Merida, February 27th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – While vice-president Nicolas Maduro spoke at a large and vibrant rally today in Caracas to mark the 24th anniversary of the Caracazo, a small group of opposition students protested in another part of Caracas, demanding president Hugo Chavez swear-in for his next term in office.
With smaller rallies around the country, and a larger one in Caracas, Venezuelans remembered the Caracazo, when the country rebelled against the government’s neo-liberal policies, and in response the police and army killed and injured thousands of people.
Many at the Caracas rally saw the uprising as marking the start of the Bolivarian revolution, and chanted, “The [the old ruling class] will never return”, “end the speculators” and “the revolution belongs to the people”.
Addressing the crowd, Maduro said, “It’s still fresh, the imprint of that day... it was a collective awakening... how many people died during that rage and rebellion”.
He remembered how, “a group of my companions and I, we arrived in the centre of Caracas and we saw how the people were ransacking, as if nothing mattered anymore, there was a fever of accumulated rage, they could do anything, it didn’t matter if glass was broken...and there in front of Arturo’s Chicken, we saw the bodies of four young people.”
“It’s the same rightwing now, it doesn’t matter how they want to dress themselves up,” he said.
Maduro then announced that more financial resources had been approved to continue compensating families of victims of the Caracazo.
“We want to announce the approval of resources for the compensation of an important percentage of the families of the youth who fell and gave their lives 24 years ago,” Maduro said, adding that president Hugo Chavez had begun the compensation process on 27 February 2009, approving Bs 12.2 million at the time.
“The victims and their families have progressively been identified and bit by bit the families are being looked after,” he said.
“We call on our people and our Armed Forces to raise the banner of unity, to guarantee political stability, and to guarantee the defeat of this parasitic bourgeoisie,” Maduro concluded.
The head of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, also swore in a Truth and Justice Commission at the rally, which will investigate the events of the Caracazo and other human rights violations committed under the governments of the time.
The commission is comprised of 19 members, including ten from of the Social Front of Families and Victims, and nine from official and high profile positions, such as the attorney general, legislators, a priest, and a well known journalist.
In October 2011, the national assembly passed the Law to Punish Crimes, Disappearances, Torture, and Violations of Human Rights for Political Reasons during 1958-1998, known as the law against forgetting. The law paved the way for the creation of the commission sworn in today.
Opposition students demand the “truth”.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Caracas, in the upper class area of Chacao, a small group of thirty to fifty students blockaded the road in front of an executive tribunal, a dependency of the Supreme Court.
Students said their protest, which began yesterday afternoon, was aimed at pressuring for more “information” on President Chavez’s recovery process and to demand that he swear-in for his third presidential term. Chavez, who arrived in the Military Hospital of Caracas last week, is unable to speak due to a Tracheal Cannula.
The protest appears to be a continuation of a similar one by the same students last week in front of the Cuban embassy. At the time, students were demanding that Chavez return to Venezuela from Cuba, and when he did, they ended their protest, claiming it had been “successful”.
There was some minor violence as the National Bolivarian Guard and Police tried to remove the students from the road, with AVN reporting that they were trying to “control the situation and prevent violent actions”, and pro-opposition media reporting that there had been “repression”. Photos are available here.
Chanting, “Who are we? Students. What do we want? The truth!” and “Sovereign Venezuela, no to Cuban intervention”, students said they will maintain their protest until “the truth is told about Chavez’s health”.
The opposition students come from two main groups; the 13 Movement, a far-right, and often violent movement based in the University of Los Andes, and the Active Youth Venezuela United (JAVU) “white hands” movement.
JAVU came out of the Organisation of Venezuelans in Exile (ORVEX), based in Miami.
Yesterday the minister for justice and internal affairs, Nestor Reverol, reported that Venezuela’s crime investigation body, the CICPC, had arrested Jose Peralta. Peralta was caught on video attacking an elderly man and breaking part of his pacemaker during the protest outside the Cuban embassy. Peralta will go before a court. Reverol pointed out that Venezuelan private media had ignored the incident.
Electricity minister Hector Navarro argued that it was important to be aware of the opposition’s actions, as they “are the allies of imperialism in Venezuela” and “our country is a global reference in terms of anti-imperialism... imperialism is aware that to end the Venezuelan revolution would be to eliminate other revolutions in the world”.
Navarro warned the National Guard not to “fall for the provocations” of groups like JAVU.