…and La Piedrita will be dismantled violently.
These imminent developments can be inferred from a press conference held on 4 March by Hipólito Abreu, national spokesman for the Tupamaro Movement.
Abreu said that:
*Santana has not left Venezuela, and the government must locate and arrest La Piedrita’s “criminal” leader.
*Santana was “infiltrated” and “recruited” (“captado”) by the CIA, as President Hugo Chavez declared on national television. In April 2008 the Tupamaro Movement publicly accused Santana of being a CIA operative.
*Tupamaro “intelligence networks” have detected a conspiracy to assassinate the group’s national leader, José Tomás Pinto, who already survived an assassination attempt in Vargas in 2007.
*Abreu says Santana was responsible for the failed assassination attempt against Pinto, and two other Tupamaro leaders, Jesús Bermúdez y Oswaldo Rivero.
*Recent public allegations that the Pinto and Tupamaro Movement are drug traffickers are lies fabricated by a right-wing media conspiracy which has links to Colombian paramilitaries.
*The goal of these “unfounded” charges against the Tupamaro Movement is to destabilize the Chavez government.
*In “coming days” the Tupamaro Movement expects “to deliver a strong blow against one of the sectors which has attacked the most, (which has been) creating and organizing crimes, kidnappings, armed holdups and robberies to escalate the violence… that is orchestrated by sectors which are very well organized.”
Let’s see how President Chavez responds to the Tupamaro spokesman’s press conference.
Chavez went ballistic on television against La Piedrita when Santana told the pro-Chavez Quinto Dia weekly that the armed group was responsible for the spate of tear gas grenade attacks in January against the Papal Nuncio, Globovision, Copei, el Nuevo Pais, the Ateneo de Caracas, the homes of Marcel Granier and Marta Colomina, etc.
In the taped Quinto Dia interview, which Santana/La Piedrita later claimed had been fabricated by right-wing interests to discredit both La Piedrita and President Chavez, Santana also threatened that La Piedrita plans to execute Granier.
And he declared that La Piedrita’s members are true revolutionaries ready to sacrifice their lives to defend President Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution.
But Chavez responded to Santana’s explicit gladiatorial pledge to die for his Caesar by ordering Santana’s immediate arrest, and declaring there is “no place” in the revolution for armed civilian irregulars who think they can attack institutions and execute people at will.
Abreu publicly threatened that the Tupamaro Movement will launch violent attacks very soon against its enemies – alleged enemies which Abreu essentially linked to the Bolivarian revolution when he charged that Santana is a CIA operative.
Will Chavez now also condemn the Tupamaros and order the arrest of Pinto, Abreu, and other leaders/members of the urban guerrilla/crime group? Does it matter what Chavez says with respect to the Tupamaros?
After all, a month after Chavez ordered Santana’s arrest, La Piedrita’s leader remains on the loose somewhere in Venezuela. CICPC lamely says that “over 60” detectives looking for Santana have been unable to find him.
But the truth is that the CICPC hasn’t even tried to set foot inside 23 de Enero in its “hunt” for Santana, because the cops would come under immediate heavy automatic fire from the many criminal/revolutionary armed groups based there.
23 de Enero is the heart – the untamed, lawless badlands – of the urban guerrilla/crime underground in the greater Caracas Metropolitan Area.
The only cops who venture into 23 de Enero are, to a man, associated with the Tupamaro Movement or other armed groups.
Pinto was commander of the Metropolitan Police for a time after the political violence of April 2002, and on his watch hundreds of “revolutionaries” (aka criminals) joined the PM.
Former Libertador District Mayor Freddy Bernal, an ex-PM official who participated actively in the failed November 1994 coup attempt against Carlos Andres Perez, also “facilitated” the recruitment of Tupamaros and other thugs to work as cops for PoliCaracas.
Several things can be inferred from Abreu’s remarks:
1)The Tupamaros are at war with La Piedrita, in which no quarter will be granted or sought, and Santana is a dead man if Tupamaro gunmen locate him.
2)The Tupamaros-La Piedrita war also could extend to Lina Ron’s gang of motorizados, who reportedly total several hundred members. In the past month, Ron has been an ardent defender of Santana and La Piedrita. And this week Ron warned “…now comes a clash within chavismo.”
3)The Tupamaros will respond with violence against anyone who accuses them of being involved in drug trafficking. Abreu’s warning was explicit. If news media which recently have reported alleged Tupamaro involvement in drug trafficking do not cease and desist immediately, their lives could be forfeit.
4)The Tupamaros apparently expect to launch an armed offensive within days against a target or targets which Abreu did not identify. La Piedrita? Persons or institutions identified with the political opposition?
Some observers have speculated that the Santana-La Piedrita drama immediately before the 15 February referendum was a political ploy to boost Chavez’s image. How so? Santana threatens mayhem, and Chavez condemns Santana and orders his arrest, thus reinforcing his image among the poor that he cares about their welfare and security, though of course he doesn’t.
But now the Tupamaro Movement is also publicly threatening to kill Santana and other “enemies” of the “revolution” (aka Tupamaro interests).
If Abreu was not bluffing, the unfortunate residents of some part(s) of Caracas may soon find themselves trapped in gunfights between rival urban guerrilla groups armed with military weapons.
Is this another regime ploy? If so, what’s the strategic/political intent? Did Abreu hold a press conference with the regime’s unofficial blessing, or did Pinto decide unilaterally to publicly threaten all foes/critics of the Tupamaro Movement?
Caracas Gringo doesn’t buy the argument that the Chavez-Santana/La Piedrita incident was some pre-referendum ploy to boost the president’s image with the poor.
It’s more likely that some groups which the Chavez regime has encouraged, financed and armed – like the Tupamaro Movement, La Piedrita and Lina Ron’s bikers – believe they have acquired sufficient critical mass and political support that they can safely abandon the quasi-clandestine status they have cultivated for years (e.g. everyone knows of their existence, but it isn’t something on hears of daily because these groups usually don’t threaten each other with death and mayhem in public news interviews).
If we are correct, this has potentially dangerous implications for the general populace and also the Chavez regime. Innocent civilians would be caught in the crossfire in gunfights between these groups.
And the president’s nationally televised assurances that the state will do what it takes to reduce violent crime levels will be challenged.
If groups like the Tupamaros are perceived as being more powerful than the police, and immune to arrest and imprisonment, it could be interpreted popularly as evidence that President Chavez is weakening and losing control of the most violent groups on the fringes of his revolution just as the economy is plunging into the worst crisis it has suffered in decades.