Caracazo Was “Forerunner” to Anti-Neoliberalism Protests, States Venezuela’s Chávez

People on the streets during Caracazo

By Ewan Robertson

Venezuela’s popular uprising of February 1989, known as ‘el Caracazo,’ “was a forerunner to what we are seeing in Europe, and in North America, (with) huge protests” against neoliberalism and the “Washington Consensus,” stated Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, yesterday.

In the Caracazo, “the Venezuelan people struck out against neo-liberalism, against the Washington Consensus, and here a revolution broke out. Fortunately, we succeeded in giving it a path,” Chávez continued. The president made the comments on the Venezuelan current affairs program “Dando y Dando” last night, as the remains of Venezuelan ex-president and head of state during the Caracazo, Carlos Andrés Pérez (CAP), were returned to Venezuela for burial on Tuesday. Perez died last December 25th in self-imposed exile in Florida.

The “Caracazo” uprising occurred on “Black Friday,” 27th February 1989, in response to a neoliberal policy package implemented by Pérez, which involved privatising state companies and removing subsidies on fuel and transport. In response to the resulting protests and rioting, the Pérez government formally suspended constitutional civil liberties and initiated a wave of state repression, with estimates of the number of civilians killed ranging between 300 to over 3000.

During the program, Chavez went on to state that Pérez represented an era of neoliberal politics in Venezuela which had sought to privatise health and education and to hand the country over to transnational companies. “To what level arrived the misery, the poverty, the exclusion, and even further, lamentably: savage repression” said the Chávez, in reference to Venezuela under Perez.

Opposition Opportunism

In further comments, the Venezuelan president also opined that the right-wing opposition were trying to use the burial of Pérez as a strategy to increase their own popularity, especially given their low approval ratings in recent opinion polls. Poll results yesterday from the GIS XXI polling organization stated that in the event of an election only 25% of respondents would vote for the opposition while 58% would vote for current president Chávez. “They (the opposition), in their despair, are trying to return themselves (to the ruling days of Pérez)”.

Chávez dismissed this “desperate effort” at gaining popularity, continuing “they don’t even have half (of my support), they don’t have 50% of consolidated support, and we need to consolidate this support, maintain it, and increase it”. Meanwhile, at a closed-casket wake for Pérez in Caracas yesterday, opposition figures paid tribute to legacy of the ex-president. Antonio Ledezma, Mayor of metropolitan Caracas and hopeful as opposition presidential candidate, stated that Pérez “never abandoned his principles and was committed from the beginning to the cause of democracy”.

Henry Ramos Allup, secretary-general of Pérez’s political party Democratic Action (AD), one of Venezuela’s ruling parties during the Fourth Republic period of “representative” democracy between 1958 – 1998, added that AD leadership “did not defend with sufficient courage the extraordinary work of CAP”.

Carlos Andrés Pérez was Venezuelan president on two occasions, from 1974 – 1979 and then from 1989 – 1993. He fled from charges of embezzlement of public funds to Miami, Florida, in 2002. Although the Venezuelan state prosecutor issued an arrest warrant to investigate Perez’s role in the repression of the population during the Caracazo, known as “Plan Avila”, he never returned to Venezuela to face charges. The ex-president died on Christmas day 2010, however his remains were only returned to Venezuela last Tuesday 4th October after a lengthy legal battle between relatives as to whether he should be buried in Venezuela or the United States.


This report appeared in venezuela analysis

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