Venezuelans Marched for Peace and Against Paramilitary and Imperialist Intervention

Thousands took the streets of Caracas to repudiate the presence of right-wing paramilitaries in Venezuela and to protest an alleged US intervention in the country’s internal affairs

Caracas, Venezuela. May 17, 2004 ( A week after a Colombian right-wing paramilitary group was captured at a farm on the outskirts of Caracas; thousands of Venezuelans took the streets of the country’s capital to protest the presence of the foreign rebels and to protest an alleged US intervention in the country’s internal affairs.

Thousands marched against the presence of foreign right-wing paramilitary groups seeking to overthrow Venezuela’s democratic government.
Credit: Venpres

Most of the members of the paramilitary group of 120 have been apprehended. According to testimony by some of the detainees, the group was training in preparation for attacks on Venezuelan military bases and for a coup d’etat against the government of President Hugo Chavez.

The demonstrators marched from the eastern edge of Caracas to the city’s downtown carrying Venezuelan flags, and signs protesting the presence of the foreign rebels.

During his speech at the demonstration, Chavez said his government will request help from Colombian authorities to contact the relatives of several minors who were among the detainees, in order to return them. “We can’t throw these kids in jail,” said Chavez.

“We cannot make the mistake of downplaying what has happened in Venezuela in recent days. We cannot let ourselves be influenced by the disinformation campaign put out by the media,” said Chavez. Politicians from opposition parties, and the mostly oppositionist commercial media, continue arguing that the arrest of the paramilitaries is a hoax by the government used as an excuse to arrest opposition leaders and derail a possible recall referendum on the President.

Last Friday, Chavez held a press conference with foreign correspondents in which he showed pictures of the alleged leaders of the paramilitary group.

“The paramilitary incursion is a historic incident with worldwide resonance which only the local private media have tried to minimize,” said the President.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez addresses demonstrators who marched against paramilitary prescence in Venezuela.
Credit: Venpres

The President spoke out against Capitalism, and criticized the fact that after the Cold War many on the left stopped talking about Capitalism, replacing it with the word Neoliberalism. Both terms refer to “the same assassin, perverse and stinky empire”. During his presidency, Chavez himself has spoken out against Neoliberalism, while claiming to lead a revolution to build “Capitalism with a human face”. He has only recently started to criticize Capitalism directly.

The South American leader has intensified his criticism of US foreign policy after documents obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act, revealed that funds from the US government are being directed towards Venezuelan groups who are actively working to oust him.

Chavez criticized the US government directly calling it “an invader and assassin imperialist force which marginalizes the United Nations in order to humiliate the dignity of millions of human beings.” The President says that the Bush administration is behind efforts to oust him, and he once again accused the US government of being behind the coup d’etat that briefly removed him from power in April of 2002.

Chavez said that paramilitary activity is “the brain child of the Colombian oligarchy”, and criticized the fact the some Venezuelans who oppose his government organized and supported the paramilitary incursion. He said that six active members of the Armed Forces have been detained in connection with the paramilitaries.

Venezuelans marched for peace and against foreign intervention.
Credit: Venpres

The President said that the goal of the rebels was to assassinate him. He said that the paramilitary incursion was part of an international campaign to eliminate him. He said that given the level of support he has among Venezuelans, his assassination would lead to a civil war and would generate “a strong response from the people of Latin America and the Caribbean”.

“Anti-imperialist phase”

According to Chavez, “the Bolivarian Revolution has entered into an anti-imperialist phase”. As part of a new defense plan, Chavez announced that his government will strengthen the armed forces, and call upon all Venezuelans to be part of the active defense of the country. “Each and every Venezuelan man and woman must consider themselves a soldier,” said Chavez.

The demonstrators repudiated the torture of prisioners by US forces in Irak.
Credit: Venpres

The Minister of Communication and Information, Jesse Chacon, said that the demonstration is the response by “a society which has matured, and has understood that democracy is made struggling out in the streets.” Chacon asked those who disagree with the “Bolivarian Revolution” to reflect and realize that such revolution is an all-inclusive project “for all Venezuelans”.