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Beast of the Month - May 2002
Pedro Carmona, Failed Venezuelan Coup Leader
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
It would make a great tale in The Big Book of Losers: the junta that couldn't shoot straight. On April 12, military leaders ousted populist President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as head of his country. By the end of the next day, the coup leaders were on the run, and Chavez was quickly restored back to power early Sunday morning.
The coup almost looked like it could pull off the legitimacy act early on: after all, their excuse for overthrowing Chavez seemed to be a sympathetic one. The military generals had arrested Chavez for allegedly ordering gunmen to fire on a massive opposition protest on Thursday, which had killed sixteen and left hundreds wounded. The image of Chavez resorting to even worse authoritarian tactics than the WTO-IMF-G8 defenders in Seattle, D.C. and Genoa was both brutal and hypocritical. On closer examination, however, the excuse seemed bogus: an eyewitness account (by journalist Gregory Wilpert) of the bloody protest stated that snipers from the extreme right-wing Bandera Roja (Red Flag) fired the deadly shots from nearby rooftops. The claim was backed up by the fact that most of the dead were actually Chavez supporters. As Al Giordano of Narco News put it, "There was no military nor political motive for the Chavez government to order sniper fire. To the contrary, the only side that had motive to do that was that of the ones who have now seized illegitimate power. But the US correspondents say, without offering a shred of testimony or proof, that it was government troops who fired into the crowd."
Whatever the case in the April 11 protest, if there was any legitimacy in the ouster of Chavez, the coup leaders soon settled they were illegitimate themselves: the line of the succession should have fallen into the Vice-President's lap: instead, it was handed to Pedro Carmona, a Chavez opponent and The Konformist Beast of the Month.
The lack of respect for legitimate authority didn't end there: Carmona and the junta immediately dissolved the National Assembly, which was loaded with Chavez supporters. They quickly did the same to the Supreme Court, the attorney general's office, the national electoral commission, and the state governorships. Carmona then declared the 1999 Constitution sponsored by Chavez (and authorized overwhelmingly by 90 percent of the Venezuelan public) null and void. The junta then had "Security Forces" conduct house-to-house searches for members of Hugo's Bolivarian Circles, or supporters of the imprisoned leader, claiming in Orwellian fashion that they feared assassination by the Chavistas.
The coup leaders soon developed major enemies due to its contempt for democracy and its arrogance. About 100,000 people had gathered in the streets surrounding the Presidential Palace to protest the coup, many of them the poor who were Chavez's most devoted supporters. Thousands of others demonstrated across the country, demanding his return. Vicious riot squads faced off with them, who, showing the coup's craven hypocrisy, killed up to 40 people in the melee. As one protestor put it, "We have every right to protest, but they are gunning us down out there." Still, the vast numbers of Chavez supporters took over the state television show and had the Palace completely surrounded. Meanwhile, the National Honor Guard remained loyal to Chavez throughout, and the overtly fascist and right-wing policies of the junta led to disaffection among the middle class and organized labor displeased with the Chavez reign. Soon, most of the country's military leaders realigned with Chavez, and the coup leaders were hightailin' outta there.
Throughout Latin America, there was widespread disapproval of the coup, and no country in the region would recognize the junta as a legitimate government. The same can't be said for the Bush Team, which nodded in favor of the coup from moment one. They welcomed it as a "return to democracy," ironic considering the source: Chavez was legitimately elected president of Venezuela twice (overwhelmingly both times) to Shrub's zero.
Of course, like all national leaders, Hugo Chavez was far from perfect. His popularity had dropped in opinion polls from 80 percent to under 30 (that is, if the polls were to be believed.) Whatever the drop, it was due to the fact that he had failed to deliver fully his promises of helping the Venezuelan people (although, to be fair, he had promised much and delivered an impressive amount.) He had alienated large sectors of the middle class with his rhetoric (who had instituted massive strikes which had crippled the Venezuelan economy), leading to the 150,000 person protest of his rule in Caracas. And yet at the same time, for all his talk, he had not deviated from IMF and World Bank policies too widely.
For all his faults, however, Chavez was still beloved by the impoverished in Venezuela, and for good reason. He was the first leader to show real concern and implement policies to change the lack of economic justice in his country. He had refused to evict groups of squatters from unused buildings in the nation's capital, stating to the New York Times, "I'm not going to send in troops. I will not rest until every human being who lives in this land has housing, employment and some way to manage his life."
Thanks in part to that, he has become a bogeyman among the American elite. In an incredible sense of timing, Disinformation released the book collection Everything You Know Is Wrong last month, which included an article by Konformist editor Robert Sterling, titled "Viva Kadaffi!" The article highlights the demonization of leaders and movements of the Third World which threaten Western interests (most notably the tale of Colonel K of Libya.) Besides Moammar, profiles were presented of General Aidid of Somalia, Haiti's Aristide, the FARC of Colombia, the Mexican Zapatista, the Tupac Amaru of Peru and, of course, Chavez himself. Here's what was said about Hugo: "In marketing his platform, the former paratrooper and lieutenant colonel combines machismo (he often appears dressed in combat fatigues) and leftist economic nationalism to promote a manly form of radical populism inspired by Simon Bolivar."
A recent article by author William Blum from The Konformist Newswire listed some more of Chavez's "crimes" against the United States:
* He branded the US attacks on Afghanistan as "fighting terrorism with terrorism", demanded an end to "the slaughter of innocents," held up photographs of children killed in the American bombing attacks, and said their deaths had "no justification, just as the attacks in New York did not, either."
* His defense minister requested the permanent US military mission in Venezuela to vacate its offices in the military headquarters of Caracas, which was described as an anachronism from the Cold War. He also refused to provide US intelligence agencies with information on Venezuela's large Arab community.
* He was uncooperative with the plan Colombia, the US war against the Colombian FARC guerrillas under the transparent disguise of the "War on Drugs." He had denied the US Venezuelan airspace for "counter-drug flights" involved in the battle.
* He became a critic of WTO-style globalization, and pushed for a Latin American trade bloc to build regional economic strength.
* Perhaps most important of all, he became an ally of fellow US pariah leaders Fidel Castro (selling oil to Cuba at discount rates), Saddam Hussein and even Mo himself.
Even worse than all that was what seems to come up with anything involving the Bush Mob: oil. Chavez was once quoted as saying, "So much riches, the largest petroleum reserves in the world, the fifth largest reserves of gas - God, the immensely rich Caribbean Sea. All this and 80 percent of our people live in poverty. What scientist can explain this?" As a member of OPEC and the third-largest supplier of oil to the US, he had become an increasingly greater irritant to US plans of invading Hussein in time for midterm elections: such an attack would almost certainly lead to an oil-price spike and economic downturn unless a plentiful source of oil could be found to replace potentially crippling reductions of supply. But Chavez was heading in the opposite direction, appointing as leaders of the state-owned oil company men who oddly felt their job was to serve the Venezuelan public rather than Western corporations.
Obviously, something had to be done.
And apparently, it was. Al Giordano of Narco News termed the supposed grass roots opposition to Chavez as "Astroturf" financed and composed of corrupt layers of the Venezuelan establishment. This decayed power groups included the Venezuelan Workers Confederation (whose oil workers union who had been in bed with Petroleos de Venezuela in plundering the country's vast natural resources wealth), the military brass, the Roman Catholic Church and the nations oligopolist media barons. Not a wise group of enemies to earn.
Perhaps the most important group among the opponents of Chavez was the Fedecamaras, or Venezuela's largest business federation, who disapproved of Chavez populist policies. The federation joined in league with the Venezuelan Workers Confederation to organize the massive strikes that almost brought down Chavez, Allende-style. The president of the Fedecamaras, coincidentally, was Pedro Carmona himself.
Unfortunately for the coup leaders, it didn't turn out like it did in Chile. The people of Venezuela, showing an incredible combination of bravery and intelligence, rebelled against the installation of an illegal and fraudulent government. If only people in the USA showed such brains and spine.
The punchline is that due to eagerness to cheer on the illegal military takeover, Shrub and his cohorts now have egg on their face. It is widely believed in Venezuela that the coup, like the Pinochet takeover of Chile, was actually pushed, financed and promoted by the CIA and US State Department. Considering that the Shrub Junta includes such kreepy Iran-Contra cohorts as Elliott Abrams, John D. Negroponte, John Singlaub and - as Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, no less - Otto Reich, to believe otherwise would be ridiculously naive of politics. Assuming the coup was a US-backed operation explains the failure: apparently after dealing with the US public, the Bush Mob was unprepared for the possibility of facing a public that resists dictatorial takeovers.
In any case, we salute Pedro Carmona as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Pedro!!!
Hugo Chavez: A Servant Not Knowing his Place
From the collection Everything You Know Is Wrong, edited by Russ Kick
CHAVEZ COMEBACK EXPOSES U.S. GOVERNMENT & MEDIA LIES
By D. Baatar, Jared Israel, Nestor Gorojovsky & Nico Varkevisser
Venezuela: Not a Banana-Oil Republic after All
by Gregory Wilpert
April 15, 2002
Viva President Hugo Chavez: Venezuela's Democracy Prevails
By Robert Miranda
DAY II: Democracy Held Hostage in Bolívar's Venezuela
April 12, 2002
Journalist Jules Siegel interviews Narco News Publisher Al Giordano
Post Office Box 24825
Los Angeles, California 90024-0825
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