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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Venezuelans Cheer Chavez's Return

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned triumphantly to office two days after he was ousted and arrested by Venezuela's military, raising his fist in the air as he greeted supporters and reclaimed the presidential palace Sunday.

"I'm still stupefied. I'm still assimilating," Chavez said in a live television address to the nation after flying by helicopter to the palace in Caracas from captivity on a Venezuelan island in the Caribbean, the last of five places where he was held.

Chavez appealed for calm as thousands of Venezuelans thronged the streets outside the gates, singing the national anthem and setting off firecrackers to celebrate his return.

"I do not come with hate or rancor in my heart, but we must make decisions and adjust things," said Chavez, who appeared in good shape, although he had barely slept since his arrest late Thursday.

In a dizzying sequence of events, Chavez was ousted by his military high command, which claimed he had resigned under pressure after gunmen opened fire on opposition protesters killing at least 16 people.

Interim President Pedro Carmona was sworn in Friday, only to resign a day later amid widespread street protests and rebellions by several military officers who refused to go along with the plan. Chavez's vice president said Saturday that Carmona and his supporters would be tried for conspiracy of military rebellion. More than 100 military personnel were under arrest, Vice President Diosdado Cabello said.

"They must take responsibility. They will be put on trial with all their rights, but they will be put on trial," Cabello said.

At least 25 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the upheaval that followed Chavez's ouster. He accused police of using brutal force against demonstrators who called for his reinstatement. Police had reportedly opened fire on some demonstrators in Caracas' slums.

Chavez -- who himself led an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1992 when he commanded a paratrooper unit -- said he was not mistreated in custody and appealed for calm.

Carmona had angered many by immediately trying to sweep away all vestiges of Chavez's rule by dissolving congress and canceling the constitution that was approved under his administration.

Before Carmona resigned, Cabello claimed the presidency during his boss' absence, denying Chavez had resigned. The vice president handed power back over to Chavez after he was freed, and Chavez confirmed he never resigned.

Thousands of demonstrators supporting Chavez -- or opposed to the way he was ousted -- took to the streets Saturday and took over state television to demand his return.

Several military commanders refused to accept Carmona's appointment and the commander of an air base in the central city of Maracay rebelled.

For several tense hours it appeared factions in the divided armed forces would fight each other, but the split did not escalate into violence.

After Carmona resigned, Chavez administration officials -- many of whom had evaded police raids over the past two days -- and loyalist military officers gathered in the marble-floored courtyard of the presidential palace and hugged each other with relief and joy.

Only hours before the interim president resigned, his designated foreign minister, Jose Rodriguez Iturbe, had met with the ambassadors of the United States and Spain.

In sharp contrast to several Latin American countries that denounced Friday's irregular transition of power, the United States said Chavez was responsible for his own ouster because of the bloodshed at an opposition demonstration Thursday.

Venezuela is the third-biggest supplier of oil to the United States, but despite the tight trade relations -- the United States is also Venezuela's biggest trading partner -- the leftist Chavez has irritated Washington by cozying up to Cuba as well as Iraq, Iran and Libya.

Carmona was named president by the military high command Friday, hours after generals arrested Chavez for allegedly ordering gunmen to fire on a massive opposition protest Thursday.

Thursday's march capped a general strike called to support oil executives who were protesting Chavez's appointments to the board of directors of the state oil monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela.