Chavez grants Venezuelan coup leader free passage


The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has said he would grant Pedro Carmona free passage to Colombia, where authorities offered political asylum to the leader of last month's two-day coup.

"We are obliged to grant him free passage," Chavez said of Carmona, who escaped house arrest and entered the Colombian embassy in Caracas. "`These are international legal standards that we conform to and he managed to enter the Colombian embassy,'' giving Carmona the right to request asylum and giving Colombia the right to grant.

"I hope he does well," Chavez said, while saying Carmona is a "prisoner who is fleeing justice.'' Carmona, 60, named himself president, dissolved the legislature, the courts, the comptroller and the human rights ombudsman during his one-day claim to the post as head of state on April 12.

Along with five military officers who backed the coup, he had been under house arrest awaiting trial on charges of rebellion, before escaping and slipping into the diplomatic residence of the Colombian Ambassador German Bula.