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Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has returned to power after a US supported military coup collapsed completely last night.
Numerous news sources are reporting that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has returned to power and has spoken to the Venezuelan people from Miraflores palace, after a US-supported right-wing coup collapsed in disarray over the past 24 hours.

The reason for the collapse of the coup was the revolt of Chavez's mass base of supporters, plus continued support for Chavez in the lower ranks, and some of the higher ranks, of the armed forces. Chavez is a former military officer. Although the largest (?) labor federation in Venezuela had seemed to initially support the coup, it withdrew its support also, perhaps because of rank and file pressure, though the reason given was the putchists' dissolution of hte congress.

The coup plotters took power, putting in Pedro Carmona, the head of Venezuela's largest business organization, on Friday, after a dozen people were killed in anti-Chavez demonstrations in front of the Miraflores palace, the venezuelan president's residence. Army officers who carried out the coup blamed Chavez for the deaths, but eyewitness accounts suggest a provocation; most of the people killed were, in fact, Chavez supporters.

Carmona immediately announced the firing of the congress and supreme court, and the annulation by decree of most of Chavez's progressive measures.

However, within hours, Chavez had to rescind the firing of the congress, then himself resigned and fled from Caracas when pro-Chavez troops re-took Miraflores, and thousands of pro-Chavez protesters took to the streets in demonstrations that in many cases were repressed with fatalities by armed units (I think mostly police) controlled by the coup group.

Early this morning, Chavez was return to the palace, apparently unhurt, though there had been fears that he had been tortured or was going to be killed. He immediatley denied the version put out by the plotters that he had resigned the presidency, and took over the powers of that office again from his loyal vice president, Diosdado Cabello. Chavez called for calm and said there will be no reprisals, but Cabello had said earlier that the people involved in the coup would be put on trial.

Chavez had denounced the US war in Afganistan, resisted neo-liberal policies, embraced Cuban president Fidel Castro, sold oil to Cuba at bargain prices in exchange for Cuban help with medical care, instituted progressive social policies, and refused to participate in the US war in Colombia. But above all, he had worked to maintain oil prices high, because he was hoping that oil revenues would help him pull the Venezuelan people out of their extreme poverty. And then last week, he tried to replace the leadership of the national oil company, which led to a 'general strike' (initiated by the wealthiest people but supported by some sold-out labor leaders), and that led up to Friday's demonstration.

After the coup, Spain and the United States seemed to recognize Carmona as the legitimate president, while many Latin American countries denounced the violation of the constitutional order. Now it will be interesting to see how these two countries back-track. More interesting than that will be the evidence that emerges of US connivance in the illegal action against a legally elected government.

There is still danger. There could be an attempt at a counter-counter coup, or various forms of US intervention, from economic sabotage (very likely) to military intervention (less likely). Progressives should get the word out, because the US press is full of lies about this. We should be ready to pressure the US government not to intervene against Venezuela.



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