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Venezuelan Leader Scoffs at Ultimatum

October 14, 2002|From Reuters

CARACAS, Venezuela — Six months after surviving a brief coup by rebel generals and admirals, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday led a massive rally and sternly warned his foes not to try another military putsch against him.

"If the coup plotters want to try another coup, then we're waiting for them," the president told the cheering crowd.

The rally was held to commemorate the day in April when Chavez was restored to office by loyal troops and supporters after being deposed for 48 hours by disgruntled officers.

The rally was also a response to a large opposition march in Caracas on Thursday. The mass turnouts in both events reflected the intensity of the political conflict that is shaking one of the world's largest oil exporters.

Chavez, an outspoken nationalist who was elected in 1998 six years after staging a botched coup, scoffed at an opposition ultimatum to call a national strike next Monday if he did not resign and call early elections by this Wednesday.

"I've only got three days left! Gosh, I'm scared," he joked, saying his hard-line foes, whom he condemned as "fascist, coup-plotting elites," were "all bark and no bite."

The president said more than 2 million people turned out for the rally, but no independent estimates were available.

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