Courtesy of RadioAporrea and ViVe, the Venezuelan public TV channel, a half-hour video about the forces that shaped Chavecito into a revolutionary fighter, unexpected popular hero and leader:
This documentary stresses that the Bolivarian movement is a civilian/military alliance with an emphasis on popular participation. Soldiers who participated, civilians who remember, and historians who have analyzed the events explain the significance of that day.
While it may seem strange to celebrate a military coup attempt that failed, it’s worth noting that neither the uprising nor its immediate result is the main thing here; it’s the change in people’s consciousness that it occasioned. On February 4, 1992, the Venezuelan armed forces underwent a transformation in the people’s minds: from the feared and hated shock troops who had been turned against them during the Caracazo of 1989, to courageous campaigners for justice, who tried and failed to unseat the rotter who was ultimately responsible for those thousands of deaths. The uprising may have failed and its participants may have been jailed, but ultimately a surprising success grew out of that failure.
Carlchucho’s blog has an interesting personal account of that day, which I’ve taken the liberty to translate:
Before I was 10 years old, I had never read about any political theory. Obviously my interests at that age were totally different. Perhaps the one occasion of which I had full political awareness was in 1988, when, by a premonitory instinct I’ve always had, I hoped that Carlos Andres Perez would not become president. Sadly, Perez won, and even more sadly I was right. A few days after taking power, he showed himself to be the biggest disgrace that could have happened to the country.
But I remember this morning, when my old man said “Wake up, son, they’re overthrowing the gocho.” It was 5:00 in the morning, and I think it’s a crime to wake up at that hour, especially since I studied from afternoon through evening. I believe it was a Tuesday, and without any idea of what my father had said, I went alone to watch TV.
I don’t remember which channel it was, but all of them were broadcasting the same thing, since RCTV had exclusive rights to the footage of the attack at Miraflores Palace. Since some journalists were there at the time shooting it, they gave a so-called report of the “recruiting” in the streets of Caracas (for certain, President Chavez abolished such recruiting, and they have the gall to call him “militarist”!) Later, they confessed that they knew what was really going on, but didn’t reveal it because DISIP [the Venezuelan secret police] and other repressive organs of the AD government would surely have imprisoned them. So there was persecution then, and repression of free expression and the freedom of the press.
That morning was long and tense. And though I didn’t understand much, I hoped that those guys, dressed in green, with red berets and the tricolor flag on their sleeves, would succeed in taking control of Miraflores. Sadly it didn’t turn out that way, but I believe that what happened is better, considering how what came after it changed history.
A lot has been written about the “for now”, but there is no doubt that it was the breaking point in history. I don’t know why, but all of us were moved by his message, and especially by those words, which really had no prophetic intent regarding what would come years later.
The opposition talks a lot about the so-called mourning they feel for the fallen of February 4, of whom they don’t even know one single name, but they don’t say boo about the thousands who died on February 27 , much less the hundreds of thousands who died of the worst massacre of the Punto Fijo era, which was poverty. There is no more miserable way to kill people than by hunger, leaving them to die of disease, and buggering off to Miami to enjoy the millions of dollars stolen from the nation.
Carlchucho touches on a number of important things here: the tendency of the Venezuelan private media to lie (and, tellingly, the fact that they lied on behalf of the then government of Carlos Andres Perez!); the way Chavez’s short speech taking responsibility moved everyone who saw and heard it; and of course, the opposition’s extreme hypocrisy in “mourning” for February 4 victims they don’t even know, while refusing to acknowledge the many more who died of a much greater atrocity (in which, of course, they were fully complicit.)
All of this explains why even in failure, the coup succeeded. It also unravels the seeming paradox of how something so otherwise undemocratic as a military coup could yet end up ushering in a truly democratic future. This coup was the antithesis of what happened in Chile in 1973; it failed to put a military government in power but undermined a covertly authoritarian “democratic” government, and finally succeeded in getting the military man who led the uprising elected democratically to office.
Most interestingly, though: as much as the corporate media still slander this ex-military man as an “authoritarian” and a “dictator”, the public has other ideas. Maybe it has something to do with what happened to their collective consciousness on that day. I think this picture sums it up as well as anything could: