Caracas, February 5, 2010 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Dwarfing recent opposition protests, more than 100,000 supporters of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez marched in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, yesterday in defence of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ and to celebrate 18 years since Chavez, then a lieutenant colonel, led a failed civilian-military uprising against the corrupt government of former president Carlos Andrés Pérez on February 4, 1992.
The second term of Carlos Andrés Pérez, from 1989-93, (he served previously as president from 1974-79), had been marked by a series of social crises, including a popular revolt, known as the Caracazo uprising on February 27, 1989 against IMF-imposed neo-liberal reforms, which saw up to 3,000 people shot dead by the military and security forces, as well as and two military rebellions (February 4, 1992 and November 27, 1992). In May 1993 Andrés Pérez became the first Venezuelan president to be forced out of office by the Supreme Court for misappropriation of 250 million bolívars of public funds.
Chavez’s attempted uprising became a catalyst for the political movement based on the principles of Simón Bolívar, the 19th Century independence fighter who liberated Venezuela and much of South America from Spanish colonialism that swept him to power six years later. The date is now referred to by government supporters as the Day of National Dignity.
As the 1992 uprising began to collapse Chavez gave a short 90 second appearance on television which electrified the nation. He accepted responsibility and called for his comrades to lay down their arms saying, “For now, the objectives that we have set for ourselves have not been achieved.”
The next morning graffiti saying “por ahora” (“for now”), appeared all over the streets of Venezuela. While Chavez was in prison over the next two years it became a rallying cry for a movement of the poor and working-class majority of Venezuelans, who were fed up with the neo-liberal policies of the corrupt political establishment in which two major parties, Democratic Action and COPEI, had ruled the country in a power sharing deal known as the Punto Fijo pact, for nearly 40 years.
Chavez was pardoned by then-President Rafael Caldera in 1994 and formed a new political party called the Movement for the Fifth Republic and in a political upset for Venezuelan elites he won the presidential elections of 1998 with an important majority vote of 56%.
As part of the Day of National Dignity celebrations on Thursday, Chavez’s supporters, including thousands of pro-revolution students who gathered at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, converged from five different points around the capital to the Fuerte Tuina military base, where Chavez addressed the crowd and the Bolivarian Armed Forces.
Prior to the Bolivarian revolution “Venezuela was enslaved by the Yankee Empire, the anti-patriotic bourgeoisie, the same bourgeoisie which today continues exuding hatred and venom towards us,” Chavez said referring to the right-wing opposition.
Chavez also called on sectors that support the revolution whose declared aim is “Socialism of the 21st Century”, to maintain their levels of political activism in the lead up to the parliamentary elections in September, saying, “We cannot abandon the streets, there is an imperial counterattack and the opposition feels emboldened.”
Newly appointed Defence Minister Carlos Mata Figueroa, also spoke saying, “Today we mark 18 years since consciousness was awakened in the men and women of the Armed Forces, and opened the way to take the first steps of this process which we are going through. That’s why today we celebrate the day of national dignity.”
Mata Figueroa stressed that thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution, the country has developed significantly and said that the soldiers of the Bolivarian Armed Forces are loyal to their people and prepared to safeguard security and national defence.
“The soldiers of our armed forces remain loyal together with our people, together with the revolutionary government, never again will we be servile instruments of the oligarchy or any imperial power,” he said.
Celebrations also occurred in other parts of the country including a march of several thousand Chavez supporters in Ejido, Mérida state, under the banners of “No to opposition fascism” and “Yes to peace”. The march occurred just over a week after violent opposition protests against the temporary suspension of private cable television station RCTV left two students dead in the Andean state, one a 16-year old Chavez supporter and the other a 28-year old opposition supporter.
Unidentified gunmen shot the youths, but much of the international media falsely reported that state security forces shot them. The Chavez government strictly prohibits the use of live ammunition against protests. Eight police officers also received bullet wounds from armed opposition groups during the incident.
Meanwhile, several hundred opposition students protested in Brion Plaza in eastern Caracas yesterday, throwing rocks and bottles at police. One police officer was injured. Earlier the pro-Chavez mayor of Libertador municipality had denied a request by the students for a permit to march to the national assembly in order to avoid clashes between the two protests.
“The real students are the children of the people, not the children of the bourgeoisie encouraged by the empire to overthrow the revolutionary government with their little white hands,” Chávez said in relation to the rightwing student groups.
The term “white hands” (manos blancos) refers to a symbol used by the opposition students in there protests. U.S.-backed youth and student movements in the denominated “Coloured Revolutions”, such as in the former Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, among others, who have links with the opposition student organisations in Venezuela, have used the same symbol.
US-Venezuelan attorney Eva Golinger has documented extensive funding by U.S. government-linked organisations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to opposition student groups in Venezuela.
Chavez contrasted the U.S.-backed student opposition groups today with demonstrations staged by university students in Caracas in 1991 against economic measures adopted by the Andrés Pérez government, which included increases in fuel prices and transport and that provoked widespread protests resulting in five students shot dead by members of the security forces and 35 arrested.
“Who can forget that year 1991, when a true student rebellion took to the streets, not these four sons of the bourgeoisie who seek to expropriate for themselves the heroic status of students,” he said.