May the Path of Violence Not Return

The director of Últimas Noticias summarizes some violent acts in which the opposition has been involved, and asks that good sense will avoid that these self-inflicted goals repeat themselves.

I must begin with some prior developments. First of all there is the April coup, which the opposition supported, enticed by the forces that promoted it and the support from Washington. They overthrew the constitutional government, but in 48 hours the Armed Forces and the popular movement returned Chávez.

Gradually, the opposition realized the errors of the ‘carmonazo’ (April 11, 2002 coup that se up a dictatorial government headed by Pedro Carmona) [1] and took its distance from it.

The opposition forces remained intact, except in the military area, which the government purged, removing about 100 officials, moving key commandos and the government came out stronger. Nevertheless, a little while later began the regrouping and the preparations for a new attempt.

This time they would not commit the errors of April. Although weakened in the Armed Forces, they trusted the military of Altamira, [2] who guaranteed an insurgency to them as soon as the general strike exploded. In December of 2003, PDVSA was paralyzed, including its transport fleet, and a good part of the economy.

According to their plans, the shortage of gasoline, of domestic gas, and of basic goods, would provoke rioting, uncontrollable social outbreaks, which would create the conditions to force the President to negotiate his exit.

They failed again. Not a single business was sacked, people in the barrios patiently waited for gas cylinders, and slowly, the oil workers with the support of the people and the military, reactivated the industry. After 62 days they had to give up.

They suspended a general strike that was in it last gasps.

The strike had cost to the country about 10 billion dollars.

Many companies closed and tens of thousands of workers were unemployed.

The opposition lost control of PDVSA and decreased its influence on public opinion.

After a year, the political leaders publicly recognized that the general strike had been a mistake. The truth is, its direction never was in their hands or in those of the CTV. Other powerful sectors directed it.

Under new conditions, negotiations were begun, and on the 29th of May the government and the opposition signed an agreement that highlighted the respect for the Constitution and opened pathways to the referendum.

The most radical members of the opposition appealed once again to violence, with a ferocity never seen before. They struck against the city, affecting public and private property. They burned houses of pro-government parties, they shot at the state TV channel VTV and at some electoral council locations in the interior of the country, and there were snipers during all those days. We cannot believe the story that this had to do with spontaneous actions.

There were mayors and governors who promoted vandalism. In Caracas, the most affected part was in the southeast.

We should have condemned violent acts, and should have criticized the parties and Fedecámaras that supported these protests without the minimum of criticism or condemnation of vandalism. Only on the fifth day, when neighbors complained about the state of siege they were suffering, due to the closing of their neighborhoods and the destruction of public routes, did some opposition leaders realize that the action had began to backfire, and called to suspend it.

One must ask what the real intention was.

Were they just simple protests against the decision of the CNE?

Were they trying to get the directors of the CNE to retreat a step?

Or were they pursuing greater objectives?

Time will allow us to know the answers.

In the meantime, the CNE has provided preliminary numbers. The signatures obtained were not the 3,448,740, as the opposition coalition Democratic Coordinator publicized, but 3,086,000, and this number is not the product of interpretation, but of the elementary sum of one plus one; the valid ones are 1,832,493, so that they need 619,686 to reach the 20% of voters that the Constitution requires for calling a presidential recall referendum. As it is assumed that there will be at least one million signatures for the “repair” process in order to clear up the reasonable doubts that the CNE is said to have, we will know if they reached the 2,452,179 signatures, and whether we will have a referendum.

This certain possibility of summoning the recall referendum is something that some in the opposition want to deny, opposed as they are to any possibility of negotiating and much less still, to participate in the repair process.

What paths will they forge?

Like always, I trust that good sense will prevail and that they do not have to regret this new self-inflicted goal, as Teodoro Petkoff warns them.

The National Guard

Founded on 1936, the National Guard characterized their operatives by the aggressive form in which they repressed demonstrations and disturbances whenever it came to “restoring the public order.”

Armed with carbines, they created terror in the population. It was like that for decades, and those who now accuse the National Guard of violating human rights and use the worst descriptions against these troops and commandos never said anything. Today speak those who for the longest time kept their complicit silence. The Guard has never before faced a wave of urban violence such as the one of these past few days, supported by municipal and state police and the media. If the National Guard acted with orders to not use weapons of war, as appears to have been the case and as their leaders affirm, this is the first time in 67 years.

A QUESTION For Milos Alcalay[3], with 34 years in the diplomatic service:

Why was he not moved in February-March of 1989, when he was an employee of the Chancellery, even though there were 535 or more dead, by the repressive activity of the National Guard and the Army?

Editor’s note: Últimas Noticias is Venezuela’s largest circulation daily newspaper.


[1] “Carmonazo” is the popular name given to the April 2002 coup attempt, named so after the self-appointed President, Pedro Carmona.

[2] The military of Altamira were military officers who disavowed the president and set up camp in the upper middle class neighborhood of Altamira, declaring it “liberated territory” and that they would remain there until Chavez left office.

[3] Venezuela’s Ambassador to the UN who resigned recently. See: Venezuela’s UN Ambassador Resignation Generates Controversy

Source: Últimas Noticias