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Provisional Venezuelan president resigns

New leader pledges to reinstate Chavez

Cabello, left, is sworn in as Venezuela's new president.  

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- Provisional Venezuelan President Pedro Carmona resigned Saturday, less than two days after taking over for ousted leader Hugo Chavez.

The National Assembly, dissolved Friday by Carmona only to be reinstalled the following day, swore in Diosdado Cabello -- vice president in the previous administration -- as the nation's president.

Cabello said on radio late Saturday night that he would remain president until Chavez can be reinstated.

A spokesman for the armed forces announced on radio that to avoid further bloodshed the military had persuaded Pedro Carmona to step down as president.

The situation remained fluid Saturday night with tension permeating city streets and Chavez's whereabouts still unclear; at last report he was believed to be in military custody. Earlier in the day, Carmona told CNN en Espanol that Chavez would be exiled within hours to an undisclosed location.

Three thousand members of the National Honor Guard -- which protects the presidential palace and remained loyal to Chavez throughout the ordeal -- regained control of the presidential residence hours before Carmona's resignation became official.

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The unit's leader, Col. Jose Morado, said they would lay down their arms only if Chavez announced publicly that he had resigned.

The turnover of power followed a day of pro-Chavez protests in the nation's capital and other cities.

While Carmona downplayed the demonstrations as small and "normal," the mayor of Caracas told The Associated Press that nine people were killed and 40 wounded as thousands of demonstrators demanded Chavez's return to power.

The state of affairs in Venezuela, the world's No. 4 oil exporter and the second biggest source of oil to the United States, has been a source of global concern.

The White House on Friday blamed Chavez for provoking the crisis, while several Latin American leaders, including the heads of Peru and Mexico, said they would not recognize the new government until elections were held.

Carmona, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Venezuela's largest business association, assumed power early Friday after a day of violent protests in Caracas that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded.

Flanked by the nation's top military commanders, Carmona pledged in a television address Friday to hold elections and rehire state oil company employees fired by Chavez.

But on Saturday, Carmona came under fire by military leaders, who claimed many of his early moves as provisional president undermined democratic institutions.

They criticized his decision to dissolve the National Assembly and Supreme Court and his administration for being too exclusive, saying it included representatives from the business community and private sector but not enough from trade unions.

Isaias Rodriguez, attorney general in the Chavez administration, insisted the president did not quit and was forced out in a coup d'etat.

Chavez's wife, Marisabel Rodriguez de Chavez, told CNN her husband was being held incommunicado by the military. In a phone call Friday, the former president told her he did not resign, she said.

The Cuban government, one of the Chavez administration's staunchest allies, stood by the deposed leader.

Col. Kermin Rodriguez, the Chavez government's military attache and charge d'affaires in Havana, declared the Venezuelan embassy in Cuba as in rebellion against what he termed the illegal and de facto government in Caracas.

The leaders of Argentina, Mexico and Paraguay -- meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica -- said Saturday they would not recognize any new leaders in Venezuela until elections are held there.

Mexican President Vicente Fox said his country "without abdicating its obligations ... will limit diplomatic relations with the government."

"There's no proof that Chavez quit," said Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo. "We're operating here in uncharted waters."




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