Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Anniversary of the military coup

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


AN said...

There was a recent anti-Chavez piece in Channel 4 News - here is John Pilger's response

Response by John Pilger to the Channel 4 News 27 March 2006 report on Venezuela

On March 27, Channel 4 News broadcast a relatively long piece on Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. On Channel 4's website you get a flavour: "He is in danger of joining a rogue's gallery of dictators and despots -- Washington's latest Latin nightmare."

This was a piece seemingly written by the US State Department, although Channel 4's Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, appeared on screen. It was one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen, qualifying as crude propaganda. I have been in Venezuela lately and almost nothing in Rugman's rant coincides with reality. Factories are like "Soviet collectives"; a dictatorship is on the rise; Chavez is like Hitler (Rumsfeld); and the media is under government attack.

The inversion of the truth throughout this travesty is demonstrated in the "coverage" of a cowed media. Venezuela is a country in which 95 per cent of the press and TV and radio are owned by the far-right who mounts unrelenting daily attacks on the government unhindered. The Latin American Murdoch, Cisneros, unfettered, controls much of it. Indeed, it is probably the most concentrated, reactionary media on earth -- but that was not worthy of a single word from Rugman.

The dishonesty of interviewing Maria Corina Machado and calling her a "human rights activist" was breathtaking. She is a leader of Sumate ('Join up'), an extreme right organisation that was deeply involved in the 2002 coup. She met Bush in the White House shortly before the coup. There was no mention of this.

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, is dismissed as a "Chavez protégé", a puppet -- a ludicrous description of a man who has been in politics longer than Chavez and has just won a landslide election. No mention of this. Chavez himself is portrayed by Rugman as a comical dictator, with his folksy Latin way (one reason ordinary people love him) taken out of any context. In fact, this highly intelligent, accessible man has overseen victory in nine democratic elections in less than eight years -- a world record.

In crude Soviet-flick style, he is shown with the likes of Saddam Hussein and Gaddafy when these brief encounters only had to do with OPEC and oil. (He met Saddam literally in a day-long stopover). Chavez is said to have "torn up contracts" with foreign oil companies. The contracts were barely legal, based on loopholes which Chavez's predecessor Rafael Caldera exploited to give away much of Venezuela's oil, in effect; billions of dollars went into the pockets of Venezuela's wealthy minority. No mention of this. Utter bullshit about Venezuela helping Iran develop a nuclear capability is sourced to "press reports" (discredited in the United States) peddled by axe-grinding outsiders, in league with Washington, along with other half-baked hearsay. There was little, apart from tokens, about the way the Chavez government has changed millions of people's lives for the better.

Rugman whined that he was "held for 30 hours" by police in Caracas. Oh, how dramatic for him. This is a country threatened day and night by the United States; there was nothing from our Channel 4 hero about "Operation Bilbao", to which serious US analysts like William Arkin have given credibility and which is about overthrowing the elected government of Venezuela. In his brief captivity, Rugman would have learned that this is a country, although under constant military threat, and threats from within, has not a single political prisoner. While Chavez was offered up as a clown, Condoleezza Rice was given true gravitas.

I could go on, but that's enough. This was a disgrace from beginning to end. Worse, it joined the kind of hysteria in the US that is following the Bush administration's agenda of "positioning" Venezuela as a "rogue state" and a threat to US interests: in other words, softening it up for attack. If and when it comes, the Rugmans will share some of the responsibility.

John Pilger

Jim Jay said...

There's also this Open letter to Channel Four on Venezuela coverage Nina Lopez