CARACAS, April 14: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez formally re-assumed the presidency early on Sunday after he returned to the capital in the aftermath of a failed coup against him.

A decree restoring his power, which was signed by Vice President Diosdado Cabello several hours earlier, formally took effect at 4:30 am (0830 GMT).

Cabello said Chavez will now be able to “continue exercising the functions and powers that have been authorized.”

“Venezuela would not tolerate an autocracy,” Chavez said earlier. “I know these people and these soldiers,” he added. “These people were bound to react the way they reacted.”

Chavez, wearing civilian clothing with his trademark red paratrooper beret, appeared on state-owned television being met by jubilant crowds of singing supporters who had gathered to receive him.

“We showed the peoples of the world a good day’s work yesterday and today. I am glad to feel this love once again. I was quite far away but I was always with you,” Chavez said.

Chavez administration vice president Diosdado Cabello took an oath late on Saturday to serve as acting president only until Chavez could return to Caracas.

Pedro Carmona, who on Friday led the interim government that ousted Chavez, announced his resignation in a radio address to the nation.

Carmona and other members of the interim government are now under military custody.

Caracas television stations immediately showed jubilant crowds, many of which had moments before threatened violence.

As Chavez supporters across Venezuela voiced their outrage at his ouster, near-anarchy reigned in some sectors, eyewitnesses said. At least three people were shot dead in Caracas.

US CAUTIONS: The United States, which did not condemn the military coup that ousted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, greeted his return on Sunday with a stern message that his policies were not working and he should be more responsive to his people.

“I hope Hugo Chavez takes the message that his people sent him that his own policies are not working for the Venezuelan people,” US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” news programme.

Chavez, a left-wing former paratrooper, had irritated the United States by strengthening Venezuela’s ties with states openly hostile to Washington, such as Fidel Castro’s communist Cuba, Iraq and Iran.

He infuriated President Bush’s government last year by criticizing the US-led ‘anti-terrorism war’ in Afghanistan.

Venezuela supplies the United States with 1.5 million barrels of oil a day and has the largest reserves outside the Middle East.—Reuters

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