History is written by the victor, goes the old saying.
This explains why so much history consists of lies, distortions and half-truths. History makes heroes of scoundrels. This is certainly the case of President Hugo Chavez and his official version of who caused the political violence which rocked Venezuela from April 11-14, 2002.
Do a Google search and you will find millions of words written mainly by leftist sympathizers of the Bolivarian Revolution in support of President Chavez’s official history of those dark days.
Very briefly, however, Chavez claims the government of US President George W. Bush, through entities like the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy, conspired with rightwing Venezuelan elites and rogue military officers to topple Chavez from power on April 11, 2002.
The main leader of the alleged coup attempt, Chavez says, was Pedro Carmona Estanga, president of the national federation of business chambers (Fedecamaras) in April 2002 and a business lobbyist who spent much of his career working for the ultra-conservative Sosa Branger family.
Carmona and other civilian opposition leaders conspired with treasonous military officials to topple Chavez from power for less than 72 hours, but millions of poor Venezuelans led by loyal military officials launched a popular counterattack, halting the coup led by Carmona and a handful of generals. A daring Army airborne commando rescue mission freed Chavez from captivity on La Orchila Island, and restored him to power.
Throughout this harrowing experience, Chavez never faltered, confronting his captors with courage and faith that the “pueblo” would free him and save the Bolivarian revolution.
President Chavez has narrated this official “history” countless times during the past six years, always portraying himself as the underdog victim of right-wing coup plotters and an imperialist US administration determined to seize control of Venezuela’s oil and gas reserves.
In fact, the Chavez government has spent millions of dollars since 2003 to disseminate this history internationally, with effective results, through entities like the Venezuelan Information Office in Washington, DC which is funded by the government of Venezuela. VIO operatives have lobbied tirelessly since 2004 to convince US legislators, journalists and university students that the Bush administration was responsible for the alleged coup attempt against Chavez.
Venezuela’s government also financed the production in Cuba of “The Chavez Code,” a book authored by Eva Golinger, a dual US-Venezuelan national, which claims to prove with declassified official US documents that the Bush administration conspired to overthrow President Chavez. The documents Golinger includes in the book to buttress her charges of a US-backed conspiracy do not, in fact, support any of her claims whatsoever. But the accuracy of Golinger’s allegations has never been challenged
The Chavez government also backed the production of the documentary “The revolution will not be televised,” which was broadcast worldwide by BBC with the claim that is a truthful and accurate rendition of what happened in Venezuela on April 11-14, 2002. The documentary has won international awards, but it is riddled with factual inaccuracies, video clips unrelated in any way to the events of April 11, and unsupported charges that reflect President Chavez’s narrative.
In the hours immediately following his return to power on April 14, President Chavez said he would establish an impartial Truth Commission to investigate what happened on April 11, what caused the violence, and who should be held responsible. But that promise was forgotten immediately. Instead, President Chavez on April 15 ordered then-Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez to open criminal investigations against the alleged coup leaders and dozens of individuals viewed as enemies of the revolution. Dozens of people were arrested on charges of military rebellion and other crimes. Many have been held in jail for years without trials or convictions.
The Attorney General and the Public Defender produced official investigative reports within a few weeks of the violence absolving President Chavez and heaping the blame on his political opponents. The National Assembly held public hearings packed with the president’s most radical supporters in the assembly, and selected “witnesses” carefully to buttress the president’s claim that he was the victim of a failed coup attempt.
President Chavez’s version is accepted internationally as accurate and truthful. No one has challenged Chavez’s claim that he was the victim, but never the perpetrator, of the violence and bloodshed that toppled his presidency for two days in April 2002. However, Chavez’s official history is a great lie created to hide the fact that he was the chief intellectual author of the violence that killed 19 innocent people and wounded nearly 200 others in Caracas on April 11, 2002.
President Chavez’s deceitful tale of the events leading up to and surrounding the political violence of April 11-14, 2002 was manufactured with the aid of political propaganda experts in Havana. It was spread worldwide by the Cuban revolution’s international propaganda and support network, which includes “progressive” (i.e. Marxist and socialist) think tanks in Washington, DC; leftist publications and broadcasters in the US and UK including the BBC; and Marxist British and French journalists like Richard Gott and Ignacio Ramonet who have spent their careers searching for revolutions to support in Latin America.
Like all effective lies, President Chavez’s official history mixes truthful facts and disinformation. For example, it is true that some of his enemies in the military, opposition political parties, and traditional business and labor establishments did conspire to oust Chavez from the presidency.
It is true that some of the persons conspiring against Chavez sought during 2001-2002 to manipulate Venezuela’s emerging civil society movement in an effort to push the country’s first-ever democratic people power’s movement towards a scenario where violent public confrontations with the president would become inevitable.
It is also true that his fiercest opponents included the political parties, labor unions and business elites which lost their 50-year-old power over Venezuela’s political and economic institutions when Chavez was elected president in December 1998.
And it is true that Pedro Carmona was the public face of a conspiracy to establish an ultra-right wing, unelected government whose secretive architects were determined to erase all vestiges of Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution immediately.
However, the persons conspiring to oust Chavez from the presidency did not plan or execute the violent clashes which left 19 people dead near the presidential palace in Caracas on April 11.
That violence was planned and executed by the president, with the participation of very senior members of his government and military command.
To be continued….