New threats of counter-revolution in Venezuela
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 17 07:25:20 MDT 2002
NY Times, Aug. 17, 2002
For Venezuela, a Move Revives to Oust Chávez
By JUAN FORERO
CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 16 -- The wide streets and white-washed houses
in this city's affluent east end are deceptively calm, with tropical
birds and lush mango trees providing a country feel just minutes from
the chaotic downtown.
But here in the Sorocaima neighborhood, residents are preparing for the
worst: a possibly violent confrontation between the multitudes of poor
who support the country's mercurial president, Hugo Chávez, and his
increasingly restive opponents. Taking precautions, the neighborhood's
people have put up razor wire and electrified fences, set up citizen
patrols, erected street barricades and purchased arms.
"We are worried that in a state of desperation, the government will call
for a riot," explained Bruno Scheuren, 58, a publicist who, like
virtually everyone in this part of the city, opposes Mr. Chávez. "Many
people are afraid."
Four months after Mr. Chávez was briefly ousted in a violent uprising,
trouble is stirring again as Venezuelan society has grown more
polarized, and both the president's supporters and his adversaries talk
of looming conflict. Although the president and his foes had vowed to
reconcile after he returned to power, two days after his ouster, efforts
at dialogue have faltered.
Now, a once-fragmented opposition is starting to meld into a coherent
front and is embarking on new efforts to remove Mr. Chávez from office.
They include pushing for a national referendum on his presidency in
August 2003, and demanding criminal charges against him in the deaths of
civilian protesters in the April 11 street disturbances that led to his
But some of Mr. Chávez's opponents now speak privately of another
uprising to topple a leader they accuse of dividing Venezuela with his
left-leaning policies and confrontational manner. His supporters, mostly
impoverished Venezuelans who say he has given them a voice they never
had, vow to use force in his defense.
The situation is increasingly worrisome to the United States, which
depends on Venezuela for 1.5 million barrels of oil a day. Bush
administration officials said that unless the two sides renewed talks
soon, Venezuela could spiral into violence.
"Unless there is a meaningful national dialogue, and unless that
dialogue starts really soon, then there is a very good chance Venezuela
will blow again," said an administration official who follows events in
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