Venezuela Marks 10th Anniversary of April 2002 Coup Attempt against the Chavez Government

With debates, exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations, this week Venezuela marked a decade since the coup and counter-coup of April 2002 which removed President Hugo Chavez from power in just under 48 hours.

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The capital was flooded by tens of thousands of government supporters, who had turned out to commemorate the historic event (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)
The capital was flooded by tens of thousands of government supporters, who had turned out to commemorate the historic event (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)
By Ewan Robertson
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Mérida, 14th April 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – With debates, exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations, this week Venezuela marked a decade since the coup and counter-coup of April 2002 which removed President Hugo Chavez from power in just under 48 hours.

On 11 April 2002 Venezuela’s right wing opposition, supported by the US government, launched a coup in which democratically elected President Chavez was forcefully removed from office, kidnapped, and replaced in office by Pedro Carmona, the head of Venezuela’s business confederation Fedecamaras.

The coup plotters proceeded to annul the constitution, dissolve all public bodies, and instigate a witch hunt against prominent Chavez supporters.

The coup was reversed when spontaneous mass protests by the Venezuelan people and sectors of the army loyal to the constitution returned Chavez to power on 13 April.

Day of National Dignity

Yesterday, throughout the country Venezuelans participated in events marking the “Day of National Dignity” to commemorate the events of 13 April 2002.

In the capital Caracas, tens of thousands of Chavez supporters, members of the country’s armed forces (FANB), and the people’s militia, marched through the city centre to the presidential palace Miraflores, where the Venezuelan president addressed the crowd from the People’s Balcony.

Meanwhile in the city of Merida in the Andean region of Venezuela, a rally and concert took place with the presence of activists, fire-fighters, members of the FANB and state governor Marcos Diaz Orellana, a member of Chavez’s governing socialist party.

“We demonstrated that a united people will never be defeated,” Chavez declared to his supporters in Caracas. “Due to that, I beg you not only to maintain unity but to strengthen it, with our debates and criticisms, but unity and above all, more unity,” he exhorted.

The Venezuelan president also indicated to the crowd that he had decided to create an “Anti-Coup Command” after receiving warnings of a possible conspiracy against his government.

The first task of this organisation will be to develop a contingency plan against any future coup attempts, including in the areas of public order and the economy, to prepare “the strong reply we would give against this bourgeoisie, who believe in themselves more than the constitution”.

Speaking in a televised interview on Wednesday, Chavez further thanked the Venezuelan people for saving his life and the Bolivarian Revolution on 12 – 13 April 2002, stating that Venezuelan opposition’s plan to assassinate him and take power “failed, thanks to the people”.

Remembering the Coup and Counter-Coup

Other events to commemorate the April 2002 coup and to reflect upon its significance took place throughout the week.

On Monday and Tuesday a forum in Caracas organised by regional news network Telesur named “the Revolution Will Not be Censored,” looked at the role of private media, Fedecamaras and the right wing CTV union organisation in planning and carrying out the coup.

Other events included the forum “Debate of Popular Communication for the Revolution” and a photographic exhibition, bringing together experiences of the events during the coup, which ran throughout this week. The popular reaction to the 2002 coup saw the birth of many of Venezuela’s alternative and community media outlets, including news website Aporrea.

On Thursday 12 April an event was held to commemorate the anniversary of the siege and attempted forced search of the Cuban embassy by sectors of the Venezuelan right, who were searching for supporters of the Chavez government as part of the post-coup crack down.

Making reference to the role played that day by current opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski in legitimising those actions, Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro said that “what occurred on 12 April is marked in history as the day that fascism and the Venezuelan right showed its true face”.

Also on Thursday, a book written by the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela during the coup, German Sanchez Otero, was released. Entitled “April without Censorship”, the book follows the events of the coup, with 20,000 copies to be distributed to Venezuelans “as a contribution to consciousness and to teach us to never forget the events[of April 2002],” stated communication minister Andres Izarra.

On Thursday night a candlelit vigil was held at the Fuerte Tiuna military base to remember the gathering of crowds and the rallying of the military to bring back the legally-constituted president Chavez from kidnap.

Grassroots educator Joel Linares, referring to the re-taking of the military base by forces loyal to Chavez, stated to Correo del Orinoco “that’s how progressively more and more people began to act and in the end they [the coup plotters] had to hand power back [to Chavez]”.

The defeat of the coup will continue be marked in events running to 19 April, including Revolutionary Youth Day on 15 April and a national conference by the pro-government coalition of social movements, the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), next Thursday.

To see a selection of VA photos from yesterday's events, please click here