Caracas, April 14, 2010 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela celebrated eight years since a popular uprising defeated a U.S. backed coup against President Hugo Chavez in April 2002 with a swearing in ceremony of 35,000 new militia members denominated the “Day of the Bolivarian Militias, the Armed People and the April Revolution” in central Caracas, yesterday.
Shortly after being elected in 1998, Chavez, who leads a process of radical social change known as the Bolivarian revolution, initiated a series of pro-poor reforms that brought him into conflict with U.S. and local Venezuelan elites.
On April 11, 2002, the shooting of nineteen people by opposition snipers and metropolitan police officers was used as a pretext to spark a military revolt by rightwing generals who kidnapped Chavez and tried to force him to resign. Pedro Carmona, head of the Chamber of Commerce (FEDECAMARAS) declared himself interim President, issued a decree dissolving the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the National Assembly and fired the Ombudsman and the Attorney General.
During the coup hundreds of Chavez supporters were rounded up and imprisoned and state and community media outlets were shut down, while the opposition-controlled private media imposed a blackout. The United States was one of few countries to recognise the illegal government, claiming “a democratic transition” had taken place.
The coup collapsed after only 47 hours when masses of poor Venezuelans came out onto the streets in protest and loyal sections of the armed forces retook the presidential palace and the Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas.
Recalling the events of April 2002 yesterday, Chavez said the Venezuelan oligarchy had conspired with U.S. imperialism to disrespect the will of the Venezuelan people and overthrow the democratically elected government.
"It was a fascist coup with the warships of Yankee imperialism in Maiquetía, and submarines and aircraft carriers in Venezuelan waters, the entire oligarchy, political parties, the media and political and economic elites were allied against the Venezuelan people," he said.
He also lamented the lives of the Venezuelans who died during the coup saying “those brave people gave their lives to defend this process” but stressed that the "fascist coup unleashed the power contained within the people and the Armed Forces."
It was this “civic- military alliance” that was central to the defeat of the coup Chavez argued.
“The oligarchy and imperialism had predicted that if the people went out the streets as they did during the Caracazo [uprising in 1989 under former president Carlos Andrés Pérez, when an estimated 3,000 people were killed by the military]...they thought they could count on the guns of our soldiers to curb the popular rebellion, but they had a big surprise because, despite more than 100 traitorous generals and admirals caving in to the bourgeoisie, the soldiers not only refused to commit a massacre but placed themselves and their guns on the side of the people,” he said.
Now, with the formation of the Bolivarian Militia, he said, “The militia is the people and the people are the militia, the armed people and the armed forces are one.”
As he swore in the 35,000 militia from student battalions, combat corps, and worker and peasant battalions, Chavez also stressed the large numbers of women in the militias, saying, “I'm proud to know that there are many women among them in the ranks, giving greater strength, vigour and passion to the task of the struggle for sovereignty and independence of the country.”
He also drew attention to the continued threat of U.S. intervention in Venezuela pointing to the increased U.S. militarization of the region and said that the U.S., the Venezuelan opposition and some neighbouring countries, including Colombia, are still plotting to destabilise and attack Venezuela.
In 2009 the U.S. signed a deal to install seven new military bases in Colombia, including on the Venezuelan border, 4 new military bases in Panama, and is currently pursuing military discussions with the Peruvian and Brazilian governments.
Outlining some of the achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution over the past decade including the halving of poverty rates, the erradication of illiteracy and the provision of free universal healthcare among other things, Chavez reaffirmed that the goal of the Bolivarian revolution is to build socialism.
"The only way for us to have a homeland is by building socialism of the 21st century here in Venezuela,” he said, adding that it is not an easy task.
In this context increased political consciousness and unity are necessary “to defeat imperialism and the local bourgeoisie,” Chavez stressed.
Chavez urged the Venezuelan people to support candidates from his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the upcoming national assembly elections in September in order “to accelerate the transformation in the country and consolidate the revolution.”
A pro-revolution majority in the September elections will prevent the bourgeoisie from gaining space to promote their destabilising actions and from “using the legislature to achieve their nefarious purposes," he explained.
As part of a series of events commemorating the coup one hundred young community media activists were also sworn in as “communicational guerrillas” on Sunday to raise awareness amongst young people about “media lies” and combat the anti-revolution campaign of the opposition controlled private media in Venezuela.
Rosa Martinez, a 60 year-old Chavez supporter from the working class neighbourhood of Petare, in Caracas, who attend the swearing in ceremony of the militias, told Venezuelanalysis.com, “There is a big international media campaign against Venezuela, against our president, against our people, but the reality is quite different to what the media says.”