Venezuelans Commemorate Rebellious 4F: “It wasn’t a coup, it was an insurrection”

Thousands of Venezuelans swelled the streets of downtown Caracas this Wednesday to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the attempted overthrow of the Carlos Andrés Pérez government by progressive sectors of the military on February 4th 1992. 

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Pedro Cubillon, Coronel and founder of MBR-200, third from left (Rachael Boothroyd - Venezuelanalysis)
Pedro Cubillon, Coronel and founder of MBR-200, third from left (Rachael Boothroyd - Venezuelanalysis)
By Rachael Boothroyd
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Caracas, February 5th 2015 (Venezuelanalysis) - Thousands of Venezuelans swelled the streets of downtown Caracas this Wednesday to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the attempted overthrow of the Carlos Andrés Pérez government by progressive sectors of the military on February 4th 1992. 

Led by a clandestine revolutionary movement within the Venezuelan military known as the MBR-200 (Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement 200) - co-founded by former Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez - the date is now widely recognised in Venezuela as one of the most important historical precursors to the Bolivarian Revolution. It is often referred to as “Loyalty” or “Dignity” Day, as well as “Rebellious 4F”. 

“This story goes back 23 years. Today we are commemorating those who gave their lives on that date, as well as celebrating the fact that, in 23 years, the empire (U.S.) has not been able to defeat Bolivar’s people, the people of Chavez,” said Leidy Suarez, one of the first civilian members of the MBR-200. 

On February 4th 1992, five army units made up of progressive sectors of the military attempted to seize strategic command positions within Caracas, including the Miraflores Presidential Palace, as well as in other states such as Valencia and Aragua. They were aided by a handful of leftist activists who had been armed by the movement. 

Although the soldiers were ultimately unsuccessful in seizing government, Hugo Chavez was granted a 2 minute slot on national television in order to address the nation and to call on the rest of the movement to surrender. The speech catapulted him into the national political gaze. Many lauded him for having taken a stand against the repressive political administration of the time, its unpopular neoliberal reform packages and for having assumed responsibility for his actions before the country. 

“Unfortunately, for the moment, the objectives that we had set for ourselves have not been achieved in the capital. That's to say that those of us here in Caracas have not been able to seize power. Where you are, you have performed well, but now is the time for a rethink; new possibilities will arise again, and the country will be able to move definitively toward a better future” he stated; a phrase which would take on the status of a quasi-premonition when he went on to be elected as Venezuelan President in 1998. 

For many of those in the streets on Wednesday, the date continues to have important implications for both national and global politics. 

“It wasn’t a coup, it was an insurrection in the face of a particular moment and political conjuncture… We were living through the last days of a pseudo-democracy which repressed and starved the people… That famous “for now” became a flame which lit up the whole continent and which is continuing to light up the people of the world,” explained Suarez. 

The celebrations included a civilian march, dancing in the streets, as well as an air show and military parade. This year the date comes amidst what has been described as one of the revolution’s most testing moments, with a stepped up economic war creating scarcities of basic consumer goods and a fresh round of U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials announced in early February. Although turnout for the march seemed smaller than previous years, those present defended their loyalty to the Bolivarian Revolution.

“I continue to support the revolution because I am grateful to Chavez. It has given us everything, health, education, care for elderly people, increases in the minimum wage, just everything.… The country has totally changed… and so I am with Chavez, Maduro and whoever comes after until I die. I am with the revolution,” said Irsi Gonzalez, a single mother from Caracas. 

Whilst the celebrations brought activists from numerous Venezuelan social movements into the streets, the vast majority of those taking part belonged to the MBR-200, including both original members as well as new younger activists. Pedro Cubillon, a Coronel and founder of the MBR-200, said it isn’t just the country that had changed thanks to “Rebellious 4F”.  

“We had a commitment to history, and when you have a commitment with history, you have to be part of history… Now the people have transformed themselves, they woke up, now nobody can fool the people. We were just catalysts that created the conditions for the people to advance, so that popular power could become what it is today: power for the people by the people,” he commented. 

As former military personnel and serving soldiers chatted freely with activists, Alfonso Antonio, 23, noted that one of the most significant outcomes of 4F was in fomenting Venezuela’s famous “civic-military” union or bond between the armed forces and the people. 

“In the Fourth Republic (1958-1998) it was totally different, you had the army with the oligarchy and they repressed the people. Now we have the government, hand in hand with the people and the army in order to defend the Revolution,” he explained.

It is this civil-military alliance, which the government has called on in order to defend the revolution in the face of intensified attempts to overthrow the country’s socialist government. 

 “They are trying to set Venezuelan on fire from within and from outside in 2015. That’s why I am saying that the spirit of 4F is still relevant, and in the name of Chavez we must raise the flag of rebellion, of bravery and of civic-military unity in order to confront these imperialist aggressions,” stated Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, to the thousands of troops in Wednesday’s military parade. 

The continued relevance of the date is a sentiment echoed by many Venezuelans;

“We’re making sure that the opposition understand that we are the majority, that we are the people who are with the revolution, from here and into the next life,” Jenny Rivas told Venezuelanalysis. 

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