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Venezuela: Bombs in Caracas and Memories of “El Caracazo”

Editor's Note: The following article was co-written with Luis Carlos Díaz

While another anniversary of February 27 in Venezuela, better known as “El Caracazo“, approached, four bombs exploded in locations that according to Chavez’s supporters, belong to the opposition. Some of these groups claim to be responsible of this act, since these explosions represent “objectives” that contribute to the advance of their “socialist revolution”.

A statue of George Washington, the Spanish Embassy and the Federation of Entrepreneurs (Fedecámaras) were some of the targets of the explosions. On Sunday, after the explosion that took place in Fedecámaras, a dead body was found: his name was Héctor Serrano and he was identified as part of the Metropolitan Police. A group of revolutionaries headed by Lina Ron, honored Serrano and named him “martyr of the revolution” for his struggle against imperialism.

According to blogger Rómulo Rodríguez, this didn’t please the president very much, since it took media spotight off of his role in the rescue of those kidnapped in Colombia [es]:

Al comandante no se le ocurrió anoche en el programa éste, La Hojilla mejor cosa que acusar a Lina y su gente de que habían sido infiltrados. Infiltrados por la ultraizquierda, o por la ultraderecha, o por la CIA, no entendí bien. A mi me parece que lo que pasa es que no le gustó que le robaran el show. Supuestamente los medios opositores destacarían la violencia de la toma del Arzobispado de Caracas en contraposición a su labor humanitaria con los rehenes de las FARC.

La verdad no me sorprendió para nada lo que dijo Chávez. Las fuerzas revolucionarias, según Chávez, deben responder a un solo mando, muy al estilo militar. Esa es su concepción según mi punto de vista. Por eso es que actitudes de grupos como el de Lina no parecen ser bienvenidas, pareciera como si quisieran pensar por si mismos y eso no le gusta a los milicos.

The commander didn’t think of something better when he accused Lina Ron and her people on the TV program La Hojilla, of being infiltrated. I didn’t understand very well if he meant they were infiltrated from the extreme right, the extreme left, or the CIA. What I think is that he didn’t like to be out of the spotlight. It seems that because of this, the oppositon media would highlight the violence in the taking of the seat of the Archbishop of Caracas trying to oppose the humanitarian effort with the kidnapped by the FARC. I wasn’t surprised at all by what Chavez said. According to him, the revolutionary forces should respond to one command only, as soldiers do. This is what I think is his conception. Nevertheless, attitudes like that of Lina’s group doesn’t seem to be very welcomed, it seems like if they wanted to think for themselves, and the soldiers don’t like that.

In a similar way, Daniel thinks, according to his English written blog about Venezuela’s News and Views: “Chavez Vs. Lina Ron Hostage Release vs. Hostage Taking

I am not too sure what to make of today multiple shows we have been subjected to. Either Chavez is sabotaging Lina Ron activities in favor of the radical revolution by releasing FARC hostages and speaking of peace. Or Lina Ron is sabotaging Chavez attempt at recovering world leader status by reminding him, and some in his entourage, that the local elections and the PSUV formation will not happen without her input, even on her dead body.

On the other hand, the city was convulsed by the 19th anniversary of the events that occurred on Feb 27th, 1989 when people ransacked stores in different cities and were violently repressed by the government at the time. Casualties are still unknown. For the pro-Chavez side, this day is a symbol of popular claim and class struggle. This is why some demonstrations were prepared, apart from the one on the seat of the Archbishop of Caracas.

Blogger and journalist José Roberto Duque reports that the Popular and Revolutionary Assembly asked permission a month ago to go on a demonstration, and the mayor’s office refused it three days before the intended march [es] because of the opposition’s demonstration. In his article “Sangre o mierda, venceremos (“blood or shit, we’ll defeat”) Duque says that if is not the police the one the represses, as it has done historically, the channels belonging to the opposition will be the ones that brand them as violent.

The blog Saber y Poder [es] reports that the march took place anyway, without permission, and describes the mobilization that paid homage to the events on 2/27. He underlined that this demonstration was not violent and there was a rather poor presence of the government’s media. The author of the blog, Reynaldo Iturriza collected some of the slogans heard in the socialists´ demonstration:

“Ni una sola vez se entonó la consigna: “¡Uh, ah, Chávez no se va!” Aunque ninguno desea que Chávez se vaya. Escuchamos y entonamos, por primera vez en muchos años, otras nuevas, más acordes con eso que llaman el “momento histórico”:
“¡Si el pueblo no se arrecha, nos manda la derecha!”
“¡El pueblo organizado con la revolución, contra la burocracia, contra la corrupción!”
“¡Las calles son del pueblo, no de la oligarquía!”

The slogan “¡Uh, ah, Chávez no se va!” (chavez won’t go!) wasn’t heard, not even once. Even when none of the people there wanted Chavez to go away. We heard and we shouted new ones that went better with the “historical moment”:
If the people don’t get mad, the right wind will rull!
The people organized with revolution, against bureaucracy, against corruption!
The streets are the people’s not the oligarchy’s!

The demonstration that was actually allowed was the one organized by university students that went to the Ministry of High Education to fight against the new policies for admission and the reform to the Universities’ Law. This demonstration was carried out normally and the pictures were published by the blog Realidad Alternativa [es]. It seems that there will be another demonstration this Thursday.

About the facts of the 2/27 blogger Lycette Scott [es] comments about some memories of that day:

¿Qué recuerdo del Caracazo? la verdad es que nada, mi mamá en cambio sí recuerda mucho y lo que cuenta no es muy bonito, para aquellos tiempos ella trabajaba como profesora de Educación Física […] y recuerda que habían francotiradores en los techos de los edificios, esos francotiradores dejaron ráfagas de balas marcadas en la pared justo al lado de la cancha de volley-ball, imagen que puedo casi ver, quizás porque en algún rincón de mi subconciente la recuerdo, quizás porque mi mamá me la contó tantas veces que hasta me parece haberlo vivido.

Otra cosa que mi mamá recuerda como si fuera ayer, es que pasábamos frente a un centro comercial cuando yo le digo: “mira mami, párate que están regalando cuadernos” ante lo cual, ella volteó para encontrarse con la imagen de los saqueos.

What do I remember of the Caracazo? Nothing much to be honest. My mom, on the other hand, does remember a lot of it, and her memories are not at all pleasant. At that moment, she worked as a physical education teacher […] and remembers snipers on the roofs that left marks of bullets on the volleyball court. I can almost see the image in my head, maybe it is in my subconscious after all the times my mother told me that story. In another of my mom’s memories we were passing by a mall when I tell her “look mommy, they’re giving away notebooks”. When she turned back to see, there were people ransacking the stores.

The commotion that made the 2/27 a historical day (el Caracazo) took the worst out of many Venezuelans. Nineteen years later, the government believes it is possible to say that their revolution started that day, with a popular claim against the government.

The opinions contrast with one another, some consider this date to be the beginning of the process of today, and some others that there’s still another 2/27 yet to come. As any moment in a country’s history, the consequences of violent facts like this have complex nuances. Along with wounds that have not still healed, the will of take over history is the objective of both government and opposition.

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