Harris Whitbeck: Chavez takes conciliatory tone
CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- The past three days have been a roller coaster ride for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was ousted from office and held at an island military base before finally returning to power.
CNN Correspondent Harris Whitbeck, on the scene in the Venezuelan capital, talked with anchor Fredricka Whitfield about the leftist leader's first hours back in office and his future heading the oil-rich nation.
WHITFIELD: It seems that the president has to spend an awful lot of time now to convince his constituents that he is back in power.
WHITBECK: That's absolutely right. A lot of people here are still trying to digest the effects of the incidents of the past three days.
President Hugo Chavez arrived back at the Miraflores presidential palace early this morning. He arrived by helicopter from a Venezuelan island in the Caribbean, where he had been detained by some top members of the Venezuelan armed forces.
When he arrived, he went on the state-run television network and he did strike ... a conciliatory tone. He said that this was a time for deep reflection in the country, that all the different sectors of the country need to really sit down and think about what has happened and ... what it might mean for the future.
The big concern among the private sector, which has been opposed to Chavez, is that this actually might lead to more of a crackdown. They are fearing, in their words, some sort of dictatorship.
Chavez, however, again is saying that he expecting everyone to sit down and talk and figure out what's really going on here.
WHITFIELD: How much of a concern would it be for the president that not only is there obviously resistance, but that the resistance movement may be gaining momentum?
WHITBECK: He was very clear early this morning in saying that this incident served as a call for alarm for him -- he had to reflect on some of the things that had been happening, some of the policies that he had been implementing that obviously were not very popular.
One of the main policies that he had implemented -- and which he has already changed, and which affects the United States -- has to do with the management at PDVSA, which is the state-run oil company. Venezuela is the fourth-largest exporter of oil in the world and one of the principal exporters of oil to the United States.
He announced that the entire executive board of PDVSA, which he had named six weeks ago, has resigned, and he has accepted that resignation.
And he said that later next week he is going to call for a national council of government which would include members of the different sectors of society. They would meet and advise him on which polities to take -- specifically on choosing new board members for the state-run oil company.
WHITFIELD: What gave him the opening in order to make it back to the palace?
WHITBECK: It really had to do with the armed forces. There was a small group of top military leaders from different branches of the armed forces who had detained him and who had thrown their support behind this opposition provisional government.
But then they realized that the troops and commanders at the military bases around Venezuela -- particularly in Maracay, which houses the country's F-16s and is the largest military base -- were saying, "Wait a minute, we may not necessarily support Chavez, but we do support democratic institutions." That's when things started turning around.
Chavez, early this morning, was also very clear in thanking the armed forces and congratulating the armed forces for having stood up for democracy.
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