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Celebrating the anniversary of a crime against Venezuela's Democracy

By Gustavo Coronel

February 6, 2004 - Thousands of Chávez followers sang and danced this 4th of February in celebration of the 12th anniversary of the failed coup led by Chávez in 1992 against the democratic and constitutional government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. As is already the custom in this type of government function, hundreds of buses were probably lined up along the avenues where the celebration took place, since the people attending are mostly bussed to the sites by the government. As in other similar gatherings they were probably given a “kit” consisting of food, drink and red revolutionary ornaments. After the events were over, the people were bussed back to their regions of origin, which could be 4 or more hours away.

The promotion and financing of the celebration of the 1992 coup poses a fundamental problem of ethics for the current government. This government has legitimacy of origin (not legitimacy of performance) since it was the product of a clean election. In winning in the democratic manner, in 1998, Chávez accepted a popular mandate to conduct a radical change in the country within democratic and constitutional means. He has not done this. In April 2002 he denounced the political events taking place in Venezuela as a “coup” against his democratic and constitutional government, adding that his adversaries were criminals and traitors because they had rebelled in violation of the Constitution and the laws of the country (although article 350 of the existing Venezuelan Constitution gave them such a right).

And yet, every anniversary of “his” 1992 coup against the democratic government of Pérez, is now celebrated by his government and followers as a “dia de jubilo,” a day to rejoice. As this is done openly, “proudly” and noisily, the evidence of Chávez' impudent lack of ethics is placed in front of us, for all to see.

The bloody coup of February 1992 was a military failure, took the lives of more than one hundred innocent Venezuelans, including children, and was executed in open violation of the laws of the country (there was no article 350 then). The leader of this criminal coup was Hugo Chávez. He used the arms, given to him to defend the Constitution, to attack the Constitution. As such he committed an act of treason. The coup failed because he lost his nerve in Caracas, after he seemed to have control of the situation. Chávez had nothing to cheer about that day. A coup he had been planning for 10 years failed due to his cowardly behavior but not before provoking many innocent deaths. Can this be an occasion to celebrate, all expenses paid by the government?

I wonder what those Chávez followers not blinded by fanaticism can respond to this, in special the friends he has been collecting in Europe and the U.S. to support his “revolution.” Ethics has to do with coherence between words and deeds and of behavior when facing events of a similar nature. An ethical person does not condemn a coup of the left while approving of a coup of the right, does not condemn the excesses of Pinochet and approve of the crimes of Castro. Chávez should not condemn the “coup” against him in April 2002 while celebrating his bloody coup of 1992. Such an incongruent attitude is more than enough to define Hugo Chávez as a man without morals.

In Venezuela we have had very mediocre presidents, like Jaime Lusinchi or Luis Herrera, but they acted out their presidencies within the limits of the Constitution. We have also had dictatorships, which did much in the way of physical infrastructure, such as the Pérez Jimenez dictatorship in the 1950’s and the Guzman Blanco autocratic regime of the 19th century. But the Chávez case is probably unique in modern Venezuelan history, that of an inept and destructive political leader who calls himself democratic while openly promoting and celebrating anti-democratic and criminal behavior.

No one can keep his, her cake and eat it too. No government can claim to be democratic while behaving in a totalitarian manner. The celebration of a crime inevitably converts the celebrators in accomplices of the crime. This includes those who, all over the world, rejoice over the anniversary of Chávez' bloody and inept coup of 1992, while paying lip service to the defense of democracy.



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