Venezuela Unveils Monument for Victims on Coup Anniversary

Òn the occasion of the 4 year anniversary of the April 11th, 2002 coup attempt against President Chavez, the government unveiled a new monument dedicated to the 18 Venezuelans - Chavistas, opposition, and unaffiliated bystanders - who were killed that day.

Caracas, Venezuela, April 12, 2006—Venezuelans commemorated the 4th anniversary of the April 11, 2002, coup d’etat, yesterday, with the unveiling of a monument to the victims at the Llaguno Bridge, one of the centers of the violence in 2002. 

The unveiling was attended by Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel; President of the National Assembly, Nicolas Maduro; Caracas Mayor At-large, Juan Barreto Cipriani; members of the Association of Victims of April 11t; the Committee for the Defense of Puente Llaguno, and numerous other pro-government organizations and individuals. 

“This monument is in honor to all of the fallen victims, 4 years ago….” Said Vice-President Rangel speaking to the crowd from a large stage on Puente Llaguno, “We don’t politicize the death or did we come to invoke only the dead that struggled with us.  We came to testify to the pain of our citizens and the death of Venezuelans.”  

Exactly four years ago, 18 were killed and more than a hundred wounded on or near Puente Llaguno, when an opposition march approached a pro-Chavez demonstration near the Presidential Palace of Miraflores.  Metropolitan police and snipers from nearby buildings opened fire on part of the demonstrations, causing chaos and confusion that persists till today.  The violence in the streets, would lead to a short 48-hour long coup d’etat where President Chavez was held under custody and incommunicado.  

A group of armed men on Puente Llaguno, held back the metropolitan police on that day and were identified as the instigators of the violence, through a video released by the television station, Venevision.  The video claimed to depict the men firing in to a crowd of opposition supporters, who were supposedly off-screen, when in reality the men were firing at the armored units of the Metropolitan Police, who were attacking the demonstrators on Llaguno Bridge. 

“I re-vindicate the sharpshooters of Puente Llaguno”, Vice-President Rangel called out “because they defended the dignity of the country and the dignity of the people of Venezuela…. for the mainstream media they were the “gun-men”, but they weren’t the organizers of the coup of April 11, which would attempt to end with the constitutional and democratic regime in this country.” 

Four of the sharpshooters seen in the video were detained and held in prison for two years until they were released as innocent, two years ago.  Rafael Ignacio Cabrices was one of those men whose name was heard from the stage often yesterday. Cabrices suffered a heart attack eight months ago and passed away. 

Henry Danilo Atencio Atencio was in attendance yesterday and was also one of those detained for two years along with Cabrices. 

“I feel very bad, remembering what happened 4 years ago, after the death of Ignacio Cabrices, my friend and brother, because to be in prison with someone, to share everything…. These are things that one cannot repeat, because you can’t ever repeat some things, what the media did here along with the North American government…”  

Although there still is confusion surrounding the events of April 11, documents obtained via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act show that the Bush administration knew that a coup was being planned.  Although Washington denied involvement, the Venezuelan government has often accused that the United States of playing a significant roll.  

“It is important that say today that the coup d’etat of April 11, was a coup carried out by the North American Embassy and by imperialism in Venezuela,” Vice-President Rangel shouted from the stage yesterday, “if it had not been for the determinant and decisive participation of the US embassy, representing Mr. Bush, it is possible that the coup d’etat of April 11 would not have taken place.  And that is why this commemorative act is also a warning… [that] we always must sleep with one eye open.” 

Vice-President Rangel went on to criticize the current U.S. Ambassador, William Brownfield, whose vehicle was attacked by eggs and vegetables last Friday. “We need to be alert, because when the current North American ambassador dedicates himself to provoking and systematically ignores the rules of security and goes about the country as if Venezuela were Texas, behind this attitude is a calculated provocation.”  

Also in attendance were members of the Association of the Victims of Puente Llaguno.  A Representative spoke from the stage and called for the rest of the Metropolitan Police and National Guard implicated in the violence of 2002 to be brought to Justice.  According to Jose Marcelo Sojo, a member of the Association, who was wounded in the leg and the mouth near Puente Llaguno, there are six Metropolitan Police in jail, “but there are still a lot of people that should go to trial, so we still need justice.  We are waiting for it,” he added.   

Although most of those in attendance were supporters of President Chavez, Vice-President Rangel culminated his speech calling for unity. 

“This monument is yours, this monument is all of ours, and it is also for the women and men of the opposition who were deceived and participated in this escapade, and who today we extend out our hand because Venezuela has to be for all of the Venezuelans, it has to be the Venezuela of peace, and love and understanding under the rule of law and functioning for social and economic transformation.  Thank you.  Long live Puente Llaguno!” 

The act on Puente Llaguno was held at noon, with poetry, cultural and theatrical performances carrying on throughout the day.  A number of additional events have been planned for this week to commemorate the two day-long coup, and the official “Fourth Anniversary of the Grassroots Recovery of the Constitutional Thread” that carried President Chavez back in to power on April 13th, 2002.