From the March 2005 Idaho Observer:
The Revolution will not be [truthfully] Televised
The IO was pleased to have the company of subscriber Patrick Martin, a young Irishman from Dublin, for almost a week. With great enthusiasm Martin described what is happening in Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez. Amazed that I had missed this important story, I spent several hours researching and reading everything I could find on Hugo Chavez and his rise to power. Martin also provided me with a CD containing "The Revolution will not be Televised"—the documentary from an Irish film crew that happened to be there during a coup attempt in April, 2002. What I carry with me now is the feeling that Hugo Chavez is to 21st century Venezuela what George Washington was to 18th century America. In an era where the world’s leaders are a cabal of elitists who’ve lost sight of the hopes and dreams of their common people, the developing story in Venezuela is truly an inspiration.
By Don Harkins
Since being elected president of Venezuela in 1999, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, 50, a former paratroop colonel, has earned the support of Venezuela’s impoverished masses who comprise about 80 percent of the country’s population of 25 million.
Though considered a socialist, Chavez is not a communist and is best described as a populist. Under Chavez, conditions which traditionally plague the underclasses—poverty, pestilence, disease, malnutrition, illiteracy and vice—appear to be improving due to implementing social programs financed by Venezuelan oil revenues.
Venezuela is the world’s fifth largest oil producer and (currently) supplies the U.S. with an average 1.2 million barrels of oil a day.
Shortly after being elected, the Chavez government ratified a constitution and, for the first time ever, Venezuelans gained a voice in government. As we will discuss later in this article, Venezuelans made their voices heard in August, 2004, when they exercised their constitutional right to referendum.
While the impoverished 80 percent support Chavez and have demonstrated their intent to protect their beloved leader with their lives, if necessary, his policies have not been well received by the 20 percent middle and upper classes of Venezuelan society. Chavez has also been branded a ruthless dictator and close friend of Cuba’s Fidel Castro by the U.S. government and its mainstream media mouthpieces.
This corporately-influenced disfavor with Chavez culminated in a failed coup in April, 2002 and a failed referendum in August, 2004.
Rise to power
In 1975, Chavez graduated from the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences with an M.S. in military sciences and engineering. He did further graduate work in political science at the Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, but left without a degree.
On February 4, 1992, a group led by Chavez parachuted into the presidential palace in Caracas and attempted unsuccessfully to remove then President Carlos Andrés Pérez from office. Pérez’ unpopular support of globalization led to protests in 1989 which were brutally suppressed, leaving hundreds of peaceful protestors dead.
Chavez was captured and sent to prison after what turned out to be a rather bloody coup attempt. Chavez became a hero to his people while imprisoned and was pardoned after serving two years by then President Rafael Caldera.
Immediately upon his release he began organizing a new political party called the Movement for the Fifth Republic. Chavez then announced his intention to lead the Bolivarian revolution.
Simon Bolivar, Chavez’ hero, led the defeat of Spanish rule in South America in the 1820s.
Chavez won the presidential election on December 6, 1998 by the largest percentage of voters (56.2 percent) in four decades, running on an anti-corruption and anti-poverty platform, and condemning the two major parties that had dominated Venezuelan politics since 1958.
Chavez began to implement several social and economic changes in Venezuela. Traditionally, lighter skinned groups have held economic and political sway over this oil-rich nation. This dynamic is clearly evident in "The Revolution will not be Televised"—the angry mob marching toward the palace in April, 2002, was almost entirely comprised of white faces; the defiant mob that encircled the palace to protect Chavez was almost entirely comprised of black and brown faces.
Shortly after taking office on February 2, 1999, Chávez embarked on a series of sweeping changes to the Venezuelan government. He organized a series of referenda. The first authorized rewriting of the Venezuelan constitution. A second selected delegates to a new Constitutional Assembly, distinct from his country’s legislature, to do the re-writing. Chávez’s initial widespread popularity allowed supporters to win 120 of the 131 assembly seats.
In August 1999, the assembly set up a "judicial emergency committee" with the power to remove judges without consulting other branches of government. In the same month, the assembly declared a "legislative emergency." A seven-member committee was created to perform congressional functions, including law-making. The Constitutional Assembly prohibited the Congress from holding meetings of any sort.
In a national radio address quoted in The New York Times, Chávez warned Venezuelans not to obey opposition officials, stating that "we can intervene in any police force in any municipality, because we are not going to permit any tumult or uproar. Order has arrived in Venezuela."
The new constitution renamed the country the "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela", after South American independence hero Simón Bolívar. It increased the presidential term of office to six years, while providing for a new procedure to recall a president and providing term limits to the president of two terms. It was approved in a nationwide referendum held in December 1999. Elections for the new, unicameral legislature were held in July 2000. During the same election, Chávez stood for re-election. Chávez supporters won roughly 60% of the seats in the new unicameral assembly and Chavez himself was reelected.
In November 2000, he backed a bill through the legislature allowing him to rule by decree for one year.
In December 2000 there was another set of elections. During elections for local officials, Chávez added a referendum on dissolving Venezuela’s labor unions. Though it is unclear what authority was invoked, he attempted to consolidate all Venezuelan labor unions into a single, state-controlled Bolivarian Labor Force.
In November 2001, Chávez passed a set of 49 laws by decrees, shortly before the enabling law expired. Fedecámaras vehemently opposed the 49 laws and called for a general business strike on December 10, 2001.
In researching Chavez and his presidency, one can see a clear pattern: Reporting entities that support globalization and corporate exploitation of people and resources through the exercise of police power denounce the Venezuelan president and his policies; reporting entities that champion civil rights and national sovereignty favor the Chavez presidency.
By 2002, the Venezuelan upper classes that had for decades enjoyed wealth and prosperity as a direct benefit from the government, were extremely unhappy with Chavez. Their disfavor with the democratically elected president found a sympathetic ear in Washington, D.C. Though the U.S. flatly denies any actual involvement in the events of April, 2002, various Bush administration officials, including vice-President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and White House Press Secretary Richard Boucher supported the illegal attempt to force a "regime change" in Venezuela.
This is where the 74-minute documentary "The Revolution will not be Televised" provides an excellent window into the forces aligned against Chavez, why they want him out and why good people all over the world should support his desire to improve conditions for his people and protect the sovereignty of his nation.
On April 9, 2002, nearly 100,000 anti-Chavez demonstrators began marching toward the presidential palace to demand their president’s resignation. News of the march spread quickly and soon at least 200,000 Chavez supporters surrounded the palace to protect their leader.
As the two factions were beginning to clash near the palace, shots began ringing out and mostly Chavez supporters began falling down dead from gunshot wounds to the head. Snipers had opened fire from the rooftops.
Since about one in four Venezuelans are armed, they began shooting back at the unidentified attackers.
The media chose to broadcast a few images to make it appear that pro-Chavez radicals were the ones murdering demonstrators, which was untrue. Rooftop snipers, who were never determined to be associated with Chavez or his supporters, killed at least 17 people and hundreds were injuried.
By this time the state media was taken down and corporate TV stations, which had already demonstrated a pattern of bias against Chavez, began broadcasting the news that the Venezuelan government had lost faith in Chavez and that Fedecámaras (an influential business association) President Pedro Carmona would be the new president when Chavez resigned. The media did, in fact, report to the world that Chavez had resigned.
Under this assumption, the military weighed in to administrate the smooth transition of power and called for Chavez to give himself up. Failure to do so within a specified time frame would cause the military to bomb the presidential palace and remove Chavez by force. After several hours, Chavez turned himself in to avoid further bloodshed, confident that his people were behind him and that the issue would be resolved per the laws of his nation. Chavez was taken away and held incommunicado for two days.
Though Chavez did not resign, Lucas Rincon Romero announced to the world on April 10 that Chavez had resigned, and stated that the Chavez government was being dismantled. Carmona had assumed dictatorial executive powers and martial authority was being established.
Though the Carmona regime had managed to assume total control of the media, Chavez was correct when he had hoped his people would not believe he resigned; news travelled quickly that a coup was in progress.
Throngs of angry Chavez supporters gathered at the palace. Carmona ordered the police to use brutal riot suppression tactics to repress popular anger over the coup—which only intensified the ferver with which the people demanded the return of their president.
While the corporate news was still telling the world Chavez had resigned and that the Carmona government was making a reasonably smooth transition to power, word was spreading rapidly via word of mouth, cell phones and send buttons that Chavez had been kidnapped and the Carmona faction had just unconstitutionally removed the president from office.
The news reached palace guards who executed a counter coup. Though Carmona managed to escape, Rincon and a few others were detained in a locked room. Chavez government officials that had been held hostage were released and the vice-president came out of hiding to be sworn in as acting president until Chavez’ return could be arranged.
One of the first and only decisions the interim Chavez government made was to demand the return of Chavez. The military brass, realizing that Chavez had not resigned and the Carmona regime had lied and had attempted an illegal coup, offered to return Chavez to the palace.
Upon Chavez’ triumphant return, he stated, "Firstly, I want to call for calm on today...I’ve been incommunicado for the last few hours. I had no information and I was very worried. The most important thing I want to say to you is go back to your homes. We need calm. Those of you who oppose me, fine, oppose me. I wish I could change your minds, but you cannot oppose this Consitution. It is the people’s book. It’s like the Popol Vhu, the book of the Mayas, the book of the community. You have to recognize this. But most importantly, don’t be poisoned...don’t let them poison you with their lies."
Though we cannot say for sure what is in Chavez’ heart, it appears that he has the best interests of his people in mind and is not afraid to stand up to the U.S.
Because he was fairly elected
Because his people support him
Because he believes in national sovereignty
Because he believes in human dignity
Because he will not pander to powerful corporate interests
Because he is purchasing weapons and arming his people against invasion
Because he wants to raise the price of oil...
...the U.S. government has labeled Chavez a ruthless dictator and is beginning the media campaign to justify invading his country.
In support of Chavez
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans came out in support of President Hugo Chavez June 6, 2004. The rally was held after the announcement that a referendum vote to recall Chavez would be held August 19, 2004. The recall was not successful—52 percent of an estimated 8.5 million of Venezuelans voted to retain Chavez as their president. The referendum was the result of a two-year campaign among the Venezuelan upper classes to remove Chavez per the nation’s Constitution after an illegal coup attempt failed in April, 2002.
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