Meet Ivan Freites, former technical sergeant, military rebel, and reluctant assassin.From YVKE Mundial, a very special story about a man who could have adversely changed the course of Venezuelan history, had his own integrity not prevented the worst:
Translation mine.I wonder, where is this treacherous Antonio Rojas Suárez today? Surely not in any position of power in Venezuela. Is he hiding out in Miami? Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he were also under investigation for corruption or the like. In any event, it’s a good thing that his murder plot was aborted by Ronald Blanco La Cruz…and Iván Freites, who was relieved not to become a triggerman in what could have been the most tragic assassination in his country’s history.
At just 22 years of age, Iván Freites joined the ranks of an army of valiant men who set out on February 4, 1992, to join a revolutionary movement which would change the course of a country that had succumbed to the abysmal political and economic rule of the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. However, this young man had been manipulated to carry out a mission that could well have changed the political destiny of Venezuela.Even at that age, Freites had courage enough to face the risks that went along with a military rebellion, but at the same time, very little of the political maturity needed to recognize whose hidden interests and personal ambitions were at work, seeking to nip a revolution in the bud: the Bolivarian Revolution. “I was a technical sergeant when, a few days after February 4, one of the leaders of that movement assigned me the mission of assassinating Lieutenant-Colonel Hugo Chávez,” confessed Freites, in an exclusive interview with YVKE Mundial.It was in 1987 that the sergeant was contacted by Captain Ronald Blanco La Cruz to join a group of dreamers who had dedicated themselves to studying history in such a way as to change the future of the country.Already as early as 1984, there were meetings between the commanders Yoel Acosta Chrinos, Francisco Arias Cárdenas, Hugo Chávez Frías, and the late Felipe Antonio Acosta Cárlez. Freites commented that those meetings were more illustrative than conspiratorial. “They talked to us about the situation of the country, read us books like The Open Veins of Latin America, and showed us what Venezuela could have been, and what it was thanks to the political leadership of the day,” Freites said.However, there was known corruption in the highest ranks of the military, unmeasured repression of the unrest of February 27, 1989, and negotiations going on as to the delineation of the border with Colombia; these were some of the causes behind the idea that it was time for a military rebellion. Meetings that began with just six or eight persons, became gatherings of between 20 and 40.“The events of the Caracazo caught us unawares, and we saw with pain what happened, but couldn’t do anything. That was practically the starting point for the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army (EBR) to begin taking seriously the alternative of an insurrection in order to take power,” said Freites, recalling the violence to which the Venezuelan people fell victim at that time.The group of militaries, disgruntled with the political and social situation of the country, began to make plans for a military insurrection. Sgt. Freites says that between 1989 and 1992, there were various dates set for the attempt, but because some officers were removed from their barracks, the dates changed constantly. Freites says that as of the end of 1991, there was pressure to set the date, which was changed from February 3 to early on February 4.One of the strongest leaders, who, according to Freites, maintained contact with the civilian organizations Bandera Roja (Red Flag) and Tercer Camino (Third Way), among others, was Captain Antonio Rojas Suárez, who, along with Ronald Blanco La Cruz, was responsible for the operation in Caracas.“Suárez was a high-ranking member of a freemasons’ lodge. I have to say there were occult interests related to this religious movement. Interests different to those we had, who were dreamers, including Comandante Chávez,” says Freites.He adds that, just two weeks before the rebellion of February 4, there was a meeting between Cpt. Ronald Blanco La Cruz, Cpt. Rojas Suárez, and himself, where Rojas said that the commanders Chávez and Arias were the principal traitors to the revolutionary movement, cancelling the date of the rebellion on several occasions.“Since Rojas Suárez was a leader at that time, his words could not be taken lightly. He proposed to us a pact in which as soon as they (Chávez and Arias) had decided the date of the insurrection, we would have to decide to assassinate them, a pact which was accepted. Since I was just a subaltern, 22 years old, they assigned me the mission of killing Chávez,” Freites confesses.Hugo Chávez and fellow rebel Francisco Arias Cárdenas, the targets of the intended murder plot.On February 3, when the operation had been set in motion and there was no turning back, because the officers had all been contacted, Sgt. Freites received a phone call from Cpt. Ronald Blanco La Cruz. “Sgt. Freites, what we talked about over eliminating Comandante Chávez, that won’t go ahead, I’m convinced that they are the real leaders of this revolution and everything we talked about, forget it and let’s just concentrate on the military operation,” was the instruction Cpt. Ronald Blanco gave.“It was a moment of patriotic emotion, having received that call from Cpt. Ronald Blanco,” said Freites, recalling how two hours later, another phone call would destroy that feeling of peace.“Two hours later, I was looking for some rifles a captain had entrusted to me, because it would not be easy to take the military stations. But right away I received a call from Rojas Suárez, who said to me: ‘Ivan, I heard that Captain Ronald Blanco told you that what we talked about wouldn’t go ahead, so let me tell you that was more important than any other thing. Your mission is to kill Chávez’,” recalled Freites.Hugo Chávez called the operation “The Night of the Centaurs”, in memory of the warriors who went on horseback with the generals, Ezequiel Zamora and José Antonio Páez. The starting point was at Ft. Tiuna. Seven people attended the meeting: Captains Ronald Blanco La Cruz, Antonio Rojas Suárez, Joaquín Suárez Monte, Carlos Aguilera, Majors Carlos Díaz Reyes, Pedro Pérez López, and Sgt. Iván Freites.“We met at Ft. Tiuna on February 3, at 7 p.m., specifically in a street near the infantry school, I had the rifles with which we’d decided to take the tank battalion there. We assaulted the barracks, took the officers there prisoner, met with the troop, and explained to them what was going on. That helped us,” said Freites.Once Ft. Tiuna was taken, the next objective was to take Miraflores Palace and the three infantry battalions stationed there. Other units were to take the television channels to transmit a message recorded by Comandante Chávez, but which never came to light, because that attempt failed. At the same time, in other parts of the country, some objectives were reached and others not.“For us the most important thing was the taking of public power, which could only be done by taking prisoner the then president, Carlos Andrés Pérez. From a military point of view, we succeeded in the complete takeover of Miraflores Palace. As well, Lt. Porras Echesuría was in charge of directing operations against the presidential mansion, and I must emphasize that he did an excellent job, but the president wasn’t there,” says Iván Freites.Three factors stood in the way: Lack of communication, betrayal, and the indecision of some officials and sub-officials.“There was much indecision on the part of the middle-ranking officers. Military rebellions do
n’t take place everyday in Venezuela, and I think we did fairly well. Sadly, some comrades dedicated themselves to sabotage, and gave away the operation to the commanding general of the army. It’s very hard to bring a plan to fruition when the enemy knows everything that’s going to happen.”As well, there were constant failures in communication, owing to an order to remove the batteries from the radios with which the rebels were supposed to remain in contact with one another. “We were practically taken by surprise by the message of Chávez, telling us to hand over our weapons, an order we immediately followed, because the information that got to him was that all the military objectives had failed, so that he decided to avoid more bloodshed,” comments Freites.Iván Freites emphasizes that while some have criticized the attitude of Comandante Chávez that day when he ordered the troops to lay down their arms, and defends the act as one of bravery.“The decision of Comandante Chávez was not one of cowardice. Quite the contrary–it was an act of courage to order the men to lay down their weapons, believing that the objectives had eluded us, so he thought once more of the future, and that it would mean an unnecessary bloodbath [to continue the assault].”Freites says that to call Hugo Chávez a coward is nothing less than an act of “dirty warfare” on the part of those who have dedicated themselves to sabotaging the revolutionary process in Venezuela. “Calling Chávez a coward is dirty warfare, because his valor not only shone through on February 4, but has been tested many times over the years before all he has had to face in order to be where he is today, and with the acceptance he he has from the Venezuelan people,” Freites says.Freites also emphasizes the qualities of Chávez and the values which have placed him as the great leader of the Bolivarian revolution. “The Comandante has always been a good leader, very disciplined, honest, a tireless worker, very socially aware, always trying to do things well and be a good example. All those values made, and still make, many people believe in him, and the fact that on February 4, he assumed responsibility for the military operation, ended up giving him the leadership role which he still plays today,” Freites says.Iván Freites explains why the February 4 revolt was a military rebellion, not a coup: “A coup d’état is a military option for taking power without caring why it is being done, but February 4 was a military rebellion, because it had historical antecedents, among them the events of February 27, 1989, when the hopes of an oppressed people were in the Armed Forces, and those then turned out to massacre them.”For Freites, that military rebellion was so crucial that it divided his life in to a before and an after. “It was a very enriching experience, and gave me the opportunity to say to my children that I was one of those who took part in what started this revolutionary process from which they will all benefit, and future generations as well. Also, it marked the beginnings of a different course for Venezuela, which we can see statistically in the economic and social spheres, and above all, the consciousness of human beings.”“It’s very hard to hold an opinion about something you suspect. I believe, with the experience I have today, that what happened was for the best, because from the political viewpoint, if the taking of power by the military had been achieved and I had killed Chávez, the ambition to power would have been so great that had I not done it, some other person would have, maybe the same Rojas Suárez. Venezuela is much better today with Chávez at the forefront, but I don’t know what it would have been like without him,” says Freites.Among the men which Iván Freites named in this revelation, history granted them the opportunity, ten years later, during the coup of April 2002, to once more demonstrate their loyalty to Hugo Chávez. But once more, Antonio Rojas Suárez, then governor of the state of Bolívar, was one of those who spoke out against the president, and chose to recognize the coup government of Pedro Carmona Estanga. For his part, Ronald Blanco La Cruz, who was governor of Táchira, was the first to demonstrate his unconditional loyalty to the president, and to denounce to the world that a coup had taken place.