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U.S. Monitors Venezuela Chaos

April 12, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration said it is closely monitoring the political upheaval in Venezuela and the ouster Friday of President Hugo Chavez.

The State Department has warned Americans to avoid travel in the South American nation because of violent clashes between supporters of Chavez and anti-government protesters.

A Pentagon official said several hundred American citizens are living in Venezuela but did not appear to be in any immediate danger.

Chavez, 47, a former army paratrooper, resigned under military pressure after demonstrations against his government ended in a blood bath. He had come to power on a promise of cleaning up a corrupt democracy and improving living conditions for the poverty-stricken population of the oil-rich country.

``We’re following very closely what is happening,″ said a senior U.S. official traveling with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Jerusalem. ``Our interests are in democracy and democratic institutions.″

Chavez presented his resignation only hours after at least 13 people were killed and more than 100 wounded during a 150,000-strong opposition demonstration in downtown Caracas.

Chavez had ordered National Guard troops and civilian gunmen, including rooftop snipers, to stop the marchers from reaching his palace, military officers said.

With visits to Libya and Iraq, his close friendship with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and his ``neutral″ stand in Colombia’s civil war, Chavez alienated Washington. He also angered the Bush administration when he criticized U.S. bombing in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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