Mérida, 28th February 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Yesterday Venezuelans marked 25 years since the mass rebellion known as the “Caracazo” against neoliberal policies, and the massacre of civilians at the hands of security forces that followed.
On 27 February 1989 protests, riots and looting broke out in Caracas and other cities across Venezuela. Half of the population lived in poverty at the time, and some who lived in extreme poverty resorted to dog food or spaghetti water to fill their stomachs.
The spark that set off the protests was the announcement of an IMF “structural adjustment package” by the government of Carlos Andres Perez, which had recently assumed office. Transport, fuel, and utilities prices were all to increase, while price caps on some basic goods were to be lifted.
This was part of a plan which would also privatise utility companies, remove import tariffs, lift exchange controls, liberate interest rates, and attempt to reduce the fiscal deficit.
To control the uprising, Carlos Andres Perez declared a state of emergency and sent the army onto the streets to quell the riots. In the massacre that followed, estimates of those killed range from 300 to 3,000.
Many consider that the political and social impact of the uprising and repression led to the downfall of the reigning two-party system and the election of Hugo Chavez as Venezuelan president in 1998.
Looking back, looking forward
“The people who were massacred 25 years ago are the revolutionary people that today are constructing Bolivarian socialism, that is being consolidated this century,” wrote President Nicolas Maduro on Twitter yesterday. “The people broke their bindings and said “enough of neoliberalism”. They were massacred but not defeated, and there began this revolution of the 21st century,” he continued.
In a march in Caracas attended by grassroots activists, government and army officials, Manuel Saenz of the working class 23 de Enero district argued that the Caracazo has great importance for understanding Venezuela today.
“The rebellion was the push that was needed so that a revolution like the Bolivarian one came along…to get to where we are now, many fought, many had to go out that 27 February and say an overwhelming 'no' to neoliberal impositions and 'no' to inequality,” he said to AVN.
As part of efforts the Bolivarian government has undertaken to make reparations for the actions of the state during the Caracazo, officials announced on Thursday that a further 112 family members of Caracazo victims would receive indemnification.
Below is a video of images from the Caracazo in remembrance of the events 25 years ago: