Chávez was extremely popular during his first year in office, with approval ratings at times reaching 80 percent. But he began alienating the middle class as his moderate, pro-capitalist policies became more radical. He began to pass laws by decree, and took steps that limited the independence of the press.
As his government shifted left, anti-Chávez sentiment in Venezuela grew. The opposition to Chávez coalesced when the president attempted to institute a set of education reforms, which opponents called an attempt to indoctrinate students with leftist ideology, via new textbooks, special schools with "Bolivarian" curricula, and a new decree that allowed the Ministry of Education to fire teachers and administrators based on information their supervisors turned over to the government. Protesters turned out in the thousands, and were joined by striking unions. During a particularly massive protest on April 11, 2002, in which more than a dozen people were killed, military officers briefly detained Chávez and took him out of Caracas, even going so far as to install a transitional government. But within days, counterprotests demanding Chávez's return had erupted, and he was returned to power on April 14.
Above, Chávez is surrounded by supporters upon his return to the presidential palace.