By Bill Hackwell. Correo del Orinoco.
This week Venezuelans commemorated the 10th anniversary of the attempted coup d’état against democratically- elected President Hugo Chavez in April 2002 with a series of events ranging from street demonstrations to media workshops and public debates.
The activities, sponsored by an array of public institutions and social organizations, drew attention to the destabilization efforts of the Venezuelan opposition while at the same time reflecting on the only time in Latin American history when an overthrown leader was brought back to power through spontaneous grassroots mobilizations.
“We must not forget the danger that fascism represents for any society”, Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua said of the coup during an interview with Telesur on Tuesday.
The Vice President went on to remind viewers of the “determining role” that the private media played in the opposition’s efforts to establish a right-wing dictatorship in the country and haled the heroic actions of the Venezuelan people in overcoming the coup.
“We as a people...overcame a coup d’état supported by the government of the United States and Spain as well as other governments on our continent.
They were defeated peacefully by the strength of the people and our patriotic soldiers”, Jaua affirmed.
THE EVENTS OF APRIL 11-13, 2002 Although the genesis of what occurred in April 2002 cannot be attributed to any one factor, analysts generally point to two major laws passed by presidential decree in late 2001 as the catalysts for the events that followed.
The first was Venezuela’s Land Law, which saw the initiation of a radical new agrarian reform process based on the government’s redistribution of fallow state lands illegally held by private owners.
The second was the enactment of the Hydrocarbon Law, which prompted greater executive control over the oil industry and broke the grip maintained over Venezuela’s most important and most profitable natural resource by a small group of wealthy plutocrats.
While the left-leaning Chavez had always maintained an antineoliberal discourse in his campaigns and his push to re-write the nation’s constitution and provide greater services to the poor marked a break with the status quo, it wasn’t until the former military leader directly threatened the interests of the Venezuelan upper class through these two laws that the political divisions in the country began to assume violent overtones. Enter Coordinadora Democratica (CD), the opposition’s umbrella organization backed by Washington, that took up the task of organizing the anti- Chavez population into a consolidated political front determined to oust the incumbent president from power by any means necessary.
Through a network of funding sources that included the US State Department, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Agency for International Development (Usaid) and a variety of foreign and domestic supporters, CD pooled together Venezuela’s oil aristocracy, employer-controlled unions, and the private media to incite an uprising against the then 47- year old Chavez.
A series of general strikes spearheaded by the corrupt Venezuelan Confederation of Workers (CTV) in collaboration with the national chamber of commerce, Fedecámaras, took place from December 2001 to April 2002, accentuated by numerous street protests and a steady diet of anti-Chavez propaganda emanating from the overwhelmingly privately-controlled media landscape.
The stage was thus set for April 11, 2002 when a protest called by the CD to take place at the state oil company, PDVSA’s, headquarters in Caracas was quickly diverted towards the presidential palace of Miraflores where opposition leaders had arranged to post snipers in nearby high-rises.
With a clash eminent between pro and anti-Chavez groups gathered in front of the palace, the snipers opened fire, killing over a dozen Venezuelans on both sides.
Through a series of audiovisual manipulations and outright lies, private television stations used the violence to distort the events, accusing the Chavez government of firing upon unarmed demonstrators when in fact the gunshots had been carefully orchestrated by the coup’s plotters.
Upon surrounding Miraflores, opposition activists and military defectors threatened to bomb the palace if Hugo Chavez refused to resign. Although the head of state never signed a resignation, he surrendered to the subversives to avoid further bloodshed while Pedro Carmona, the head of Fedecámaras, was installed as the de facto president.
The nascent dictatorship would be short lived, however, as thousands of residents descended the next day from the shantytowns surrounding the capital demanding the return of the democratically elected Chavez to office.
With the palace surrounded by government supporters, members of the presidential guard retook Miraflores and Hugo Chavez was re-installed as Venezuela’s rightful president less than 48 hours after being taken hostage by the opposition. FROM COUP TO PRESENT While a handful of those responsible for the massacre that occurred on April 11 2002 have been prosecuted and are currently behind bars, other members of the Venezuelan opposition involved in the planning and execution of the coup including Pedro Carmona have successfully fled the country.
In December 2007, amnesty was granted to a number of those behind the plot to overthrow the Chavez administration, but last Tuesday, the country’s highest legislative body, the National Assembly, revealed the names of some of the conspirators who continue to openly exercise political functions.
One of those members of the Venezuelan right-wing is the current opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, who according to socialist congressman Dario Vivas, “was one of the principle actors” of the coup, assisting in the “harassment of journalists, political leaders and generating chaos in embassies and in [the state television channel] Venezolana de Television”, he imputed. Specifically, government supporters have been quick to point out the role that Capriles Radonski played in violent siege of the Cuban embassy in Caracas during the coup attempt.
“Can someone who assaulted an international embassy be president of Venezuela?” Vice President Jaua asked rhetorically during his interview with Telesur on Tuesday.
Other opposition political figures who played an active role in the installment of the briefly lived right-wing dictatorship in Venezuela include congressional representatives Maria Corina Machado, Enrique Mendoza, Julio Borges, and Miguel Angel Rodriguez as well as Vice Presidential candidate Leopoldo Lopez.
Source: Correo del Orinoco