Thursday, April 10, 2003

April 10, on the eve of April 11.

One year ago Venezuela was in total turmoil. A stubborn president was faced by an opposition that in a very few months had become formidable, if unorganized. On that Wednesday 10 2002 we were living the third general strike in our history, the second in less than 6 months. The leaders of the oil industry had been fired and an extraordinary show of support had come from the people. Streets were everyday fuller of people to an extent never seen before. During the afternoon of Wednesday 10 a march and rally were called in front of the main offices of the Sate Oil Company, for Thursday 11 in the morning. This march was the biggest one ever seen in Venezuelan history. For some unclear reasons it decided to march directly towards Miraflores to ask the president for his resignation. At some point on April 11 the president, Hugo Chavez decided to deploy the army and stop the progress of that march. The army refused to lend itself to a maneuver that could end in the shooting of a peaceful unarmed march. Only some units of the National Guard were around to defend the Miraflores Palace, and a few thousands of Chavez supporters. When the front to the march arrived in downtown Caracas a confusing shooting started. The best-documented shots were fired by chavistas from above Puente Llaguno, one of them an elected official. That video went around the globe. All in all 2 dozen people were shot and several dozen injured. In the evening Chavez offered his resignation. Three days after, the surprise at the swiftness of the downfall contributed to create an administrative chaos that eventually allowed for the return of Chavez into office, considering that he resigned but never signed it.

One year after we still do not know for sure how many people were killed (19 seems the consensus). We know even less how many were hurt, and even less how many were killed or injured in the days of looting and rioting that followed. Only the people that were filmed on Llaguno had been arrested but after many a legalistic loophole are now free and considered “heroes” of the revolution. The government has been trying to pin the events and the massacre on the opposition but has failed completely to do so, or even to produce a single viable arrest. Even the High Court has ruled that April 11 was a vacuum power and no coup took place on that precise day. Suspiciously the government through the National Assembly has managed to block the installation of an independent commission to investigate all of these events, as if the same government were the least interested party to know what exactly happened. One year after, one is allowed to wonder if such a commission could now bring light to the events. One also is allowed to wonder what justice exists in our country.

Yet, in spite of the economic crisis that was aggravated by this last year turmoil, the government finds the funds to install today a forum on “Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution” managing to find enough people to attend and vent their political ideas. Why on this date? What is there to celebrate? If you are unable or unwilling to find the people that did the shooting, could you not at least respect a date that has no glory for any of those involved with?

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