Under the banner, “Never again will the people be betrayed,” some three hundred thousand people rallied outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on Sunday in a massive show of support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The rally was held to celebrate the anniversary of the popular uprising that defeated a US-backed opposition coup from April 11-13 in 2002, and restored the democratically elected Chavez to power.
On April 11, 2002, the shooting of nineteen people by opposition snipers and renegade police officers was used as a pretext to spark a military revolt by rightwing generals who kidnapped Chavez and tried to force him to resign. Pedro Carmona, head of the Chamber of Commerce (FEDECAMARAS) declared himself interim President issued a decree dissolving Venezuela’s democratic institutions including the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the National Assembly and fired the Ombudsman and the Attorney General.
Hundreds of Chavez supporters were rounded up during the coup and imprisoned and state and community media outlets were shut down, while opposition aligned private media imposed a blackout on events. The United States was one of few countries to grant diplomatic recognition to the illegal government, claiming “a democratic transition” had taken place.
However, the coup collapsed after only 47 hours when masses of poor Venezuelans came out onto the streets in protest and loyal sections of the armed forces retook the presidential palace and the Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas.
In a speech at the rally Chavez denounced the coup government as “tyrannical, murderous, bourgeois, despotic, and subordinated to the White House,” and called on all Venezuelans to reflect on the importance of the popular victory of April 13, 2002.
“We still have not calibrated in all its magnitude, the significance of what happened on this day six years ago, and above all, the consequences, the impact,” he said.
“The great Venezuelan victory of April 2002 contributed in a powerful manner to changing the course of history,” he argued pointing to the continental revolt against neo-liberalism and US domination across Latin America spearheaded by the Bolivarian revolution, as the radical process of social and political change in occurring in Venezuela is known.
This revolt is reflected in the election of left governments, in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay he said.
The election of presidents Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Álvaro Colón in Guatemala showed that the “the geopolitical map of Central America is also beginning to change,” Chavez argued.
In reference to the defeat of his proposed constitutional reforms in December last year aimed at “opening the path to socialism,” Chavez reaffirmed the socialist direction of the revolution.
“The December 2 defeat was a party for the Latin American oligarchy, a party for North American imperialism and was a minute of silence for the peoples of our America,” he said. “What happened in December must never occur again.”
“We are playing with the future of Venezuela and Latin America, we don’t have the right to fail.”
“It is a giant challenge. It is important that we strengthen our consciousness. It is necessary that we re-empower our consciousness, our will, the quality of our government, that every day we struggle without rest for those victories, that every day, every minute we are constructing the path towards victory, because this is the only path,” he said.
Chavez also pointed to the recent nationalization of the Argentine-controlled SIDOR steel plant after a long workers’ struggle as an advance and called on workers to assume a protagonistic role in the revolution. “The role of the working class is fundamental to a socialist revolution,” he stressed.
However the “battle of April 11 still has not ended” Chavez said, “the opposition sectors and oligarchs of Venezuela” who carried out the coup “are dying to return, but we are here every day to say to them that they will never come back.”
A key challenge for the revolution in 2008 is to win the regional elections for governors and mayors and strengthen popular organization through communal councils he said.
“In order to do this we must increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the government, the unity of the people, defeat divisionism and infantilism, personalism [sic] and egoism that penetrates and threatens our process.”
Affirming his commitment to struggle against US imperialism, the popular president, who, according to the results of a survey by the Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis published on April 4 has an approval rating of 65%, said he would “never betray” the people of Venezuela.
“Every breath I have left, every minute and every second, will be dedicated to the battle in defense of the Bolivarian socialist revolution,” he declared.
The rally was the culmination of a series of events over the “Week of the Brave People” including a special congressional session at the Llaguno Bridge – the epicenter of the April 11 shootings by opposition snipers and police – to commemorate the victims of the coup, and a ceremony on April 12 in honor of the loyal sections of the military who defended the democratically elected government.
In addition, numerous solidarity events, including rallies, film screenings, and forums were organized by Venezuelan diplomatic missions and solidarity groups in more than 100 countries around the world, including cities across the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, Spain, Germany, Norway, China, the Philippines, Belorussia, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Chile, Poland and many others.
A rival demonstration called by opposition sectors on April 11 and billed on Internet networking site Facebook as a “global march against Chavez,” attracted about 50 opposition sympathizers across town in the wealthy eastern suburbs of Caracas, as well as smaller rallies in some US cities, Vancouver and Buenos Aires. The opposition demonstration that had been planned at the Venezuelan consulate in New York was canceled, though.
For more images of the demonstration in support of the Bolivarian Revolution, see: http://www.radiomundial.com.ve/yvke/noticia.php?4955