April 11 Venezuela Coup D’etat Remembered

Two years after the April 11 coup d’etat against President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelans commemorated the events and those who died that day. Victims blame opposition police and the US Embassy, among others.

Venezuelans marched downtown Caracas to commemorate the coup.
Photo: Aporrea.org

Caracas, Apr 12 (Venezuelanalysis.com).- Two years after the April 11 coup d’etat against President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelans commemorated the events occurred that historic day.

Several Human Rights groups and grassroots organizations, including, the National Association of Victims of the Coup d’etat (Asovic), held a series of events downtown Caracas this Sunday, starting with a march through the avenues where more than ten people where killed that day.

The demonstrators marched to the La Pedrera corner, where photographer Jorge Tortoza was killed by a bullet to the head. The opposition had maintained that Tortoza was killed under Chavez’s order to try to suppress the press that day. However, both his brother, Edgar Tortoza, who is president of Asovic, and Asovic’s lawyer Fabian Chacon, argue that the journalist was killed by the opposition-controlled Metropolitan Police. Ample evidence suggests that the Metropolitan Police was an active participant on the coup. “We have identified the officer who killed Tortoza, and we know what weapon he used”. The investigations had been hard to conduct because many Metropolitan Police officers used gloves that day in order to avoid fingerprints on the weapons used.

Lawyer Chacon and members of Asovic, hoped that one day the intellectual authors of the killings are also brought to trial. They accuse Police chiefs Lazaro Forero and Emigdio Delgado, as well as Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Alfredo Pena and Miranda state Governor Enrique Mendoza, of ordering the shootings.

Edgar Tortoza, brother of Jorge Tortoza, a photographer who was killed during the April 11, 2002 coup.
Photo: Aporrea.org

A plaque was unveiled near the place where Tortoza was murdered, to commemorate his death. At was notorious the absence of the National Association of Journalists (CNP), and the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP), two opposition-controlled groups that during and after the coup, blamed Chavez for Tortoza’s death. “Tortoza’s death no longer suits their political agenda of blaming Chavez of attacks on the press, since the evidence now points to the opposition,” said Gonzalo Gomez, a journalist and grassroots organizer who acted a master of ceremony at some of the commemorative events.

The mother of journalist Jorge Tortoza, lays flowers on the plaque in honor of her son who was killed in April 11, 2002.
Photo: Aporrea.org

Lawyer Chacon spoke about audio recordings of police radio conversations making reference to police officers in civilian clothes shooting from rooftops, and talking about communications from the U.S. Embassy. Chacon, as well as President Chavez, argues that the U.S. Embassy was involved in the coup. Ambassador Charles Shapiro’s visit to Pedro Carmona, the dictator who took power replacing Chavez, at the Presidential Palace the day after the coup, seems to give credibility to those accusations. Asovic announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Embassy for their alleged responsibility in the killings and the coup.

The demonstrators also held a mass and laid a wreath in the Llaguno Bridge, two blocks from the Miraflores presidential palace, where pro-Chavez demonstrators had gathered that day to try to protect the President.

The Llaguno Bridge was at the center of controversy surrendering the events that led to the coup since Chavez civilian loyalists where videotaped there shooting at an unspecified target. The footage was used to blame the President for the deaths that occurred that day, and helped pave the way for high-ranking military officers to demand Chavez’s resignation. A lengthy trial exonerated of all charges those that appeared in the video firing their weapons, since it was determined that they were acting in self-defense against opposition sharpshooters and the opposition-controlled Metropolitan Police. Several Metropolitan Police officers are currently under trial for the deaths that occurred that day.

Opponents of the President also held a vigil and mass in remembrance of those deaths. Chavez opponents argue that he ordered his civilian loyalists to shoot and kill opposition demonstrators. The opposition refuses to characterize the events as a coup d’etat, and argue that what happened was a power vacuum left by Chavez, which had to be filled somehow.

Human Rights groups, and grassroots organizations from all political factions, have demanded that those responsible for the deaths be punished according to the law. Venezuela’s inefficient judicial system is often target of criticisms, and with regard to the coup, there is no exception. In 2002, the Supreme Tribunal exonerated the military generals who took part on the coup. With tens of important politicians from the opposition involved in the coup, the Tribunal’s decision was seen a way to avoid controversy and pave the road for national reconciliation. Those in both sides continue to make calls for justice.