CARACAS, Venezuela – Police fired tear gas and plastic bullets as hundreds of supporters of ousted president Hugo Chavez demonstrated Saturday in several parts of the capital and other cities, demanding his return.
In downtown Caracas, hundreds of people chanting "Chavez will be back!" and "Democracy, not dictatorship!" Police fired tear gas as police cars raced back and forth after reports of looting and disturbances.
"We want to see Chavez. The Venezuelan people don't buy it that he has resigned," said Mario Brito, 36, who lives in a slum near the presidential palace.
The military says Chavez resigned Friday after top commanders confronted him over the bloody suppression of an opposition protest Thursday. Chavez was detained in an army base to face possible charges, and businessman Pedro Carmona was sworn in as Venezuela's interim president Friday. Chavez supporters, however, deny he resigned and call the military move a coup.
Brito said hundreds of people converged outside Caracas' Fort Tiuna, where Chavez was taken early Friday, and were fired upon by National Guard troops using plastic bullets. The crowd dispersed.
Disturbances were reported in at least 20 neighborhoods throughout the city, as well as the cities of Los Teques, Guarenas, Maracay and Coro. Chavez supporters urged residents to take to the streets to join the protests.
International criticism has mounted against Venezuela's provisional government.
Mexican President Vicente Fox said his country would not recognize Venezuela's new government until new elections are held, and the leaders of Argentina and Paraguay called the new government illegitimate. Leaders of the 19-nation Rio Group of Latin American countries condemned "the interruption of constitutional order" in Venezuela.