Venezuela: 100,000+ (by AP's count) rally to support revolution

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Mon Feb 4 20:18:54 MST 2002

[In addition to this article, more coverage is available from reuters
(, CNN Spanish ( in the latter case
including a webcast of a TV report from Venezuela.]

Venezuela's Chavez celebrates 10th anniversary of his failed coup;
a growing opposition mourns


Associated Press Writer
   CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez celebrated the
10th anniversary of his failed military coup Monday, while his
opponents mourned an uprising they say shattered `Venezuela's
standing as a bastion of democracy.
   "Today is a day of national celebration," Chavez declared,
saying the insurrection, which killed about 30 people, was a
"painful but necessary military rebellion supported by the vast
majority of Venezuelans."
   The former lieutenant colonel waved from a truck as he led more
than 100,000 supporters in a march through Caracas. Launching
fireworks, blowing whistles and waving flags, the "Chavistas"
headed to a rally at the Miraflores Presidential Palace.
   "I support Chavez 100 percent. He's a personal idol of mine,"
said Gilberto Garcia, sitting by his house in western Caracas slum.
   The march capped a four-day presidential caravan that followed
the route taken by rebel soldiers 10 years ago.
   At midnight Feb. 3, 1992, Chavez led 5,000 troops in a coup
attempt against the government of President Carlos Andres Perez.
The uprising was quickly crushed.
   In a famous TV broadcast, Chavez ordered his conspirators to
surrender because they couldn't achieve their goals -- "for now."
His efforts made Chavez a hero for millions of Venezuelans weary of
scandal and poverty.
   Chavez spent two years in jail, campaigned relentlessly across
the country, and was elected president in 1998.
   He broadcast the 1992 surrender video on Monday.
   Many citizens wore black to mourn the soldiers, police and
civilians killed in the uprising and reject Chavez's efforts to
make Feb. 4 a holiday in a nation boasting 44 years of democratic
rule. Prominent retired military officers celebrated a Mass for the
dead. Some people blocked intersections in brief protests.
   "He wants to have a party and we don't agree. We agree that he
should leave," housekeeper Myriam Ripol said at a candlelight
vigil for the dead. "I am not an oligarch. I clean houses."
   Chavez's ratings have plunged as the oil-based economy
languishes, capital flees the country, and he spars with leftist
politicians and business leaders, union activists and Venezuela's
Roman Catholic hierarchy.
   Chavez, whose term ends in 2007, called for a "serious
opposition" that isn't obsessed with his "impossible" ouster.
   Many newspapers condemned Monday's festivities.
   "February 4, 1992, was a dark day for Venezuela," The Daily
Journal said in an editorial. "This is not a moment that calls for
celebration; this was a moment of weakness in the history of the
country that should be mourned and not celebrated."
   Chavez blames the news media for catering to an oligarchy that
resents his efforts to eradicate poverty, and he says business and
labor leaders are conspiring to overthrow him.

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