Caracas, March 2, 2015 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolas Maduro announced on Saturday that the Venezuelan state would pay reparations to 74 new families who were victims of the 1989 massacre perpetrated by state security forces, known as the "Caracazo".
Speaking on the 26th anniversary of the popular uprising against neoliberal reforms imposed by then President Carlos Andres Perez that occurred on February 27 and 28, 1989, Maduro declared, "Never again a massacre, never again so much death, never again in Venezuela."
"There must be justice so that this never happens again, there will not be impunity."
These families will join the 596 other families who have, on the orders of President Chávez, already received "reparations and full state support because their relatives were murdered and massacred."
A Long Struggle From Below
This move by President Maduro represents a sign of his government's commitment to honoring the August 20, 2002 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that ordered the Venezuelan government to pay USD $1,559,000 in reparations to the victims of the Caracazo and their families.
In this respect, the Maduro government follows firmly in the footsteps of Hugo Chávez who "responsibly accepted this ruling not as a punishment [against the state], but as a social demand honoring those fallen as a result of an oppressive system," explains Asdrúbal González, general coordinator of the National Human Rights Network.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights's ruling was the culmination of a twelve year struggle by grassroots human rights organizations, who had to contend with the "opposing interests of the government of then President Caldera".
Only with the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez and the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution were these historical demands for justice formally recognized by the Venezuelan state, which has subsequently taken concrete steps to compensate the victims and investigate those responsible.
Comparison of 1989 to Present Are "a Manipulation and a Fallacy"
Many reports in the private Venezuelan media have compared the economic situation which gave way to the 1989 revolt to the situation in the country today.
For González, "To say that Venezuela is experiencing the same episodes of February 27, 1989 is to fall victim to a manipulation, it's a fallacy."
Óscar Ortega, a member of the Augusto César Sandino Foundation who participated in the rebellion of February 27, also rejects this analogy.
"On February 27 , it was the popular sectors who rose up in rebellion. There's a marked difference here: the sectors who support the opposition in their majority are well-to-do upper middle class sectors, the privileged of the country."
"How can the opposition, knowing that they are ones who are generating this situation [of economic war], claim that there is a situation similar to February 27 when they don't have the people [behind them]," Ortega told Venezuelanalysis.
González notes that this comparison is made almost exclusively by mainstream human rights organizations who are, in the most part, funded by external actors.
"In the research that we have done as activists, we've reached the conclusion that [this comparison to 1989] suits the economic interests of those who establish and finance the non-governmental organizations that issue denunciations of these supposed human rights violations."
COFAVIC and Provea are two of the leading Venezuelan human rights NGOs who have accused the Bolivarian government of human rights violations during last year's violent opposition protests that took the lives of 43 people. Both are financed by the U.S. government to the tune of millions of dollars annually via the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID.
Last month, the Obama Administration imposed a new round of sanctions against Venezuelan officials on the grounds of alleged human rights abuses, yet failed to provide any evidence.
Contrary to these allegations issued by the U.S. State Department and U.S.-funded NGOs in Venezuela, a new poll conducted by International Consulting Services found that 80% of Venezuelans believe that "respect for human rights is guaranteed in Venezuela."
Steps Ahead: Prosecute Ledezma and All Those Responsible
"From our trenches of struggle as human rights activists, our next steps are to maintain the historical memory in terms of what led to February 27 , what happened on February 27, and not only this, but also to generate processes of condemnation against all of those who participated directly or indirectly in the massacre of February 27," González told Venezuelanalysis.
"Still lacking is [a process] for investigating and determining the responsibility of officials of the government of Carlos Andres Perez [such as]... the then governor of the metropolitan district Antonio Ledezma, who was a direct participant in February 27, because he gave orders for the repression and torture of protesters who clamored for a dignified and socially just existence in the face of the measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund."
According to González, grassroots human rights organizations like the National Human Rights Network are calling on the Public Ministry to investigate Antonio Ledezma not only for his alleged role in the recently thwarted coup attempt of February 12, but also for his hand in the brutal state repression that defined the dark saga of the Caracazo.