister decreed earlier in the day that the government was taking control of the metropolitan police force.

Shots were fired Saturday afternoon in a brief incident at a metropolitan police station. There is no word on injuries.

The police force used to answer to Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena, who opposes President Hugo Chavez.

But the police are paid by the government, which cut off funding for them 47 days ago. Since then, a group of rebel officers has been on strike at the police communications center.

Adding to the confusion, the new police chief appointed by the government in the early hours of Saturday morning abruptly resigned his post in the afternoon, saying that what the government had done was illegal.

The most recently appointed police chief is the former right-hand man of Libertador Mayor Freddy Bernal, a Chavez ally. Bernal is mayor of one of the five sections of Caracas; Pena is head mayor of the entire city.

The opposition sees the police takeover as a coup d'etat, saying that according to the constitution, the metropolitan police come under control of the Caracas mayor.

It is feared the chaos could affect the peace talks between the opposition and the government, set to resume Monday.

Civil disobedience

Soldiers patrol the streets of Caracas
Soldiers patrol the streets of Caracas

Chavez was at the Ibero-American Summit Saturday in Dominican Republic.

A civil disobedience movement has been underway in Venezuela for nearly a month, since high-ranking military officers -- some of whom were involved in a coup attempt against Chavez earlier this year -- went on national television October 22 and called on the general public to rally at the Plaza Altamira.

There is a constant presence of demonstrators at the plaza, who support opposition calls for a new referendum.

Last week, the opposition delivered more than 2 million signatures to the electoral council of citizens who want a referendum.

An anti-Chavez rally in early April triggered a coup attempt against the president by rebellious military officers. Chavez reclaimed power after two days.

The military officers have accused Chavez' government of corruption and charged that poverty rates tripled under his rule. They also decried the government's practice of raiding opposition members' homes.

They blamed Chavez for politicizing the country's military and said that the president wanted to replace the armed forces with his own paramilitary forces.

Military officers also called for civil disobedience in the days before violent anti-Chavez rallies in April, which lead to the coup attempt. But the country's supreme court said there wasn't enough evidence to show the officers were responsible for the coup or the 19 deaths that followed in the upheaval.

Chavez was elected to the presidency by a landslide in 1998, and was still popular enough to win re-election easily last year.

-- Journalist Adrian Criscaut contributed to this report.

Story Tools

Top Stories
Iran poll to go to run-off
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards
© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.