Thursday, April 12, 2012

Good News for Venezuelans and More Clarity on Venezuela's Recent Past

Venezuelans received good news: in a global study, Venezuela ranks 5th happiest in the world out of 124 countries; new evidence surfaces which implicates Venezuelan opposition and US government in the 2002 attempted coup d'etat; opinion piece that by defeating the 2002 coup attempt Venezuelans achieved their independence:

Opposition-Controlled Police Acted as Sharpshooters During Coup D'etat of 2002
Nov 27th 2003, by

Caracas Metropolitan Police (PM) Inspector Leonardo Navas, presented to the public a series of radio conversation presumably recorded during the April 11, 2002 coup d'etat against President Chavez, through the communications frequency used by the police, which may incriminate police chiefs and officers in the deaths that occurred that day.

The Metropolitan Police is controlled by Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas, a prominent figure of the opposition. Several Metropolitan Police officers are facing a trial, accused of some of the deaths that day.

The tapes supports the arguments raised by defense lawyers of four Chavez supporters who fired shots with pistols from the Llaguno Bridge and were absolved of all charges recently, after it was demonstrated in court that they acted in self defense. TV channels used footage of these four men firing shots, to accuse them of "shooting at innocent opposition demonstrators," and accuse President Chavez of ordering the killings.

A Metropolitan Police officer wearing civilian clothes, uses an HK-MP5 military-grade machine gun to fire against President Chavez loyalists gathered at the Llaguno bridge on April 11, 2002.

The tapes
Inspector Navas said he received the tapes recently from an unidentified source, and that he could not wait until the end of the trial that is underway of the police officers accused of some of the killings. "I would be an accomplice if I don't present this evidence," said Navas.

The tapes were presented during an interview aired last Tuesday through the Venezuelan state TV station, Venezolana de Television (VTV).

The recordings describe Metropolitan Police officers in civilian clothing shooting from the rooftops of several buildings nearby the Miraflores Palace, including sixteen of them on top of the La Nacional building, in the corner were several opposition protestors were killed with shots mostly to the head and neck.
During the first extracts of the recordings, one of the police officers reports to his superiors the location of other officers who took positions at the rooftops of several buildings. "We are up here on the rooftop of La Nacional building, just officers here," says one of the officers.

"Those in La Nacional are wearing civilian clothes... we are shooting our own men... be careful, those on top of La Nacional are our men... to avoid confusion, those in civilian clothes should wear the bulletproof over their shirts so they are not mistaken," can be heard on the tape. Navas says that this is evidence that several rooftops were taken by the police.

The PM director at the time, Henry Vivas -known that day as "Sun 1"- calls deputy Forero ("Sun 2"), -who is now the director of the Metropolitan Police- to ask for a report of the situation in the area. Forero reports "We are safe here, the "talibans" (Chavez supporters) are in the upper part (of the Baralt avenue)... The Phoenix group (a SWAT-style police group) should go up one more block to neutralize all those people."

Another officer reports that the members of the PM motorcycle division took over other buildings.

Navas says that according to witnesses, there were sharpshooters on top of the buildings hours before the opposition march reached the area, three blocks from the Llaguno Bridge.

"Zeus 32 Americana" kept up to date
"Zeus 32 Americana wants information on the situation", says one of the officers. Navas says that "Zeus 32 Americana" was the codename for the American Embassy that day, and that it is very curious that in a situation as critical as that one, the police is informing people such as the American Ambassador, Charles Shapiro. "It seems like they [the Americans] were monitoring the whole situation," says Navas.

"I'm not going to kill any more people"
Another of the tapes shows police deputy Emidglio Delgado, during a strike by Metropolitan Police officers, months after the coup. Delgado, was Director of PM Operations the day of the coup, and later participated in the strike along with dozens of other officers, says on the recording "I'm sure there will be a retaliation against me because I refused to put bombs or kill people... if I'm not welcomed anymore, tell me and I'll resign, but I'm not going to kill any more people." This shows the kind of orders that Delgado was receiving those days, says Navas.

The last part of the recordings shows that the police chiefs were using non-graduated cadets to help during the operation. One of the deputies tells the chief "I'm at the end of the Baralt Avenue (north of the Llaguno Bridge) with a group of cadets with no weapons; we require some HKs (submachine guns) and long range armament here." Navas says cadets are students, and cannot ask as officers and be given weapons.

"Any public prosecutor can use this evidence to initiate a criminal investigation, and if it can be shown that, truly, some members of the police institution were involved in the events of April 11, 2002, with the dead persons and the injured we would be in the presence of various crimes. The actions by PM Inspectors Forero, Vivas and Delgado far from restoring public order, they were subverting it instead".

The tapes are just another piece of evidence that proves that the Metropolitan Police was acting as a force to overthrow the government that day, and that the men shooting from the Llaguno bridge were acting in legitimate self-defense. It also implies that the deaths seemed to be planned in order to blame the government.

Edgar Hernández contributed to this report.

Defeating Venezuela's 2002 coup sent a message to the world: under Hugo Chávez we are in charge of our own affairs

By Samuel Moncada of the UK Guardian

Ten years ago Latin American history reached a turning point. In Venezuela, a US-backed military coup against the elected government of Hugo Chávez was stopped dead in its tracks after just a few days. It marked a clear break from the coups and subsequent dictatorships installed to defend economic elites that had cast a long shadow across Latin America. (Indeed, Pinochet's 1973 coup in Chile shows what could have happened in Venezuela.) A tide of progressive governments across the continent followed.

Over the three days of the coup many were killed. Like many others, I had a friend shot dead by coup police. Casualties and human rights abuses were widespread and all democratic institutions annulled. Having appeared on national TV the day before to warn that a coup was coming, I was concerned I'd be arrested. I was lucky. The others dragged away from my apartment block were not.

The seizure of power united much of the old order – big business, media moguls, landowners, the church hierarchy – with the US. They opposed reforms giving the government a greater share of the nation's oil wealth. But against these powerful forces stood millions of long-excluded Venezuelans. They rose up, took over the city centres and surrounded army bases demanding the return of their elected president. In defeating the coup, they began a new chapter in Venezuelan history.

Ten years on, how do these momentous events relate to the challenges facing my country today? The defeat of the coup was not only a victory for democracy – though more elections have been held in Venezuela over the past 12 years than in the previous 40 years, and with record turnouts. It was also a catalyst for social progress, economic change and provided a new basis for our international relations. In the aftermath, a free health service was established giving millions access to a doctor for the first time. Over a million people, mainly women, were taught to read and write. A 25-year decline in GDP per head – with real incomes falling to levels of the 1950s – was reversed.

Nonetheless, Venezuela continues to confront many problems. The free-market shock therapy of the 1980s and 1990s resulted in social devastation. Some difficulties were even longer term, a product of an oil state whose primary purpose was, for decades, to share this wealth among narrow interests rather than developing the nation. Today, providing affordable homes for the millions still living in shanty towns, tackling crime and diversifying the economy are some of the greatest challenges.

It was only with the defeat of the coup that the force capable of carrying out such fundamental change emerged. Millions of Venezuelans became active in politics like never before, taking charge of developing their local areas through new community councils. This mass involvement ensures that the sharing of wealth and social investment is not about clientelism but emancipation. It also offers vigilance against inefficiency, bureaucracy and corruption.

Sharp differences over Venezuela's economic direction lay at the heart of the coup. They continue today. Ahead of presidential elections in October, the government believes that state-led development policies are the best way to address ongoing challenges. In contrast, the rightwing candidate promotes the free market and a return to IMF policies.

In foreign relations, the US-backed coup also left its mark. Over 10 years, we've built our closest-ever links with Latin America nations. We are working closely with the Bric nations, with European governments and have more embassies than ever before, a sign of our commitment to constructive engagement.

Maintaining this independent path is a constant challenge, not least with US state agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy spending millions of dollars supporting movements opposed to the elected government. This intervention should end. The Venezuelan people should be allowed to decide their own future. That was, after all, the loudest message from the people on the day they defeated the coup.

Global poll on well-being and happiness

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