Today is the fourth anniversary of the military coup in venezuela. Still a murky event, but unlike many right wing coups it turned out to be a cause of great celebration for the left. By the eleventh of april 2002 plans had already been made for the forcible overthrow of chavez amongst top echelons of the military, reactionary political groups (many of which were funded by the US congress funded National Endowment for 'Democracy') and the media.
The plan was to use a mass opposition demonstration as legitimate cover for a seizure of power. When the opposition demonstration happened the organisers directed the marchers to march on the presidential palace where chavez suppoters were concentrated. At this point fighting broke out. Snipers (possibly the metropolitan police) started firing into the Chavez crowd and Chavistas fired back in the direction of the snipers. The end rsult was that a nunber of Chavistas and oppositionists were injured and killed. Significantly. as you will know if you have watched 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' the images were manipulated by the (naturally) opposition controlled media to present an image of Chavistas firing into unarmed demonstrators.
It was in this context that the military went to work arresting Chavez and installing Pedro Carmona as president. It is interesting that the class character of the coup was made so explicit: pedro carmona was not a soldier or a politician - he was the head of the business confederation. HIs government which dissolved the constitution and the national assembl, which violently hunted down chavistas the next day was described by a US state department spokesman as a 'civilian transitional government'.
As we know the story has something of a happy ending. tens of thousands thousands of venezuelans - many of them shanty town dwellers - combined with lower ranking soldiers to defeat the coup on april the thirteenth. Yet relatively few of those involved including carmona have been brought to justice. People who attack Chavez for recently 'packing' the supreme court forget that in 2002 the supreme court blocked prosecutions for the coupsters on the basis that 'no coup had happened'. The situation in Venezuela today is both similar and different to that which gave rise to the coup. Certainly chavez is far more popular. Yet in terms of actual power many of the commanding heights of society and the economy remain in the hands of people who have tried to destroy the bolivarian revolution, people whose interests run counter to any redistribution of wealth. Meanwhile US rhetoric has become more explicitally agressive. Now is still a crucial time for the left to take an interestin, and more importantly take a position on, Venezuela