April 12, 2002
Narco News '02
By Pablo Rodriguez
From the daily Pagina
12 of Buenos
Translated by The Narco
Publisher's Note: It is 5 a.m. in our América
and the newsroom has not slept, as we have sifted through the
reports and propaganda by all sides on the events in Venezuela.
Our correspondents have been in direct contact with key sources
in Venezuela throughout the day and night. We will continue to
monitor the situation and report it to our readers. We begin
with a translation of the press account we think is most accurate,
from Pablo Rodriguez of the daily newspaper Pagina 12 of Buenos
Aires, Argentina, reporting from Caracas, Venezuela.
At 5:23 a.m. the English
language email newsletter of Vheadline.com reports from Caracas:
"With a South American
tropical dawn just hours away, Venezuela has announced a new
Military High Command for the transition to a new Presidency
of the Republic... at 4:30 a.m. VET they were named as Army C-i-C
General Efrain Vasquez Velasco, General Ramirez Poveda, General
Alfonso Martinez and General Jesus Pereira."
A subsequent update from
Vheadline editor Roy Carson informs that the same business magnate
who led the coup has now been installed as unelected "president"
"Federation of Chambers
of Commerce & Industry (Fedecamaras) president Pedro Carmona
Estanga has been appointed the interim President of Venezuela."
President Hugo Chavez,
elected in 1998 and 2000 by landslide margins, was placed under
arrest and his held in a military prison.
He is 47, the same age
as Simón Bolívar was at the end of his road.
From a democratically
elected government to an unelected military junta and its imposed
These are your U.S. tax
dollars at work.
was a bloody day in Venezuela. After
a march by 50,000 people that resulted in between 10 and 30 deaths
and 95 wounded, the military commanders asked President Hugo
Chavez to resign, marking the end of the "Bolivarian Revolution."
"The Armed Forces are not for attacking
the people. I order all my commanders, who are my strength and
the nation to comply with their duty. This is not a Coup D'Etat.
It is not insubordination. It is an act of solidarity with the
Venezuelan people. Chavez, I was faithful to you until the end.
I served you until this afternoon. But the deaths of today cannot
be tolerated. I am obligated to make this decision. Generals,
comply with your duty. This is an accompaniment to all the Venezuelan
people after an excess." While the general comandante of
the Army, General Efraín Vásquez, said these words,
officials of the Armed Forces and National Guard appeared at
dawn on the screen of Radio Caracas Television asking the forces
loyal to Chavez not to resist them.
The Interior Minister, Rafael Vargas,
said from the presidential palace of Miraflores, where a group
of tanks had been placed in a defensive position, that "Chavez
is still and always will be in the presidential palace. The conspiracy
Coup d'etat, one more for Latin America,
was in march and marks the end of the "Bolivarian Revolution"
and of its leader, Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez Frias. And
later came a day which reminded of the Caracazo of 1989 that
left nearly 1,000 deaths (according to extra-official sources):
the anti-Chavez demonstration convened by businessmen and union
leaders and its subsequent repression left between 10 and 30
dead and 90 wounded.
According to the versions of Chavez supporters,
at around 9 p.m. there were still 15,000 to 20,000 people around
the Miraflores Palace, the majority of them poor. An hour later,
the magnitude of the matter was clear. Congressman Jorge Barreto,
of the pro-Chavez Fifth Republic movement, was making declarations
on the only TV channel that stayed on the air: Channel 8, the
State TV station, that during the entire afternoon had broadcast
from the palace. Suddenly, the image disappeared from the airwaves,
and it was known that a group from the Army had ordered the total
evacuation of the studios. At this hour, various commanders of
the National Guard (the fourth branch of the military) resigned
their posts and pleaded publicly with Chavez, through private
channels, to resign to avoid a "bloodbath."
America well knows what began to happen last night. And Venezuela, in particular, knows what happened
in the afternoon: The Caracazo, that revolt that ended in 1,000
deaths (unofficial sources), happened almost 13 years ago, and
Vasquez's words alluded to that. Yesterday, the country, above
all the capitol, lived a repetition of history. If in 1989 the
poor came down from the hills and filled the streets to reject
an economic adjustment package by then president Carlos Andres
Perez, yesterday was a curious alliance between the business
class and unions that filled the center of Caracas asking for
the resignation of the principle emergent leader of Venezuela
post-Caracazo, President Hugo Chavez Frias, leader of the "Bolivarian
Revolution," in the middle of a strike that had lasted three
days. According to unofficial sources, there were between 10
and 30 deaths in the confrontations between demonstrators, security
forces and the "Boliviarian Defense Committees" near
the Miraflores Palace.
In the morning, emboldened by the notable
success of the call for a strike that began in the principal
business of the country, Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA), the
president of the national Chamber of Commerce, Pedro Carmona
Estanga, and the leader of the powerful Venezuela Workers Federation
(CTV), Carlos Ortega, called for marches in the streets to demand
the resignation of Chavez. "I ask for Chavez's resignation
and I don't rule out that this human river will head to Miraflores,"
Carmona declared before the march reached the Presidential Palace.
The "human river" numbered some 50,000 persons, who
came from the comfortable neighborhoods of the city, to which
hundreds more joined. It was at this moment that rumors of every
kind circulated: That Chavez was already under arrests in Tiuna
Fortress, the principal military prison in Caracas; that a group
of military officers already forced him to resign; that he had
sent his defense minister, Jose Vicente Rangel, to speak with
the media because he was already no longer in control.
In the afternoon, when the march headed
toward Miraflores, Chavez made his show of force. First, the
high military command met in front of the cameras in the Defense
Ministry offices to signal that they supported the government.
Minutes later, Chavez, who had disappeared mysteriously in the
past three days, gave a speech to the nation, with a painting
of Simon Bolivar behind him, the Venezuelan flag to his right
and in his hand the Bolivarian constitution that he got approved
two years go, when he was indisputably a popular leader. The
Venezuelan president turned all his fury toward the media: "They
are instigating a conspiracy. They want to create the impression
that Venezuela is ungovernable." With respect to (union
leader) Ortega and (business leader) Carmona he said that, together
with the media, "they are involved in an insurrectional
plan that is risky because it is not going to succeed,"
and ordered the immediate suspension of the frequencies of almost
all the private television chains, citing the broadcasting laws,
from the times of the Caracazo, that prohibit the transmission
of violent acts. One of the TV channels had printed, over the
images of the streets, the slogan "NOT ONE STEP BACK."
It was a war that the government and the media had fought for
days, on the occasion of the strike in the petroleum company
over the decision by Chavez to replace its board of directors.
At that point, the streets near Miraflores
were in chaos. While Chavez spoke inside the palace, outside
the demonstration marched closer. The president had deployed
some 1,000 soldiers to guard the palace. In addition to the National
Guard and the police, the "Bolivarian Committees" had
placed themselves outside the palace. The demonstration could
not get more than a couple blocks from Miraflores. "I call
upon the people to not fall into provocations," the president
said. But the gunshots, rock throwing and tear gas began to dominate
At this moment, almost all the television
media stopped broadcasting in Venezuela, and their images were
only seen outside of the country. Sources close to Chavez say
that a number of the deaths were among sympathizers of the president
and explained that the metropolitan police had shot against the
multitute that surrounded the Miraflores Palace. Among the dead,
the driver for Vice President Diosdado Cabello, shot in the face.
The day before yesterday, while the general
strike was continued for an undetermined length of time, a general,
active and with his own gun, Nestor Gonzales, accused Chavez
of being a "traitor" by permitting the FARC to operate
in Venezuela. A large sector of the leadership of the National
Guard criticized the government for the "partisan manner"
in which it repressed the demonstrators with respect to Chavez
supporters, and General Alberto Camacho resigned his post as
vice minister of Citizen Security and called for "a provisional
junta." This accumulation of "desertions" was
finalized at night with the declaration by General Vasquez.
"Chavez is a legitimate president.
If they want Chavez to go, there are many constitutional mechanisms,
among them referendum and electoral recall. Let them try that.
Democracy is measured by votes and not by people in the streets,"
Eliado Hernandez, director of the Political Studies Institute
at the Central University of Venezuela, told Pagina 12. "We
are witnessing self-coup by Chavez. He has blood on his hands
and he wants to buy time with a self-coup," the political
scientist Anibal Romero said to this newspaper. The self-coup,
however, did not arrive. It seems more like a dry coup after
a day with echoes of the Caracazo. It was precisely Chavez who
in 1992 tried to bring about a coup d'etat against the political
cupola that maintained itself against the winds and the tides.
It was precisely Chavez who won popularity with his intended
coup. And it was precisely Chavez who, in early February, confronted
a crisis when for retired military officers criticized him publicly
for his "authoritarianism."
According to political analyst Juan Vicente
Gomez Gomez, "the fate of the government depends on what
the Army does, since the National Guard has already joined the
counter-revolution and the Air Force is remaining for the night
at the Carlota air base, near Caracas. The Navy doesn't have
much influence in this context. About the motives that provoked
the fall of Chavez, Gomez Gomez said that "the great problem
for this government was a lack of political communication. The
entire media is against the President." In addition, the
analyst said that there is a plot similar to that which defeated
Salvador Allende in Chile and it was activated when, a few days
ago, the new US Ambassador to Venezuela, by the name of Shapiro,
took office. According to Gomez Gomez, he was "involved
in the dirty war of Central America."
Luis Miquilena, ex Interior Minister of
Venezuela and ex mentor of Chavez, yesterday called to "find
institutional paths" to lead Venezuela "to a new age
of transition" in the face of the grave crisis it confronts.
Miguilena, who once was the most clear and convincing supporter
of Chavez, declared that "the chief of state is the person
most responsible for what has happened and nobody can save him
from this responsibility."
"The fall of Chavez, disgracefully,
will be violent. Today the firearms spoke. There are dead and
wounded. The mask of the dictatorship was removed, but Chavez
is going to jail," declared the ex president - the same
one against whom the Caracazo was led - Carlos Andres Perez.
Perez said that the solution to the Venezuelan crisis will not
happen "in a day," because Chavez "destroyed the
institutions and divided the country between rich and poor."
"The international community already
knew who Chavez was, but the closing of the TV stations and the
attacks against the demonstrators helped them to know him better,"
said the ex president.
Hugo Chavez Frias was once a hurricane.
He had massive support: He won 60 percent of the vote. But now,
for the first time, the mass was against him; a demonstration
that began in the most luxurious zones of Caracas but, in the
end, extended to a large part of the city: a Coup d'etat.
"Once before, the poor came down from the hills," Chavez said in reference to the Caracazo of 1989.
"Now they will come down again, and because they come to
dream, to pray, this will not be stopped." It seems that
is the only option left for Chavez: to pray and hope that they
come down from the hills.
more Narco News, click
That Comes Down from the Hills