[A-List] Ugly Night in Cracas
sherrynstan at igc.org
Sun Dec 8 06:28:41 MST 2002
[This situation report from Caracas shows a city with the stench of US covert operations via the US Embassy, the NED, et al. They can certainly shut the country down with their big-business press, petit bourgeois "revolutionaries" and their mafia union. But coups and interventions might be a different matter. The poor are mobilized, too, as is a significant portion of the armed forces. Venezuela could, like its neighbor Colombia, become the site of revolutionary civil war. Welcome to Bush's back yard. -SG]
December 6th, 2002
It was just about 7pm, and many Venezuelans were watching Carlos Ortega's press conference that was being broadcast on all of the country's private television channels. Ortega, the president of the CTV labour union, had just informed the television audience that the "civic strike" (which is being very poorly followed in most of the country) was to continue for at least another day.
Suddenly, all the channels switched over to scenes of confusion in the Plaza Altamira, a square in the middle of Caracas' beaux
quartiers that has played host to an anti-government demonstration that's been going on for over five weeks. The private television channels showed opposition demonstrators running for cover, police and civilians pulling out guns and waving them at unseen aggressors, and a number of people lying on the ground. The subtext on the television screen read "Massacre
>in Altamira". Within minutes, the television commentators were saying that 6 people had been killed in the square by an unkown assassin. Shortly afterwards, one commentator (from the Globovision news channel) drew a parallel between this incident and the deaths of April 11th, which most of the private media blamed on Hugo Chavez without providing any proof to back up the accusation (proof of the responsibility of other agents, like the Caracas Metropolitan Police, is available but doesn't seem to interest the Venezuelan private media). This parallel having been drawn, the commentator concluded that Chavez was obviously responsible for what had just occurred; that he was, once again, an "asesino". Eventually, slightly more accurate details emerged from the chaos: there were three deaths and twenty-two people injured by some armed individuals, a few of which had been apprehended by municipal police.
A few comments on this latest incident are in order.
First of all, the idea that the government is behind this is absurd. The Venezuelan government has been struggling for months to pacify a highly-mobilized opposition - to a great extent concentrated in the glitzy neighbourhoods in the east of Caracas - that has, within the space of a year, carried out four strikes and countless marches that have maintained a climate of instability and tension that has made it increasingly difficult for the Chavez administration to govern normally and has taken a heavy toll on the country's economy.
As the opposition is fully aware, this incident comes at a terrible time for the Venezuelan government. The opposition's "civic strike" hasn't been very effective at keeping the country's businesses closed but has - through intense, private media coverage - reinvigorated eastern Caracas' opposition activists, who have taken to the streets en masse over the past few days.
As could be expected, the pro government supporters, located mainly in the west of the city, have also taken to the streets. As the "strike" (now referred to by the opposition as an "active strike") has progressed, the tension between the two factions has been growing.
This big headache for the government has been compounded by the fact that the Coordinadora has succeeded in gaining enough support within PDVSA, the national oil company, to effectively block oil exports. This is a matter of some concern for the government, and, indeed, for the entire nation, whose economy is completely oil-dependent. It is also a serious matter for
the United States, which a) gets 15% of its oil from Venezuela and b) doesn't want to see energy prices go up - the inevitable result of a prolonged Venezuelan oil production halt - especially in view of the fact that a war with Iraq would probably lead to an additional increase in world oil prices.
This latest incident is no good for the government but could work in favor of the opposition, however.
Some of the opposition groups that make up the Coordinadora Democratica (the organization behind the opposition demonstrations, strikes, etc,), seem to have decided that the only way to force Chavez' resignation or force him to hold early elections (though this is tricky constitutionally) is to maintain a climate of extreme social tension until he gives in to
>the opposition's demands. Others in the opposition (who don't believe that Chavez will back down) are clearly hoping that, through both the opposition demonstrators' intense mobilization and the blockage of oil exports, they will trigger either a coup or a foreign intervention. Thus, after tonight's killings, one of the rebel officers from the Plaza Altamira declared that there was "still time" for the National Guard to "switch sides". Meanwhile, Carlos Ortega repeated his call for the "activation" of the Organization of American States' Democratic Charter which allows for an intervention on the part of member states in the case of an "unconstitutional alteration" of a constitutional regime. The perfectly legal repressive measures that have been used by the government to break up illegal opposition demonstrations (blocking of freeways, major avenues, etc.), constitute, according to members of the Coordinadora, violations of Venezuelan constitutional rights that warrant an OAS intervention.
The killings of Altamira, occurred at a terrible time for the government and at a pretty good time for the Coordinadora. 7pm on a Friday night, on the eve of yet another opposition march, during a press conference that was being watched by millions. And it occurred in Plaza Altamira, where television cameras of Venezuela's commercial television channels have been a permanent fixture ever since a group of rebel officers and their supporters set up camp there over 5 weeks ago.
There's a good chance that the street activity of eastern Caraqueño opposition supporters will grow more intense. That, consequently, more "violations of constitutional rights" will be met by more calls for military insubordination and the "activation" of the OAS Democratic Charter. And there's the chance that ugly clashes will occur between angry opposition supporters, who will probably be convinced that the government slaughtered their brethren in Plaza Altamira, and irate government supporters, who are sick and tired of a "civil strike" that is just one more attempt on the part of a minority group to hijack the country's politics.
Meanwhile, PDVSA has stopped exporting its oil and the country is on the brink of a grave economic crisis. Oh, and the US government is growing more and more anxious about rising energy bills and its own shaky economy.
So, which will it be? A coup? or an intervention?
Is the US criminal justice system a weapon of mass destruction?
Money for reparations, not for war!
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Size: 8415 bytes
Desc: not available
More information about the A-List