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Venezuela's 2002 Coup Revisited: The Evidence Two Years On

From Caracas Chronicles

You've heard about the coup, you've even seen the movie, but do you realize that "The Revolution will not be Televised" left out two thirds of the story? Learn the full story of the coup that brought down and then brought back Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in April, 2002.

This is not a simple story. This is not a short story. But itís the most important story in Venezuelan politics today. The weird events that gripped Venezuela from April 11th to April 14th, 2002 will keep historians busy for many decades to come. In the space of a four-day weekend the country cycled through three presidents. Venezuelans watched appalled as an elected official emptied his gun into an apparently peaceful opposition march. They saw tanks rolling on the streets of Caracas for ill-understood reasons, the armed forces' top-ranking general announce the resignation of the president, and a right-wing clique usurp total control of the state. The private TV and radio stations that could have covered the chaos were first shut down by the government and then engaged in a conspiracy to suppress the news. It's a lot to cover in a single essay, so do bear with me.

For much of the information here I have to thank Sandra La Fuente and Alfredo Meza, whose excellent new book El Acertijo de Abril (The April Riddle) is an oasis of fair reporting in a sea of political propagandizing. The two have worked hard to produce a book of confirmed facts, not spin or supposition. Encouragingly, the book temporarily sold out in Caracas. A new, longer, improved second edition is now on the stands in Venezuela - heartily recommended. I also checked the congressional testimony given by key players Generals Rosendo and Vasquez Velasco in the weeks following the coup, and several newspaper archives.

An atypical coup

Though the psychedelic four-day whirlwind of events is commonly described as a "short-lived coup," or a "failed coup attempt," the word "coup" is only shorthand for what actually happened. Itís undeniable that at the heart of this convoluted story was an attempt to implant an unconstitutional government. But the dynamics at play were complex, and at times contradictory. That long, roller-coaster weekend witnessed a series of events that fall completely outside the territory of the traditional Latin American coup díetat.

My point of view is avowedly partisan, but this is not an attempt at political propaganda: God knows we have enough of that. There is plenty of blame to go around on all directions in this story, and both sides have a hard time confronting the mistakes they made. More >>

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