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Retired Military Officers, Civilians Call on Chavez to Resign - 2002-06-21


Hundreds of retired Venezuelan military officers and civilians have staged an anti-government demonstration in the capital, Caracas, to demand the resignation of the country's left-wing president, Hugo Chavez.

The demonstrators marched Thursday toward the presidential palace, where police set up a security cordon to prevent any confrontation betweem the marchers and Chavez supporters.

The president's opponents accuse him of politicizing the armed forces and alienating Venezuela's key allies, such as the United States, in favor of fostering close ties with Communist-ruled Cuba.

Some former officers carried their military uniforms on poles or hangers, apparently to avoid charges of using uniforms for political purposes.

President Chavez was not in the presidential palace during the demonstration. He was elsewhere in Caracas, addressing thousands of people in a working-class district of the capital.

Mr. Chavez, who was briefly ousted from power in April, urged his supporters to be ready to deflect another possible coup.

President Chavez's radical reforms, intended to improve conditions for Venezuela's poor, have failed to improve the economy of the nation, which is impoverished dispute its rich oil resources. Opponents accuse the populist leader of using his office to gather power for himself and of trying to establish a totalitarian dictatorship.

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