What ‘bloodbath’? A total of *fourteen soldiers* were killed (50 were injured, and 80 civilians were wounded) in Chavez’s 1992 failed coup attempt against the corrupt and unpopular government of Carlos Andres Perez–the same government responsible for [the massacre known as the "Caracazo" (a true 'bloodbath'), in February 1989](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caracazo), when *between 300 and 3,000 CIVILIANS* were killed at the hands of Venezuela’s own military forces, which President CAP had ordered to suppress the massive civilian uprising that had ignited across the country in reaction to his extremely unpopular policies, after he had already suspended the constitution and declared martial law!
Moreover, Chavez agreed to concede defeat on live television in order *to prevent further bloodshed*; since he was unable to achieve his objective, which had been to take President CAP captive, he acknowledged and took responsibility for the coup’s failure, *and called on all remaining rebel detachments (who had achieved their objectives, and seized power in other cities) to cease hostilities and surrender to the government*.
For those who don’t speak Spanish:
>”Comrades: unfortunately, for the moment, the objectives that we had set for ourselves have not been achieved in the capital. That’s to say that those of us here in Caracas have not been able to seize power. Where you are, you have performed well, but now is the time for a rethink; new possibilities will arise again, and the country will be able to move definitively towards a better future.”
It was this television appearance (which Cuervoso has posted) that made Chavez into a national hero, “with many poor Venezuelans seeing him as a figure who had stood up against government corruption and kleptocracy.” Although Chávez was sent to prison, his massive popularity led to his pardon and release. Meanwhile, President CAP was impeached a year later, convicted of embezzlement and misuse of public funds, and sent to prison.
My response to you is too long, so I’m posting it in two comments.
Oh no–it’s Ven28, my old friend and arch-nemesis! I have to say, though, this is really one of the most disappointing comments that I’ve ever read from you. In the past, you have been able to make fairly reasonable arguments in defense of your political positions; I regret to say that that’s not the case here.
[the 350th article of the 1999 Constitution] says something like the people, faithful to its democratic tradition, will not acknowledge any power that violates the democratic process, violates human rights, etc..
I’ve looked up article 350 (which is just one sentence long) and see it does indeed state that “the people of Venezuela”–true to their republic tradition and their struggle for independence, peace, and freedom–shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees, or encroaches upon human rights. Find it here: español or english.
I personally hate the article, although I’m not even close to being a lawyer, I think that it’s just empty rhetoric bullshit. The terms used by it are so subjective that there’s no way for it to be applicable for anything…
I share your view that “there’s no way for [the article] to be applicable for anything”; but, precisely for this reason, I find it difficult to accept your argument that the article somehow offers justification for the 2002 coup attempt. It seems to me that even if we were to assume that the article could be applicable in some situations, the 2002 coup attempt would almost certainly not one of them.
First, the article recognizes the “people of Venezuela” as the entity possessing the right to disown any ‘anti-democratic’ power, etc.; it does not concede this right to business executives, media tycoons, the military, CTV, Fedecámaras, or those oligarchs who’ve traditionally ruled the country. Moreover, the “right-wing conspirators” who led the 2002 coup attempt were not in any way representative of the “Venezuelan people”–especially when Venezuela’s elections are a far better representation of the people’s will, and when President Chavez has demonstrated that he has the people’s support in election after election (both before and after the coup attempt).
Second, if article 350 affirms the right of the people not to “acknowledge any power that violates the democratic process, violates human rights, etc.” then perhaps you would care to explain why the 2002 coup attempt was not itself in violation of the democratic process, but the democratically elected government of President Chavez supposedly was. (If this is not your position, would you clarify what your position is, how it differs from this?)
Believe me when I tell you that I would be very sympathetic to this type of argument (if it had any merit). One of my favorite academic articles, for example, found that many Venezuelans saw no inconsistency between their (A) commitment to democracy and (b) support for military coups in certain situations; Venezuelans who supported democracy opposed the 1973 Chilean coup that ousted Allende, but supported the failed 1992 coup led by Chavez.
I had a section here that I’ve removed because it was too long and not exactly on the point, but I’ll say this, there are significant differences between 1992 coup attempt (led by Chavez) and the 2002 coup attempt (against him). I would maintain that whereas in 1992 there was good reason to believe that the political system itself (and the constitution–the “legal-political embodiment of puntofijoismo”) was too corrupt to be reformed by electoral means–that is, by anything less than armed struggle or a military coup, there was less reason to believe this in 2002.
Allow me to pre-empt a counter-argument by suggesting that it was not until Chavez’s failed coup, in 1992, and the enormous popularity that he gained even in defeat, that an electoral path to victory became possible; to demonstrate a nuanced grasp of Venezuelan politics, I’ll note that Rafael Caldera preceded Chavez in realizing this possibility, when in 1993, Caldera was the first to win a presidential election without the support of either of the two parties (after campaigning on the promise to pardon Lt. Col. Chavez and other military figures involved in the 1999 coup attempts). But actually, regardless of whether or not Chavez’s government would have had any claim to democratic legitimacy, had he taken power in 1992 by means of a coup, Chavez’s actual government was formed as a result of winning democratic elections–1998, and again in 2000, under the new 1999 constitution.
Another pre-emption of a possible counter-argument: It’s true that CAP’s government was also democratically elected, but, by 1992 (after the Caracazo, etc.), CAP had already clearly lost the support of the Venezuelan people (he was impeached in 1993, and sentenced to prison in 1996)–which is why Chavez was seen by many as a national hero and later pardoned by President Caldera in 1994. By contrast, in 2002, Chavez may have been unpopular among Venezuela’s elites, but he retained popular support, as demonstrated by (among other things) Chavez’s victory in the 2004 national presidential recall referendum. You see, under the new Constitution, the democratic process in Venezuela was fully functional; only the opposition parties had refused to make use of it; in 2005, the opposition chose to boycott elections rather than face near certain defeat.
I just realized it may not be clear to some readers: the failed coup AGAINST Chavez that was documented in “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” occurred in 2002, whereas the “coup attempt that launched his political career” (referenced in the headline of this article) occurred 20 years ago; by contrast, this 1992 coup attempt was actually LED BY by Chavez …against the government of then-president Carlos Andres Perez.
Although the 1992 coup failed, Chavez won the support of the Venezuelan people, who saw him as a national hero standing against a corrupt order ruled which was nominally ‘democratic’ but ruled by powerful elites. After being released from prison, Chavez harnessed his newfound popularity to organize a political movement to reform the country, and soon rose to power by winning the 1998 presidential election in a landslide victory.
I just wanted to clear up any confusion in case there was any…