By Jim Slaven
Ten years ago today Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez was returned to power following a short, failed coup d’etat. On April11th 2002 Chavez was taken into custody by the Army as Venezuelan oligarchs, supported by the United States, attempted to seize power and depose the democratically elected President and Government. After two days in custody and having refused to resign Chavez was returned to power after a huge popular uprising in Caracas culminating in thousands of people making there way to the Miraflores Presidential Palace demanding his return. These dramatic events were captured on film by documentary makers from Ireland in Venezuela to make a film about the country and it’s President. Below is the whole documentary, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
I visited Venezuela a year after the coup attempt to meet members of Chavez’s Fifth Republic Movement (as the ruling party was then called). While in Caracas I took part in their Independence Day rally which attracted tens of thousands of people. On the morning of the rally an opposition bomb exploded outside a barracks and although no one was injured it meant security for the event, at which Chavez would speak, was increased and everyone had to be searched as we made our way to the rally which included a military parade and various other spectacular displays. Due to security concerns the arrival of Chavez was delayed for several hours and the crowds were so closely packed in that you could barely move and several people passed out. Despite all this not one person left.
Several people noticed I was a visitor (which wasn’t difficult as sun burn meant I was as red as a tomato) they were all very friendly (once they knew I wasn’t from the US) and were intrigued as to what people outside Venezuela thought of Hugo Chavez. They were also interested in how we celebrated Independence Day in Scotland and were in part amused and horrified when I pointed out we didn’t celebrate Independence Day because we were not independent. Hopefully that situation will have changed before my next visit.
When Chavez finally arrived by helicopter the atmosphere in the crowd was electric, like nothing I’ve experienced before or since. As people cheered and cried at the sight of their president taking the stage even more people began passing out and amazingly, to me at any rate, the police and army seemed genuinely concerned and were rushing to help and being instructed to do so by members of the public. Chavez spoke for hours and after his speech, which my comrades kindly translated for me as he spoke, I expected everyone to leave but no one did. Chavez then took to an open top car and passed the entire route of the earlier parade and only at that point did people begin to slowly make their way home.
As they left the crowds were singing ‘Ooh Ah Chavez no se va’ and once I realised what they were singing I couldn’t help laughing as I was used to another Ooh Ah song altogether. I asked people what it meant and they explained it meant Chavez won’t go and was a response to a chant from the opposition during the coup that ‘Chavez is gone’. The chant was later adapted as a folk song and became a big hit in Venezuela.