B.R. 101 Was there a coup in Venezuela in April?
I have been asked twice this question since I started posting to this blog. As with everything in the last three years in Venezuela the answer is not a simple yes or no. Perhaps it is best answered by saying there was no coup against Hugo Chavez, there was a coup against the Constitution.
Let’s review the events as they took place:
-A peaceful march was led to the Presidential Palace asking for the President’s resignation. The march was so peaceful that people took their children, even babies and pets.
-According to the testimony of three Gerenals who are former Chavez collaborators, the President attempted to activate an army plan called “Plan Avila” to supress the demonstration. This plan is a contingency plan used when there is violence or unrest and involves the takeover of the capital by the Armed Forces. The plan was designed more than ten years ago, had never been implemented and according to many violates the new Constitution approved and proposed by Chavez and his supporters.
-When the march is close to the Presidential palace, it is fired upon by people on a bridge above the crowd and from two buildings. All three of these sites were very close to the Presidential Palace which had been surrounded by the President’s supporters.
– The same three Generals that disobeyed the President’s orders appear on TV asking the President to resign, blaming him for the massacre.
-The Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, a close Chavez supporter, appears on TV and says the President has resigned. The President asks for an airplane to leave the country, some of the Generals says he has to stay in the country to be tried for the massacre. At that point the President says he will not sign his resignation if forced to stay. (There is even a tape where a General says he is asking for US$ 7 milliom).
To me up to this point there is no coup or millitary rebellion, no force has been used, his own close collaborators announced that he had resigned. Chavez is jailed. It is from this point on that something like a coup or violations of the Constitution take place.
-The military that had asked for the President’s resignation name the Head of the Chambers of Commerce and one of the leaders of the General Strike of the previous days, as temporary President. He issues a decree in which he dissolves the National Asembly and the Supreme Court as well as renaming the country to what it used to be called until the new Cosntitution was approved.
-The OAS and some foreign Governments begin asking for a signed resignation of the President. People begin calling the decree by the new President a coup, the same military that named him, forced the new President to resign, Chavez returns brought in part at the request of a General who says the Constitution has to be respected. Chavez names as his Minister of Defense the same General who publicly said he had resigned and initiated this whole process.
To me there was no coup against Hugo Chavez, he resigned and should not have come back and should be tried for the massacre that took place on April 11th. The problem was that the Vice-President should have taken over to follow the Constitution. Only if the Vice-President had resigned could somebody different have been named. Thus, there was an attempt to violate the Constitution which interestingly enough was immediately reacted to. Chavez violates the Constitution regularly and nothing happens. Such is life in what Chavez calls the Vth. Republic!!!