Many books have now been published over the day when Chavez fell briefly 8 years ago. And yet, we are still far from knowing all what we should know by now, such as the names of those who ordered the shootings. To witness, we even had a mock trial that condemned a few people to 30 years sentence for the "crimes" of April 2002 and yet only the hardened chavista accept the result of that trial. Not that those condemned were innocent or guilty, but the way the trial was led it was absolutely clear that the government had decided to create a guilty party, regardless of the truth.
So, what can we say today about April 11? What follows is simply my opinion on some of these events, as good as Chavez's one for that matter. Let's remember that the government never called for a truth commission, and even blocked any attempt at naming such a commission. That the opposition never really made it a major point of its political platform simply states that both parties have plenty to hide and that the truth commission was essential to clear up the air. Today such commission could achieve little and if ever convoked it will at best assign political responsibilities. No new evidence can really be hoped to appear outside of some surprise witness.
Let's be Occam Razorish in listing what can be said today.
Indeed we know for sure that people were plotting against Chavez and that Chavez was seeking a provocation that would allow him to purge PDVSA and the army to be able to start his consolidation in permanent power. Chavez himself admitted of such provocation schemes and we know that the US knew of the anti Chavez plotting. And yet, we cannot accuse the US of fostering the coup which, it seems, was too green for the US to take yet seriously. After all, if the US were to take seriously any plotting against any Latin government, well, it would need to create a whole sub-Secretariat just for that.
It seems that events went faster than either side expected, and the messy responses from both sides on the week of April 11 are the best proof of that, beyond any conspiracy theory that we want to establish for each side. So yes, it is true that a group of people were ready to overthrow Chavez in any way they could but it is also true that chavismo was busy already undermining the democratic nature of the Venezuelan system to ensure a permanent rule. The 2002-2003 strike is a proof of the former and the multiple violations of the 1998 constitution by Chavez, rendering this one hardly worth of toilet paper status, is the proof of the second, even if these proofs came after April 2002.
So much has been written that there is no point in retracing that day. Let's limit ourselves to some salient facts.
The march that was sent to Miraflores presidential palace was indeed a pressure move to try to bring down the government.
Chavez replied to that march by ordering the application of the Plan Avila which meant he was ready to shoot civilians.
The Army refused to follow him in the prospective blood bath.
Henceforth a conflict of power followed that could be settled only through the resignation of the president or the firing of the Army Chiefs of staff.
Whatever happened behind closed doors, the army commander, Lucas Rincon, announced on TV that Chavez had resigned and thus he set in place a race to replace Chavez.
Since the events went much faster than what anyone was ready for, internal divisions allowed for a power vacuum into which an ambitious politically ill prepared adventurer sneaked in and attempted to make a brief coup which did not last even 48 hours.
The coup failed and the army that deposed/asked-for-resignation of Chavez decided that it was better to place Chavez back in office.
All the rest, from the Llaguno bridge shooters to the alleged masses that brought Chavez to power are details used to trouble what really happened. Chavez could be removed from office ONLY because the army decided it so and he could be returned to office ONLY because the army said so. Neither the chavista hoi polloi nor the opposition conspiracy had really much influence in the whole thing, when you look objectively at how these sorts of event take place in Latin America. The recent Honduras coup/dismissal is another classic example of our Latin American military "option".
What interests us more today are the consequences of that failed coup of 2002.
The coup, or whatever one chooses to call the mess of April, has served as a cover for all of chavismo abuses since. Even today, the standard reply of chavismo is "but in 2002...", as if 8 years had not gone by. Amazingly chavismo has operated a self brain washing which allows them with the utmost aplomb to compare the 48 hours of Carmona who never had even time to publish a single decree in the official journal as a worse abuse than the accumulated electoral frauds, political prisoners, constitutional violations, corruptions, etc, that Chavez has accumulated ever since. Deliberately or not, chavismo has lost any sense of perspective, has radicalized itself and has grown a political paranoia that will haunt us for generations, Peronism style.
Chavez eventually won the political fights of 2002-2004, but, even if the opposition has never been able to recover, he has not managed to win the war and even today there is a glimmer of political process that could end his regime with a minimum of blood shed. He knows that, and in fact he has known that all along since April 2002 when he found out that the bulk of Venezuelan society would in the end reject his authoritarian nature. If it is true that small groups of people demanded his return in office on April 13, it is also true that never was Chavez able to call a rally of his supporters that would match in numbers and enthusiasm the one that was called against his rule on April 11, regardless on how many elections he won. Chavez has painfully known that a large part of his support is simply bought, bribed or something similar, that when ideology is the only factor, he will never grow beyond the 30% hard core, a number that today is questioned. There is no such a thing as the XXI century socialist man, just a group of opportunists and recycled old fashioned commies that never got the fall of the Berlin Wall.
And thus we come to the connection to April 19 1810. The paradox is that Chavez reaches the start of the commemoration of the 1810 independence epic with a country of questionable Independence.
I have already written often that Venezuela has become today a Castro Cuban colony. Key strategic positions in Venezuela public administration are now in the hands of Cuban envoys, thousand of them besides the obvious sports trainers and barrio adentro medics. It is constantly rumored that all the Chavez personal security apparatus now is Cuban directed and Cuban staffed. That we can never access them to prove ourselves wrong is the best proof. In recent months Chavez has even stopped traveling in the Venezuelan presidential plane, preferring those of Cubana de Aviacion.
You may call that the start of a fusion between Venezuela and Cuba or an outright colonization as I prefer to call it but I suspect that Cubans have the utmost contempt for Venezuelans. Why should they not? One one side they see the abject submission of the chavista crowd, allowing themselves freely to be roughed up by Cuban superiors. On the other side they see an opposition crowd unable to call it as it is happening, unable to rise above petty interests to recover Venezuela independence. Why should the Cuban masters be any different from other colonial masters in their contempt?
But even if we were magically to remove the Cuban stronghold of the country what independence is left to Venezuela? Is PDVSA able to function on its own with all the huge self financing that oil corporations require today? How can we compensate for the fact that now we import as much as 70% of our food when we used to be self reliant, or at least balance our imports with some food exports not so long ago? Today, coffee, the source of our riches in the XIX century is one of the many items we must import...
As we reach April 19 a Monday from next it is indeed time to wonder ourselves how independent we are as a country, and in our private lives, increasingly threatened by a repressive neo-colonial regime.