Friday, April 11, 2008

What Happened on April 11, 2002?  Martha Colmenares Gives the Opposition's Version of Events (Translation)


Venezuelan Dissident and Human Rights Activist Martha Colmenares

I am awaiting news of the demonstration today in Caracas that will commemorate the events of the protest march of April 11, 2002 against Hugo Chavez's politicization of the state-owned Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, in which some 19 demonstrators were killed and an additional 150 were wounded when paramilitary and military forces opened fire on them. This sad event, whose official story is only referred to obliquely within the Chavez-controlled Venezuelan government, has become a rallying point for the Venezuelan opposition, which demands a full investigation into what happened and insists that the government's refusal to give them one represents a cover-up of an official order to "shoot to kill" demonstrators for their opposition to Chavez.

Before I get that news, I think it might be useful to post a translation of a statement of one member of the Chavez opposition, Martha Colmenares, which was published on the Diario de América web site on April 4. There is much about Martha Colmenares that is worth knowing. Not only has she done a lot to inform the world outside of Venezuela, and even within it, about what the realities of life under Chavez truly are, she has also done some very notable work on behalf of political prisoners in Venezuela, Cuba, and elsewhere. I'm going to tell her story in more detail when I have time, but for now I simply want to get this translation up for everyone to see the version of the Venezuelan opposition as to what really happened on that terrible day in Venezuelan history.

And just to state my own take on all of this, I am convinced that the informed history we will see after Chavez will bear out the facts as Martha Colmenares presents them.

My personal notes: The "4th of February" coup you will see referenced in Martha Colmenares' statement refers to a February 4, 1992 coup attempt involving Hugo Chavez and other Venezuelan military officers. Also, Pedro Carmona was the interim President of Venezuela for about 36 hours from April 12-13, 2002 during the tumultous events surrounding this story.


Translation: April 11, 2002:  Day of Slaughter in Venezuela


Chavez: ". . . stained with the blood of Venezuelans." The ex-coup participant of the 4th of February [1992], F. Arias Cardenas, said it. In spite of that, years later he was named Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN by Chavez.

April 11, 2002:  Day of Slaughter in Venezuela

I need to do a retrospective of the events of April, 2002, to undo that lie that Chavez usually ends up imposing. It is a fiction of the type that is easier to believe than the reality. For those who do not know democracy as Venezuelans know it, and suffer from it, Hugo Chavez is nothing more than a lying, rustic tropical dictator.

By Martha Colmenares

The alleged coup d'etat in April, 2002 began when the Venezuelan people were provoked to defend the professional model of the industrial oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA.

That provocation consisted of the dismissal of its professional employees, all those who were resisting the politicization of the state-owned oil company, on the Sunday before the massacre. The greater impudence came years later, when in a recent speech before the National Assembly, he recognized provoking the confrontation because it was necessary.

The strategy was that in the foreseeable national reaction, the professionals in the industry would protest, which would identify them, assisting the subsequent purge, or "political cleansing."

On consecutive occasions the Venezuelan government has provoked people (and even institutions!) with insults that they are obstacles to reaching and enjoying the absolute power about which they obsess. Lamentably, the provocation is effective because this way it forces people to act inopportunely, while Chávez is completely prepared to distort and to manipulate the interpretations of events, and thus always wins.

As demonstrators who subscribed [to a common goal], we found ourselves within a march of more than one million two hundred thousand people, in exceptional places, by reason of which we can affirm with the authority of eyewitnesses present, how armed paramilitary groups sympathetic to the government of Hugo Chavez, as well as the military, were slaughtering the demonstrators.

What resulted were 19 dead and hundreds of gravely wounded, while the government impeded people from knowing what was in fact happening, forcing a joint television transmission on national "chains," of a historically insipid address of President Chavez, which left it very clear that he was simply killing time while the slaughter occurred.

The confusion of the day began when the slaughter of the demonstrators was not carried out on the scale which the regime attempted, but that on the contrary, military men of the highest confidence of the President, such as General Rosendo, disobeyed orders to slaughter the demonstrators. The series of facts of that day is so detailed, that its dispassionate chronicle is unbelievable:

At night, the only side that managed to move military tanks to the street was the pro-government side, which was under the control, as would be known much later, of the Minister of Defense, General Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro, who took a detachment of tanks to protect the seat of government, the Miraflores Palace.

Later around midnight, the day of the 12th, it was also released on national broadcast "chains" before the world, that General Lucas Rincon Romero, was accompanied by the High Command to announce that Chavez had resigned, and they thus said:

"The members of the Military High Command of the National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela deplore the lamentable events that happened in the capital city yesterday. Facing such facts it has requested, of the President, the resignation from his duties, which he accepted."  (Translator's Note: This is on the 2nd video on this page at

Pay attention that he [Chavez] was never called to make a statement and at that moment enjoyed the sanctuary of an embassy.

Nevertheless, the implosion of the regime was such that the President was negotiating through the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference the delivery of power to the military in rebellion. In rebellion, yes, but in *passive* rebellion refusing to accept the genocidal orders of the regime. Almost immediately, the political facts which followed led to a scramble for power in the high spheres and the resulting unconstitutional decree emanating from Pedro Carmona. What happened was that the same military officers who, with their ascendancy over the armed forces, managed to depose tyranny, doubtlessly gave it back safe and sound to Hugo Chavez.

As you may appreciate, Hugo Chavez was not killed in custody of the military which disobeyed his order to slaughter the demonstrators. He was not tortured, he was not beaten, nothing! He was only under custody, and he was given back the presidency being respected in his physical integrity at every moment.

Most atypical for a supposed coup d'etat ... How I would like Chavez to respect the physical integrity of his political prisoners in the way the supposed coup participants respected his!

A little afterwards, the very same Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), literally filled with Chavistas, which is to say, mediocre jurists who came to the Supreme Court of Venezuela only because they were considered pieces of officialdom, absolved the military who disobeyed [the order to] slaughter from accusations of coup participation.

And fully enjoying absolute power, Chavez successively named his great latecomers Lucas Rincon and Garcia Carneiro as ministers; dismantling the Supreme Court with jurists who were even more mediocre, but more loyal to his regime, dismantling other institutions like the National Electoral Council (CNE).

Also, he purged the armed forces of institutionally experienced officials, he destroyed the Metropolitain Police of Caracas, he jailed the commissioners (Simonovis, Forero, Vivas) and the policemen who defended us at the march, and of course, he began the dismantling of the professional petroleum industry, substituting it with the "red, pink" PDVSA of today.

[What is] very significant, the statements in an interview, as a result of these deeds, on the part of the ex-coup participant of the 4th of February [1992], Francisco Arias Cardenas, who would later become during his years in government, the Ambassador of Venezuela to the UN: "Chavez: a murderer stained with the blood of Venezuelans." (Note: This statement is visible at this page on

The only coup d'etats in the last 40 years of the history of Venezuela have Hugo Chavez as protagonist: the military coups of February and November of 1992 against a legitimately constituted government.


You will also find this article referenced at this page on

1 comment:

Martha Colmenares said...

Muy buena traducción, y agradecida por ello, para dar a conocer lo que realmente ocurrió en este día de masacre.
Felicitar el blog, es excelente lo tendré en mi lista de amigos.
Saludos, Martha Colmenares