Coup in Venezuela: an eyewitness account (posted on WSN)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 12 08:21:31 MDT 2002


Please spread the word far and wide and call your foreign ministry or the
U.S. State Department and tell them not to recognize the new government of
Venezuela. Chavez has not resigned! According to people I spoke to this
morning, who work close to Chavez, he is being held against his will by the
military, who are claiming he has resigned, when he has not. Isolate the
new government of Venezuela, so as to support democracy everywhere!

Coup in Venezuela: An Eyewitness Account

By Gregory Wilpert

The orchestration of the coup was impeccable and, in all likelihood,
planned a long time ago. Hugo Chavez, the fascist communist dictator of
Venezuela could not stand the truth and thus censored the media
relentlessly. For his own personal gain and that of his henchmen (and
henchwomen, since his cabinet had more women than any previous Venezuelan
government's), he drove the country to the brink of economic ruin. In the
end he proceeded to murder those who opposed him. So as to reestablish
democracy, liberty, justice, and prosperity in Venezuela and so as to avoid
more bloodshed, the chamber of commerce, the union federation, the church,
the media, and the management of Venezuela's oil company, in short: civil
society and the military decided that enough is enough--that Chavez had his
chance and that his experiment of a 'peaceful democratic Bolivarian
revolution' had to come to an immediate end.

This is, of course, the version of events that the officials now in charge
and thus also of the media, would like everyone to believe. So what really
happened? Of course I don t know, but I'll try to represent the facts as I
witnessed them.

First of all, the military is saying that the main reason for the coup is
what happened today, April 11. 'Civil society,' as the opposition here
refers to itself, organized a massive demonstration of perhaps 100,000 to
200,000 people to march to the headquarters of Venezuela's oil company,
PDVSA, in defense of its fired management. The day leading up to the march
all private television stations broadcast advertisements for the
demonstration, approximately once every ten minutes. It was a successful
march, peaceful, and without government interference of any kind, even
though the march illegally blocked the entire freeway, which is Caracas
main artery of transportation, for several hours.

Supposedly at the spur of the moment, the organizers decided to re-route
the march to Miraflores, the president's office building, so as to confront
the pro-government demonstration, which was called in the last minute.
About 5,000 Chavez-supporters had gathered there by the time the
anti-government demonstrators got there. In-between the two demonstrations
were the city police, under the control of the oppositional mayor of
Caracas, and the National Guard, under control of the president. All sides
claim that they were there peacefully and did not want to provoke anyone. I
got there just when the opposition demonstration and the National Guard
began fighting each other. Who started the fight, which involved mostly
stones and tear gas, is, as is so often the case in such situations, nearly
impossible to tell. A little later, shots were fired into the crowds and I
clearly saw that there were three parties involved in the shooting, the
city police, Chavez supporters, and snipers from buildings above. Again,
who shot first has become a moot and probably impossible to resolve
question. At least ten people were killed and nearly 100 wounded in this
gun battle--almost all of them demonstrators.

One of the Television stations managed to film one of the three sides in
this battle and broadcast the footage over and over again, making it look
like the only ones shooting were Chavez supporters from within the
demonstration at people beyond the view of the camera. The media over and
over again showed the footage of the Chavez supporters and implied that
they were shooting at an unarmed crowd. As it turns out, and as will
probably never be reported by the media, most of the dead are Chavez
supporters. Also, as will probably never be told, the snipers were members
of an extreme opposition party, known as Bandera Roja.

These last two facts, crucial as they are, will not be known because they
do not fit with the new mythology, which is that Chavez armed and then
ordered his supporters to shoot at the opposition demonstration. Perhaps my
information is incorrect, but what is certain is that the local media here
will never bother to investigate this information. And the international
media will probably simply ape what the local media reports (which they are
already doing).

Chavez' biggest and perhaps only mistake of the day, which provided the
last remaining proof his opposition needed for his anti-democratic
credentials, was to order the black-out of the private television stations.
They had been broadcasting the confrontations all afternoon and Chavez
argued that these broadcasts were exacerbating the situation and should, in
the name of public safety, be temporarily shut-down.

Now, all of 'civil society,' the media, and the military are saying that
Chavez has to go because he turned against his own people. Aside from the
lie this is, what is conveniently forgotten are all of the achievements of
the Chavez administration: a new democratic constitution which broke the
power monopoly of the two hopelessly corrupt and discredited main parties
and put Venezuela at the forefront in terms of progressive constitutions;
introduced fundamental land reform; financed numerous progressive
ecological community development projects; cracked-down on corruption;
promoted educational reform which schooled over 1 million children for the
first time and doubled investment in education; regulated the informal
economy so as to reduce the insecurity of the poor; achieved a fairer price
for oil through OPEC and which significantly increased government income;
internationally campaigned tirelessly against neo-liberalism; reduced
official unemployment from 18% to 13%; introduced a large-scale
micro-credit program for the poor and for women; reformed the tax system
which dramatically reduced tax evasion and increased government revenue;
lowered infant mortality from 21% to 17%; tripled literacy courses;
modernized the legal system, etc., etc.

Chavez' opposition, which primarily consisted of Venezuela's old guard in
the media, the union federation, the business sector, the church, and the
traditionally conservative military, never cared about any of these
achievements. Instead, they took advantage of their media monopoly to turn
public opinion against him and managed to turn his biggest liability, his
autocratic and inflammatory style, against him. Progressive civil society
had either been silenced or demonized as violent Chavez fanatics.

At this point, it is impossible to know what will happen to Chavez'
'Bolivarian Revolution'--whether it will be completely abandoned and
whether things will return to Venezuela's 40-year tradition of patronage,
corruption, and rentierism for the rich. What one can say without a doubt,
is that by abandoning constitutional democracy, no matter how unpopular and
supposedly inept the elected president, Venezuela's ruling class and its
military show just how politically immature they are and deal a tremendous
blow to political culture throughout Latin America, just as the coup
against Salvador Allende did in 1973. This coup shows once again that
democracy in Latin America is a matter of ruling class preference, not a
matter of law.

If the United States and the democratic international community have the
courage to practice what they preach, then they should not recognize this
new government. Democrats around the world should pressure their
governments to deny recognition to Venezuela's new military junta or any
president they happen to choose. According to the Charter of the
Organization of American States (OAS), this would mean expelling Venezuela
from the OAS, as a U.S. state department official recently threatened to
do. Please call the U.S. state department or your foreign ministry and tell
them to withdraw their ambassadors from Venezuela.

Gregory Wilpert lives in Caracas, is a former U.S. Fulbright scholar in
Venezuela, and is currently doing independent research on the sociology of
development. He can be reached at: Wilpert at cantv.net


----------------------------------------
Gregory Wilpert, Ph.D.
Central University of Venezuela, Caracas
New School University, New York
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Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org



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