Venezuela´s Chávez Returns to Power

Had Asked for Forgiveness for Attacks on Church, Says Archbishop

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CARACAS, Venezuela, APRIL 14, 2002 ( Venezuela´s Hugo Chávez triumphantly returned to power today, with fist raised but sounding a conciliatory note, after a 2-day-old military coup fizzled.

It was a dramatic change from Friday, when the beleaguered populist telephoned the president of the Catholic bishops´ conference, one of the men he had attacked the most, to ask him for spiritual support and respect for his safety.

Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Merida responded with understanding and tried, unsuccessfully, to go to the presidential palace. Later, the archbishop went to see Chávez at the Fuerte Tiuna military base. He spent hours talking with the ousted president.

The archbishop told the Italian newspaper Avvenire that at the time of the ouster, Chávez «seemed tranquil, although his eyes were filled with tears. He asked me for a blessing, and for forgiveness for his inflammatory tone in the past and for not having established a dialogue with the Church.»

Previously, Chávez went so far as to describe the Catholic Church as a «tumor» in the country because it did not support the populist «revolution» he brought with his presidency.

This morning Chávez, 47, arrived at the Miraflores presidential palace in a helicopter to take up again the reins of government in the world´s fourth biggest oil-exporting country.

«I am not coming with a spirit of revenge; there won´t be any persecutions or abuses,» Chávez said in his first national speech.

The chief executive´s return to power was preceded by massive protests a rebellion by loyalist troops, Reuters reported. With the passing hours, their clamor obtained the support of the armed forces, which took control of the governmental palace in Caracas.

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