News roundtable on the serious events in Venezuela filmed in the Studios of Cuban Television on April 12, 2002.
Randy Alonso.-Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
Cubavisión, Radio Rebelde and Radio Habana Cuba are broadcasting the news roundtable on the terrible events in Venezuela leading to the ousting and forceful arrest of the Constitutional President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, by counter-revolutionaries.
On the panel today are Rogelio Polanco, editor of the Juventud Rebelde newspaper; Juana Carrasco, International Editing Chief in the same newspaper; Lázaro Barredo, journalist of the Trabajadores newspaper and Eduardo Dimas, international analyst with the Cuban Television.
(Related images are shown)
In the early hours of Friday morning, after a day of serious riots in the capital as our media has reported today, the Venezuelan counter-revolutionaries were able to overthrow President Hugo Chávez. The business elite of ‘Fedecámaras’ (the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and the illegal leadership of the Worker’s Confederation of Venezuela yesterday caused grave and provocative acts of violence during a march on the Government Palace while Chávez was addressing the nation.
Opposition members fired on the National Guard and followers of the Bolivarian process, only minutes after Chávez had denounced the subversive nature of the indefinite general strike decreed by both of the above-mentioned groups supported by the private media.
These events, thoroughly manipulated by the Venezuelan press and mass media, have been followed by the international press agencies and TV networks and become the focus of world attention.
A counter-revolutionary coup has overthrown President Chávez’ Government.
Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque, made an important statement this afternoon in our Foreign Ministry to Cuban and international journalists accredited to our country.
I therefore propose to begin our roundtable today with our Foreign Minister’s statement.
Felipe Pérez.- Good afternoon.
We thank you all for having come to the Ministry to hear the following information.
We have summoned the national and international press accredited in Havana to let them know that at this time, after a coup d’état has been dealt in Venezuela, a mob of about 400 people is besieging the Cuban Embassy in Caracas. This violent mob is led by members of the Cuban extreme right who live in Venezuela, representatives in that country of the Cuban-American National Foundation and other extremist and terrorist groups based in Miami, USA.
These extremist elements of Cuban descent arrived first at the Cuban Embassy and there, in a climate of tolerance and absolute impunity, began to incite other extremist and violent sectors of the Venezuelan population who had been supporting the coup d’état to break down the door of the Cuban Embassy, and storm the building which houses the Cuban Embassy in Caracas.
At this very moment they are besieging the Embassy; electricity and water supplies for the Cuban diplomats who work in the Embassy have been completely cut off. There is a call to cut the supply of food to our Embassy and some privately owned Venezuelan television channels, which were involved in yesterday’s events and in the putsch against the constitutional Venezuelan government are also making insistent calls to forcibly besiege and storm the Cuban Embassy premises.
The Cuban diplomats, and Cuban ambassador Germán Sánchez, have attempted to communicate with the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, have even faxed a diplomatic note describing these serious events. They have been in touch with the Mayor of that district in Caracas and he and the Foreign Ministry have been called on to meet their responsibilities regarding the protection of Cuban diplomats accredited in Caracas and their families. They have not received any reply. In the midst of the general chaos, no one from the Foreign Ministry or from the Mayor’s Office has replied.
The Cuban diplomats who are currently in our Embassy have instructions to not allow any illegal entry into our Embassy. And I want to make it clear that if any of that violent mob does get into the Embassy, placing the physical integrity of the Cuban diplomats and their families in danger, our diplomats will not hesitate to defend our Embassy, even if it costs them their lives.
The Cuban Government holds those who have been trying to stage a coup d’état in Venezuela to take power illegally accountable for whatever happens at the Cuban Embassy, for the physical integrity and the lives of the Cuban diplomats, their families and the property in our building. They will be held accountable, since they are allowing this violent and extremist action against diplomats accredited in Caracas, in violation of international conventions and of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
I insist that if they break into the Cuban Embassy our diplomatic staff has instructions and is totally prepared to defend it, even if it costs them their lives.
I also want to say that all the news coming from Venezuela makes it absolutely clear that there was a coup d’état yesterday in Venezuela. The Venezuelan Attorney General has just told the press that president Chávez has been arrested and that he is being forcibly detained in a military facility, that it is completely untrue that he has resigned. "President Chávez has not resigned —the Attorney General said— "no document of president Chávez’ resignation has been shown to the public." Therefore, at this moment President Chávez is the constitutional president of Venezuela and he has been forcibly detained while a coup d’état is in progress in Venezuela.
The Attorney General made it clear that, according to the Venezuelan Constitution and not just the one from 1999, he said, but also according to the 1961 Constitution, even if the constitutional President of the republic had decided to resign, to make it effective, his resignation has to be submitted to a plenary session of the National Assembly of the Venezuelan Parliament, and that has not happened.
The Attorney General has denounced that the Attorney General’s Office has been prevented from having access to and contact with President Chávez, that any news they have received has been through military sources, from some military prosecutors who have had access to the place where the constitutional President of Venezuela is being illegally held by force.
The Attorney General has said that if the constitutional President resigns —which has not happened, no document has been shown, the public has not been allowed any access to president Chávez, no resignation document exists, the National Assembly to which, and according to the Constitution, he has to submit his resignation, has not met-- that, according to the Constitution, even if he had resigned, the Vice-President of the Republic, in this case Mr. Diosdado Cabello, would take his place since President Chávez has not dismissed the Vice- President of the Republic nor the Ministers in his cabinet. Therefore, those in Venezuela who are trying to seize power violently, using force, are violating the Venezuelan Constitution, the principles of the rule of law and are placing the country in a situation of complete violation of the precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted by the Organization of American States.
The Attorney General has said that the President was unjustly arrested, that he has not signed any resignation, that even if the President and Vice-President of Venezuela had resigned, responsibility for taking control of the country, according to the Constitution, lies with the Speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly. Therefore, the events that have been underway since the early hours of this morning are a violation of the Venezuelan Constitution; the putschist junta, which is trying to consolidate its power, is violating the Venezuelan Constitution and the democratic precepts established by the Organization of American States, to which Venezuela is a member.
Several Venezuelan state governors have denounced the putsch and have balked at accepting the legitimacy of the power of the putschers. Several have been arrested and taken to unknown locations, as part of the persecution and repression unleashed by some sectors of the army and coup supporters linked to the junta which, a few hours ago, illegally proclaimed itself the new power in Venezuela.
Cuba denounces this putsch to the international public opinion.
Cuba holds the perpetrators of the coup, who at this time are allowing her Embassy to be besieged, responsible for whatever happens to the Cuban diplomats and their families. Cuba insists that they are responsible for a situation of violence and aggression against Cuban diplomats.
Cuba repeats that, if those elements break in, the Cuban diplomats will defend our Embassy, even at the cost of their lives, and places the responsibility on those backing the coup who have allowed this, and who are encouraging and calling on all extremist sectors to invade the Cuban Embassy which at this time has no water, no electricity and is totally blocked by that mob which is acting with total impunity.
The Attorney General has said that there is now no constitutional state in Venezuela at the moment, that a coup d’état is taking place in which a de facto junta is attempting, in violation of Venezuelan law and the Constitution, to seize power in that country.
We want our people, the public opinion here and the international public opinion to know about these serious events.
Lucia Newman (CNN).- Yes, good afternoon Foreign Minister. Two short questions. Is there any truth in the rumors or reports that president Chávez’ wife is in Cuba? And secondly, what is your reaction to the announcement by Venezuelan Petroleum that as of now, not another drop of Venezuelan petroleum will be supplied to Cuba?
Felipe Pérez.- President Chávez’ wife is not in Cuba.
Venezuelan Petroleum is now being run by a group of people aligned with the putschers who are currently trying to consolidate their power in Venezuela using illegal methods, after dealing a coup d’état and de facto assuming control over the country. Cuba does not recognize the legitimacy of the PDVSA management aligned with the putschers.
Mauricio Vincent (El País).- Minister, two questions as well.
Was the Cuban President able to speak with the Venezuelan President late last night before he was left incommunicado?
And the second question is, is Cuba going to take any initiative in some international forum, in the UN, to denounce this situation in the short term?
Felipe Pérez .- President Fidel Castro did speak to president Chávez after midnight last night.
Cuba will invoke the existing international mechanisms for the preservation of democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law.
Cuba will ask for a meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries. Cuba at this time is talking to other Non-aligned countries about holding such meeting at the United Nations Organization.
Cuba is now informing the UN Secretary General about the siege of and violence against its Embassy in Caracas.
Cuba is taking steps to let the Group of 77, currently chaired by Venezuela, know about the serious events resulting from the actions of a putschist junta that seized power in Venezuela and now tries to consolidate it
Mauricio Vincent.- Could you tell us something of what the Cuban President and Hugo Chávez discussed?
Felipe Pérez .- No, that is a different question; I can only confirm that they spoke.
Benito J. Milanés (Radio Rebelde).- One question and one clarification.
The question is about the situation facing the Cuban collaborators in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, if you know. And the clarification is, what are the instructions of the Cuban diplomats in Caracas about defending the Embassy, how?
Felipe Pérez.- Right now in Venezuela there are 1043 Cuban civilian collaborators: sports coaches, doctors, paramedics and workers and technicians in other areas of the economy and the service industry. They have been working there by virtue of an agreement legally entered by the legitimate government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Cuban Government.
As of five minutes ago, the news we have is that these people are safe, they are in constant communication with their group leaders, with the people overseeing Cuban cooperation over there and with the Cuban Embassy in Caracas. We too are permanently in contact with them from Havana. They are in safe places, they have been gathering together and at this time we do not believe that these people, most of whom are not in Caracas but in the provinces are in any danger.
In any case, we are holding the putschers accountable for any incident, act of aggression or provocation against these collaborators who have been in Venezuela giving valuable service to the Venezuelan people.
The Cuban Embassy staff will defend the integrity of our diplomatic mission with all the resources at its disposal, especially with their lives, which is their most valuable resource.
Andrea (El Universal). - Good Afternoon
If the current situation continues, what are your thoughts about the fact that Cuba may not receive any Venezuelan petroleum and how will that affect the Cuban economy and the well being of the Cuban people?
Felipe Pérez.- At this moment we are dealing with the immediate situation. That is a subject to which we can return later on. What I can repeat here is my complete confidence that the Cuban Revolutionary Government and the Cuban people are prepared to face up to any situation whatsoever, including the most difficult imaginable. It should not be forgotten that we have just come out of 10 years of special period, of a brutal and unexpected break in our economic ties with our traditional partners and that the country had the ability, the talent and support of its people needed to overcome such serious difficulties
I would like to say here that Cuba is now anxiously awaiting and paying extremely close attention to the reaction of the Rio Group which is meeting in San José, Costa Rica, to the reaction of the Organization of American States and to the reaction of the governments of the continent, including the US government, to this violent attack against the democratic institutions of a country in this hemisphere. Cuba is very closely following the reaction of the governments in this region concerning this matter. It hopes that the governments in the region and regional and international institutions will oppose this coup d’état in Venezuela and demand, as Cuba has demanded, the restoration of the democratically and constitutionally elected government in Venezuela, the reinstatement of the legitimate Venezuelan authorities. Cuba hopes that there will be neither tolerance for nor connivance with the putschers, especially at this time when there is so much talk in favor of democracy and democratic institutions and of respect for human rights, when it is obvious that a group of putschers in Venezuela have used force to illegally take control of the country.
Journalist.- Minister, please, are there any officials being given asylum in the Cuban Embassy? Would Vice-President Cabello be one of them?
Felipe Pérez.- There is absolutely no Venezuelan being given asylum in the Cuban Embassy in Caracas. These are false accusations which leaders of the Cuban extreme terrorist right living there, people with links to extremist factions in Miami, have made to encourage violent elements in the Venezuelan population to invade, lay siege to and storm the Cuban Embassy which has had its communications, electricity, water and access to outside world cut off.
The Cuban diplomats’ vehicles parked outside our Embassy have been assailed, some almost destroyed. Nevertheless, the Cuban diplomats are calmly safeguarding the lives and safety of their families. And we hope that no violent situation occurs —that would be very serious— against the Cuban diplomats and their families there, who have diplomatic immunity according to all international conventions on the subject.
Is there anything else?
Oscar Madrid.- (ANSA) Foreign Minister, let’s consider a different scenario, one where the coup d’état in Venezuela consolidates its power. What would the Cuban Government’s attitude be? And if it does, might there be a possibility of giving political asylum to president Chávez?
Felipe Pérez.- I cannot imagine a scenario where a coup d’état in Latin America in the 21st century consolidates its power. I cannot believe that this would be possible. I hope that international pressure from the governments in the region, from the US Government and from the rest of the governments in Latin America; I hope that pressure from the Río Group, and from the Organization of American States demanding that the democratic clause in the Inter-American Democratic Charter be complied with prevents the putschers, who are today illegally seizing power in Venezuela, from consolidating their power. So, I cannot conceive of that scenario. It would be an extremely serious violation and a very negative precedent and a devastating blow to the credibility of the entire discourse in favor of democracy that has been bandied about for years in this hemisphere.
I hope that this time a coup-installed dictatorship in a Latin American country will not be tolerated. And I cannot imagine a scenario where the region’s governments, where the regional democratic institutions would tolerate, support or recognize a government which, as the Venezuelan Attorney General has said, is being illegally set up, totally by force in that country, as a result of a coup d’état; a scenario where the constitutional President is under arrest, where he has not resigned, where the Vice-President has not resigned, where the ministers have neither resigned nor been dismissed.
As for President Chávez, first we have to wait and see what the putschers do with him. They now have the constitutional President of the country under arrest and incommunicado, although he has not resigned, no document has been shown to that effect and they are talking, completely fallaciously of "a democratic transition" in Venezuela.
Cuba disagrees with anyone who calls this coup d’état "a democratic transition". There has been a coup d’état in Venezuela and Cuba considers that it must be repudiated, condemned and that the putschers who hold power illegally must be urged to hand power back to the constitutional Venezuelan authorities, democratically elected by the people, according to the Venezuelan Constitution.
Mary Murray (NBC).- Minister, can you give us any information about the Cuban diplomats in Caracas, how many people are in the Embassy? How many diplomatic wives are there in the country, how many children, where the wives and children are?
Also, did the Ministry receive today any request for asylum from Venezuelans here in Cuba?
Felipe Pérez.- The Ministry has received no request for asylum yet, we have not heard of this happening.
The diplomats and their families there make up several dozens. The women and children are currently safe in the Cuban Ambassador’s Residence and the Embassy, at this time, is protected and defended by a group of diplomats from our country. There are some other family members there too and we hope that their lives will be safe and the immunity of the Cuban diplomatic mission there will be respected.
Is there anything else?
Moderator.- One last question, Ramírez.
Francisco Ramírez .- (Notimex) Minister, given such a fluid and uncertain situation, does Cuba have any well founded concerns about President Chávez’ physical integrity?
Felipe Pérez.- Cuba is concerned about the physical integrity of President Chávez who is at this time incommunicado, under arrest and forcibly detained in a military facility, an army barracks.
At the moment Cuba considers President Chávez to be the constitutional President of Venezuela and refuses to accept the news that President Chávez has resigned and challenges the putschers to show the document proving that President Chávez has resigned.
José L. Ponce (director of CPI).- Thank you, very much, Minister.
Felipe Pérez .- Thanks.
Randy Alonso.- This was the statement made by our Foreign Minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, this afternoon, on the serious events that unfolded yesterday in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Counter-revolutionary forces within the right-wing Venezuelan business sector, an illegal Worker’s Confederation and the mass media allied in an ultimately successful attempt to overthrow President Hugo Chávez and the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. This coup also enlisted the direct participation of some Army Generals.
There are various stages to these events that culminated yesterday with the ousting of President Hugo Chávez.
I suggest offering some key information on the main forces involved in the shocking events in Venezuela.
Eduardo Dimas will now comment on its background and on those responsible for yesterday’s events.
Eduardo Dimas.- Thank you, Randy.
Yes, on April 6 the illegal leadership of the Venezuelan Workers’ Confederation, together with the business upper echelons, that is, the sectors of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie and oligarchy in Fedecámaras, announced a 24-hour strike in support of the managers of Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. Those managers had in fact been dismissed for their opposition to the new Management Board appointed by the government. We should remember that Petróleos de Venezuela is a state corporation.
The connivance of the illegal leadership of the Venezuelan Workers’ Confederation and Fedecámaras is a key element: the working class aristocracy joins hands with the bourgeoisie to go on strike. This strike took place on April 9, affecting various sectors of the country to a greater or lesser degree. The press, however, indicated that no economic sector was affected above 40 %. The union and the business top leaders decided to extend the strike by a further 48 hours.
On April 10, the so-called Workers’ Confederation and the business elite declared that the strike would go on indefinitely. This was at the root of the events and demonstrations that later brought about the current situation and led eventually to the overthrow of President Hugo Chávez through a coup d’état.
The first thing we must point out –and the coup is undoubtedly the outcome-is that the beginning of the process against the Bolivarian Revolution and President Chávez date back to the very moment when Hugo Chávez took office. This was after the first elections when he implemented a series of reforms, changed the Constitution and again held elections and was re-elected. Chávez unseated the traditional Venezuelan parties, such as Acción Democrática (Democratic Action) and COPEI that alternately held power for 40 years and subjected 80% of the population in one of the richest countries in Latin America to abject poverty.
Bear in mind that the destabilization process leading to this situation comprises a number of actions already experienced in other countries, like Allende’s Chile. Among such actions are the draining of capital: between 1999 and 2001 more than 23 billion dollars were siphoned out of Venezuela, precisely by these sectors of the national bourgeoisie and foreign investors; a systematic, actually a daily negative press campaign on every TV channel, radio station and newspaper; the instigation of labor and social disputes, provocative marches, smear campaigns, and misinformation. The reactionary forces have used all these mechanisms for ages.
This led to the situation that began on April 9. A crucial moment was December 1st last year when a 12-hour strike was called by the business top leadership.
Therefore, what we are now witnessing is the outcome of a lengthy campaign fostered by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie and oligarchy –buoyed up by the parties that had been removed from power and supported by sectors of the working class aristocracy and the bought-out, illegal unions– that caused yesterday’s events.
Randy Alonso.- I think the background information that Eduardo has outlined for us are crucial to understanding the events in Venezuela since last Tuesday: a general strike that failed on the first day, was then extended for 24 hours and then declared indefinite by the same coalition of counter-revolutionary forces made up of the business top leadership, the illegal unions and the media. The latter played a key role in this coup d’état that took place in Venezuela yesterday that was finally backed by the Venezuelan Armed Forces.
The provocation was very well orchestrated and included various strikes called by the same group of counter-revolutionary forces, since December. In December, January and February we saw various demonstrations organized by these leading groups against the Bolivarian process, all of which reached its climax in the last three days, especially yesterday, in a well-orchestrated provocation that eventually led to a coup d’état.
Comrade Rogelio Polanco will now talk about this provocation and President Chávez’ denunciation yesterday afternoon that was broadcast nationwide.
Rogelio Polanco.- At 3:45 pm yesterday, President Chávez called on the TV networks linked to carry his address to the nation explaining the situation in the country. The President clearly and emphatically denounced the shameless and open attempts to instigate violence amongst certain sectors aimed at destabilizing the country. Chávez also denounced the participation of the media in what he called a "media insurrection". These media were calling for the demonstrators to advance on the Miraflores Government Palace. These demonstrators were the same strikers that had been called upon by the business top echelons and by the illegal Workers’ Confederation to march on the Government Palace.
At the same time, Chávez stated that these TV channels had been spreading rumors and lies, even the claim that he had been detained. Also, while Chavez was talking live on air he had to tell the time because one of the rumors was that it was a recorded and not a live program.
Some of the TV channels in that simultaneous broadcast cut Chávez off and began to show images of the riots and serious provocations that were underway in front of or in the vicinity of the Government’s Palace.
Chávez also announced the indefinite shutdown of three TV channels that had instigated the violence: Radio Caracas Television, Venevisión and RTM.
The truth is that the forces that were marching on the Palace were accompanied by policemen in plain clothes; members of the Metropolitan Police Force under the control of Greater Caracas Mayor Alfredo Peña, an arch-enemy of Hugo Chávez.
Randy Alonso.- He betrayed the Bolivarian revolution.
Rogelio Polanco.- He betrayed the Bolivarian revolution. He is one of the counter-revolutionaries actively involved in the anti-Bolivarian process. Members of Chávez’ government had told other sources, not Venezuelan TV, but sources such as La Jornada that I have before me here, that "snipers from the Metropolitan Police stationed 200 mts from the Presidential Palace had opened fire on a pro-Chávez demonstration". This is from an article running in today’s La Jornada which also states that "Juan Vicente Gómez, of the Bolivarian network, told La Jornada that the police force of the Greater Caracas Mayor’s office under Alfredo Peña, from the opposition, acted against Chávez’ supporters and that the snipers were part of the conspiracy".
"Government sources in Miraflores indicated that some police officers in plain clothes had turned themselves and their weapons in saying they had been forced to fire upon civilians".
The report also claims that extreme left-wing groups brought along by the business top leaders had attempted to provoke the National Guard who were defending the area around the government palace.
This led to an exchange of shots that caused 10 deaths, some sources report 15 dead and over 100 wounded. Some sources even suggest as many as 300 wounded.
The deaths were regrettable but they were just what the manipulating forces behind the coup d’état needed as a pretext for the putsch. These deaths were a must for them to manipulate the situation and provoke the subsequent events.
Chávez’ denunciation that afternoon was very clear. Unfortunately there was a conspiracy to prevent the truth of what was occurring in Venezuela from being known.
Randy Alonso.- Exactly, Polanco. In today’s edition of the Mexican newspaper La Jornada an article by Estela Calloni, a journalist renowned throughout our continent, discusses a Pinochet-like coup and indicates that "a source from the Quinta República Movement told La Jornada that there was an exchange of shots between elements of the Metropolitan Police –under Mayor Alfredo Peña’s command– and the Presidential Guard who were ordered to remain in the area to protect Chávez’ supporters and to prevent a clash".
"The source reported that of the ten dead, 6 were Chávez supporters, the vast majority of the wounded also being government loyalists".
"This same source said that this was a U.S.-promoted putsch involving Carlos Andrés Pérez’ people and the old military structure responsible for the "Caracazo"; the mayor of Caracas, Alfredo Peña who is in charge of the Metropolitan Police; and, other individuals that have visited the U.S., such as Alberto Franquechi, responsible for the murder of Alberto Lobera and others killed in the 1960’s".
La Jornada goes on to say that "according to the Quinta República source this is an attempt to carry out a military coup along the lines of that staged by Pinochet against Salvador Allende in 1973. This shows in the paralization of certain economic sectors, the mobilization of public sectors on the street and the extensive propaganda through the mass media".
According to media reports, the events led Inspector General of the Armed Forces General Lucas Rincón Romero, to declare at 3:15 am on Friday morning that "the members of the military High Command deplore the unfortunate events that have taken place this Thursday in the capital, and has thus requested the President’s resignation which he has accepted". This was General Rincón Romero’s statement at a press conference.
General Rincón himself had told the media the previous afternoon that the Venezuelan Armed Forces supported Constitutional order, that they opposed any violence shown against this order and that they supported the Constitutionally elected government. However, at 3:15 next morning, General Lucas Rincón Romero himself declared: "as of now we are relinquishing our responsibilities." This is what Rincón, Inspector General of the Armed Forces, stated at Tiuna Fort, the main military fortress in Caracas.
This General of the Venezuelan Army was taking for granted that President Chávez had agreed to resign.
Other media reported that "Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was detained in Fort Tiuna, the main military fortress in Caracas, since 4:07 hrs local time as confirmed by the Commander General of the Army, Efrain Vásquez.
"The General told journalists that ‘Chávez will remain under military protection in Fort Tiuna, to the south of the capital, until a more suitable location is found’. He later indicated that ‘Chávez may be transferred in the next few days to the Ramo Verde military prison in the city of Teques, 25 km to the south of Caracas".
According to an AFP cable, the former Venezuelan president was escorted by the army from the Miraflores Government Palace and taken to Fort Tiuna, arriving there 17 minutes later. Globovisión TV reported that "he looked very serious, staring straight ahead", and was wearing his military uniform.
The latest reports indicate that President Chávez is still inside Fort Tiuna, although he is "incommunicado" and it is impossible to confirm the condition of the Venezuelan constitutional President overthrown by the armed forces and the counter-revolutionary coup against his constitutional government.
At approximately 11:00 am this morning, in view of reports from the Venezuelan media and the distorted reports of the events in that country, we contacted over the phone María Gabriela Chávez –President Hugo Chávez’ daughter– and she made a public denunciation that I would like to reiterate here in our roundtable this afternoon.
Randy Alonso.- We are talking to María Gabriela Chávez, daughter of the constitutional President of the Bolivarian Republic, Hugo Chávez Frías, overthrown by counter-revolutionary forces in the last few hours. The Cuban people have been following recent events deeply distressed, we have followed the reports of the Venezuelan media that were themselves direct participants in the plot against Venezuelan constitutional order and against President Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution; the same Venezuelan media that have been spreading the news about Chávez’ resignation.
María Gabriela, I would firstly like to greet you on behalf of the Cuban people and ask you to tell us what has really happened in the last few hours in your country.
María Gabriela Chávez.- Firstly I’d like to return the greeting to the Cuban people.
Two hours ago we were able to speak to my father. He called us on the telephone and told us to please inform the whole world that at no point had he offered his resignation, that at no time had he signed a presidential decree removing Vice President Diosdado Cabello from office, nor had he himself resigned. Some Army men had simply detained him and taken him to Fort Tiuna, the Army’s headquarters. Right now he is detained in the military police regiment, at Fort Tiuna, completely "incommunicado", and was allowed only to talk to us, his children. He asked us to contact lawyers, to talk to friends and family, to demand that his rights be respected and that we be allowed to see him, not knowing when we would have the chance to speak again.
Randy Alonso.- This was approximately two hours ago, María Gabriela?
María Gabriela Chávez.- Two hours ago, at 9 in the morning here.
Randy Alonso.- And have you had any further news since you last spoke?
María Gabriela Chávez.- No. I asked him: "Dad, when can we talk to you again?" He said, "No, my love, now you have to help me. You have to contact lawyers, put some pressure and tell everyone that I am in prison, that I am an imprisoned President, and that I have not resigned". Those were his very words.
After I spoke to my father I talked to Vice President Diosdado Cabello and to other Quinta República MPs. I also talked to Juan Barreto, another Quinta República MP who is in hiding because they are also after him; I spoke to Freddy Bernal; the former Director of the DISIP has been kidnapped; the Attorney General of the Republic has also been detained, although this has not been mentioned by the media.
The fact is that my father never resigned. There has been a coup d’état and they are trying to mask it as an alleged resignation.
Randy Alonso.- María Gabriela, what you are telling us is very important because we have been following the media reports and there is no information on the real whereabouts of the Venezuelan authorities, and the news of Chavez’ resignation has been widely broadcast.
I believe this is a very important piece of information for the Cuban people. Would you like to add anything?
María Gabriela Chávez.- My father also asked me to tell the truth to you and to the whole world. Diosdado Cabello told me to ask you to please denounce these events to the O.A.S., to the G-77 and to all other international agencies. They are setting up an extreme-right-wing dictatorship here and they want to hide behind an alleged resignation. It is all a lie. They are looking for the supporters of the government to arrest them, which is why they are all hiding.
Randy Alonso.- María Gabriela, in the middle of this difficult situation could you also tell us about the rest of your family, your brothers and sisters, your small daughter?
María Gabriela Chávez.- We are also practically in hiding. We are fine now, much calmer and all together. My brother Hugo is here with me, my sister Rosa, my daughter. We are calm and hopeful that we will overcome this. We must help our father through this.
Randy Alonso.- On behalf of the Cuban people I would like to express the love and admiration we feel for you and for your family and our sadness for the current events. I also want you to know that the Cuban people are your brothers and sisters; we are with you in these grave and difficult moments and you can count on us for whatever you may need. Cuban television and radio are also willing to broadcast your denunciation and to follow all events. We will try to keep in touch with you whenever possible to follow the serious events in Venezuela.
María Gabriela Chávez.- This is my cell pone number, I will have it with me always and you can call me any time, for anything. It is easier for you to call me because I won’t be able to call you. Anything you want to know, I can keep you informed. It’s no problem, I’ll do anything for my dad . We also love you very much, we love all the Cuban people. Thank you for your support.
Randy Alonso.- We want you to know that you have many brothers and sisters here and we will be with you in this battle for truth.
María Gabriela Chávez.- Thank you very much. We know.
Randy Alonso.- The news agencies report that the new Venezuelan government headed by the President of Fedecámaras was installed de facto; and, according to an AFP report, the interim government of Venezuela decreed a reorganization of public institutions and to such an end he also decreed the dismissal of the President and of all the judges in the Supreme Court of Justice.
The organization headed by Mr. Carmona, the so-called current de facto President of Venezuela, has played a crucial role in the developments of the last few hours and especially yesterday and today.
I think that the role of the reactionary Venezuelan business top echelons deserves analyzing in this round table. Lázaro Barredo can address this point.
Lázaro Barredo.- Yes, Randy. You know that all the top brass of Fedecámaras was there today at Carmona’s inauguration. Fedecámaras is the Venezuelan business federation with the closest ties to the transnationals. In other words, they are the people with the greatest vested interest in and who have had most to do with the institutional facing which President Hugo Chávez’ government.
Today, all those businessmen were shouting "democracy" as they released information about the decree that dismissed parliamentary deputies elected in democratic elections; that abolished the Bolivarian nature of the revolution, approved in a referendum, and that dismissed the judges, the President, the Vice President and the Attorney General of the Republic. In other words, they dismissed all the democratically elected officials of what is probably the most democratic process in the entire Latin America, because these authorities were elected twice, with the highest popular turnout recorded, at least in the last 50 years. President Chavez submitted himself to the electoral process twice and submitted the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic to a popular referendum. And these "great democrats", to whom this Constitution gives every means they need to challenge a President, showed the counter-revolution’s thirst fro revenge, their thirst for vengeance, which is really just beginning, and used violence to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution.
Fedecámaras, that is, the business sector always opposed the main agreements of the Bolivarian Revolution. Last year, the National Assembly, (the parliament) passed a law on November 13 empowering President Chávez to draft a series of executive resolutions. These were 49 bills that tackled the Agrarian Reform Act problems, the fisheries problems, and the problems in the hydrocarbon sector and imposed taxes on transnational oil companies in Venezuela. In a word, they eased the democratic and social situation in that country, an immensely rich country in which 85% of the population was living below the poverty line when the Bolivarian Revolution took over. The explicit aim of these legislations was to implement a policy of social justice. That was what motivated the leaders of that business federation in Venezuela , very rich people, led by that guy, Mr. Pedro Carmona Estanga. He is the CEO of a company that manufactures chemical products. He was also a diplomat and a man who likes to go skiing in the Alps and enjoys a top executive’s dolce vita; a man far removed from the concerns of the people. These Fedecámaras businesspeople, never said a word when the Caracazo happened, nor did the military or any Venezuelan political force, although that event claimed the lives of 1,000 people. However, these people decided to go up against President Hugo Chávez and for the first time in Venezuelan history call an employers’ strike for December 10.
Never before, not even under Marcos Pérez Jiménez’ dictatorship or that of Juan Vicente Gómez, nor even at the beginning of the 20th century when the top bankers were arrested by General Cipriano Castro because they refused to lend money to the state; never had the Venezuelan business sector resorted to a strike. It was now, in the context of all the opposition to these revolutionary laws that they challenged these decisions and incited people to violence, to destabilize the country, of course, with foreign help, as has already been denounced, with the go ahead from certain authorities, such as the U.S. Administration. Later on, when we talk about the military, you’ll see the CIA’s involvement and that of other elements who instigated the uprising against President Hugo Chávez.
All these people conspired together, and then you had the case of President Chávez’ decision to bring order back to PDVSA, that’s the Venezuelan state oil company, which generates most of the county’s financial resources. So, the PDVSA people, the top brass, who had been removed on President Chávez’ orders joined with certain elements of the labor aristocracy, allies of the counterrevolution and together with Fedecámaras and with some other sectors they hatched this series of strikes and lock-outs with which they have been attempting to destabilize Venezuela over the last few days and which led to that demonstration yesterday. As Polanco has said, President Hugo Chávez was warning people on the television that this demonstration could create social problems, a clash with the Bolivarian forces that had been outside the Miraflores Palace for days now. Despite all that, that very same Mr. Pedro Carmona incited the march on Miraflores and incited the violence, which brought about yesterday’s developments.
Randy Alonso.- Carmona has today proclaimed himself de facto President of Venezuela.
Lázaro Barredo.- Along with Peña and all the putschers.
Randy Alonso.- And he says he will be in power for 365 days. Actually, we’ll have to see what happens. On the other hand, he has been the public face of the counterrevolutionary conspiracy against President Hugo Chávez.
Today, we have seen that the media have played an outrageous role in this whole conspiracy against the Bolivarian Revolution. One of the television channels said "Let’s see the people’s reaction to yesterday’s events". And this "people" was none other than the top PDVSA executives who had met to celebrate what was happening. That is the "people" to which these top executives --these putschers—refer, the "people" who yesterday caused the fall of a government democratically elected by the Venezuelan people.
Shortly after 3:00 in the afternoon, we were also able to make contact with His Excellency Julio Montes, ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Cuba. He is currently in Caracas, he was in Venezuela. He stayed in the Miraflores Palace all through last night with President Hugo Chávez, and this is what Julio Montes told us.
Randy Alonso.- We are talking with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s ambassador to Cuba, His Excellency Julio Montes who is currently in Caracas and has the latest details of the serious events in Venezuela .
The Cuban people says hello, Julio.
Julio Montes.- Well, how are you, Randy? Hello to the Cuban people. Here we are, in solidarity as always, in the same country, on the same mission, fighting on.
Randy Alonso:- Julio, since last night and all this morning our people have been following the momentous events that have taken place in Venezuela. We know that late yesterday you were with President Chávez in the Miraflores Palace, in those momentous events which have occurred in Venezuela, and we would like you to explain to our people what happened and what led to the overthrow of President Chávez’ government.
Julio Montes.- What happened yesterday was a demolition machine mounted to stage a putsch. The provocation included sending the demonstration that was underway to Miraflores, knowing that all the people who support President Chávez’ process were concentrated there. That in itself and leaving the Palace unprotected, is what caused the clashes and the deaths. All this was set in motion by the counter-revolution that took over the government in Venezuela. It was an almost perfect production from a how-to-stage-a-coup d’état manual: the actions by the media led the people to believe that the country had no government. A situation arose when, over the course of the afternoon, the generals, not all the levels of the armed forces but the generals, started to turn their backs on the President, one after the other, until Comandante Chávez was left virtually alone without the support of the generals in the Venezuelan armed forces.
We were there in the palace until the final moments, when they demanded from the President either his resignation or his immolation. There was a group of us comrades there until the end, when the President chose to give himself up to them, to be taken prisoner. He was arrested in the Palace. The President did not resign, but a coup d’état did take place. The government that resulted is a de facto government, an unconstitutional government. Actually, a witch-hunt is starting today; parliamentary immunity has been ignored and there are several members of parliament whose houses have been violently searched.
The top people in the President’s government are being persecuted. There is a list. They have arrested the minister of the interior, they are looking for Professor Aristóbulo Isturis, the minister of education, for María Cristina Iglesias. They are breaking into institutions and planting weapons to justify future arrests. That is the situation today.
They are attacking the Cuban Embassy, allowing the hoards, with all the hysteria that has been created, to attempt an assault against the Cuban Embassy. That is the situation facing us right now. The comrades in the Embassy will, of course, defend it to the end, but with no reply or support from the institutions in Venezuela today. That is more or less the situation at the moment.
People are beginning to take to the streets. It is 3:21 pm we are somewhere in Caracas and the people are beginning to take to the streets in support of President Chávez. That is more or less the situation here today.
Randy Alonso.- We have heard too, Julio, that there have been statements from some governors loyal to President Chávez, from some of his ministers, including the Attorney General.
Julio Montes.- Yes, the governor of Táchira, Ronald Blanco; the governor of Mérida, Porras; the governor of Portuguesa, Black Antonia; the governor of Lara, Reyes Reyes; all have said that they do not recognize this de facto government, that they are the Constitutional, elected government, that they recognize President Chávez as their President because he is the person the people elected in the most legitimate process in all of the history of the Republic of Venezuela, seven elections supporting him. Well, that’s happening.
Also, the Attorney General of the Republic managed to go on the television, in the brief time they gave him, and announced to the country that the President had not resigned, that he was under arrest and that what had taken place was a coup d’état, that the Constitution had been violated, the Constitutional provisions. The Vice President, who is supposed to take over, is not here, neither is the President, nor the Assembly. We have, therefore, a de facto government, a government that is the result of yesterday’s movement, yesterday’s military coup.
Randy Alonso.- . - O.K. Julio, I thank you, on behalf of the Cuban people for that information. Furthermore, I think these are important facts that we are providing in the midst of what we could call the media attack that President Chávez’ government has been subjected to and which is part of the conspiracy behind this coup. I think that all this information ...
Julio Montes.- One additional thing, Randy. I also think that the battle continues. Chávez is a symbol of the future, a symbol of hope for the world, he will gather power as a symbol. People are already demanding that Chávez be set free, that is the outcry that is beginning to be heard throughout Venezuela. And let me tell you this is also an important lesson. This is also an important lesson for all countries about the power of the media, of those with the privilege of power and also, of how the empire operates in this situation.
President Chávez has the overwhelming support of the Venezuelan people; yesterday’s events, the demonstrations over all these months proved that. Nevertheless, because of their control over the media and because they created a state of mind in some sectors in the country and by mobilizing the armed forces they crushed the hopes of this people, and of this continent; but only for a while, because the reserves are there, the forces are there, and I am sure that hope will rise again.
Randy Alonso.- Thank you, Julio. I would also like to convey to you the Cuban people’s solidarity, the Cuban people’s support for Chávez, for you and the rest of the comrades who have been in the frontline of the Bolivarian Revolution in the last few years. You know that we are all brothers in this battle for hope, as you yourself put it.
Our television and radio will keep us updated on the events and will continue to denounce this counter-revolutionary conspiracy.
Julio Montes.- We have no doubt of that, because I, who have been living with the Cuban people, know that we are the same people, the same nation, and the same homeland. That is why we stand side by side in our commitment to life.
Randy Alonso.- I repeat that our television, our radio, the Cuban media will be open to any information, to any chance of contact with you and that we shall continue to denounce this conspiracy against a constitutional government. We shall be closely following all news.
Randy Alonso.- That was the conversation we had with the ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in our country, Mr. Julio Montes, shortly after 3:00 this afternoon. He provided us with some important details of what was happening, not only last night’s attempt to flatten the Miraflores Palace, President Chávez and all of his close collaborators in there with tanks but also about the witch hunt that has been unleashed in Venezuela in the last few hours. This is reminiscent of the 1973 anti-Constitutional coup against President Allende, when many of Allende’s ministers were dragged from their homes, and their family members were also dragged out by the mob led by Pinochet. Well, something similar is happening in Venezuela: ministers, members of the National Assembly, important figures in the Venezuelan government are being persecuted and imprisoned, their houses are being violently raided.
A report from Prensa Latina indicates that the three Venezuelan state media are still occupied by members of the National Guard and the police. Venezolana de Television has been off the air for two days and its employees are forbidden to enter its buildings, which are under police guard. The VENPRES news agency is not sending any cables either and members of the National Guard are taking it upon themselves to guard their offices. Meanwhile, something similar is happening with Venezuela National Radio, which is only broadcasting music and not its usual programs, and there are soldiers in its buildings.
The labor aristocracy also played a critical role in this whole counter-revolutionary plot. They are within that illegal Workers’ Confederation. Together with Fedecámaras and other putschist forces that fostered these events, even from abroad, they helped bring about the coup in Venezuela yesterday.
Juana Carrasco will tell us about this.
Juana Carrasco.- Of course, Randy. In fact Carlos Ortega, the President of the CTV (the Venezuelan Workers’ Confederation) has had a leading role in this coup. This individual has cooked up a sui generis conspiracy for someone who is supposed to be a union leader. In each and every clash, strike, act of provocation and aggression, he took sides with the business executives who have now taken power through the President of Fedecámaras.
I want to say that Carlos Ortega, in his first remarks to the press after this coup, called no less than for the dissolution of the National Assembly. In other words, he is urging that those who have been legitimately elected by the Venezuelan people be persecuted.
Randy Alonso.- By the way, Juanita, such a call has in fact been met. The new de facto authorities imposed on Venezuela have said that they will dismiss all the national power institutions and create new ones to be installed de facto in that country, including the National Assembly.
Juana Carrasco.- Including the National Assembly, and that is what has been done. But, he has also said officially that the indefinite general strike is over now.
Now, what Workers’ Confederation are we talking about here? The CTV has traditionally been a group with leverage in Venezuelan political and economic circles. Nevertheless, ever since it was founded 60 years ago its leaders have been only those appointed by arrangements made in the top ranks of two of Venezuela’s largest parties, the AD (Acción Democrática) and the COPEI. In other words, Carlos Ortega is one of Carlos Andrés Pérez’ men. He is also a member of AD, and that is whom he answers to.
Now, this individual who hardly cared for the Worker’s Confederation, of which he was a leader before the last elections, did not mind for example about high unemployment in Venezuela, about the terrible exploitation of the Venezuelan people, about the extreme poverty they have endured for years. He did not care about that. Why? Because he was a representative of the Venezuelan labor aristocracy, of the workers’ aristocracy. Actually, he comes from the leadership of Petroleos de Venezuela workers’ union and the AD people placed him in that position. That is when he went to what were defined as the most unprecedented elections in Venezuelan history, when elections were called to elect union leaders.
What did they do when they saw that what they had always had was going to slip away from them? They got together all the forces, all the economic power and money, and in an operation last October, they stole ballots and burned electoral colleges. All this prevented the counting of 40% of the votes that had been cast by a million Venezuelan workers. He quite simply resorted to the kinds of violence that we see being used in this coup.
In fact, those union elections couldn’t be held in three Venezuelan states, in Zulia, Anzoátegui and in Delta Amacuro; coercion was used against workers to prevent them from voting for representatives of the Bolivarian movement, the true representatives of the working masses in that country. And so he "won" those union elections and from then on, and even before that, encouraged all kinds of labor conflicts plus the strikes that have been mentioned here. In fact, I think it was in March when he and Fedecámaras did something significant. That was the so-called Pact of Governance or the bases for a democratic agreement, where Carlos Ortega declared that what they were trying to do was to make Mr. Chávez to step down from the presidency immediately. That is to say, in March they were already announcing the coup d’état that is now taking place.
I wonder about Ortega, what will happen next? Because he said that a union leader must oppose the government. Is he going to oppose his friend and buddy Pedro Carmona? Of course not.
But there is another specimen who has been operating from abroad, from the Dominican Republic where he lived. He has also been operating from Miami where he had residence too, and he made his latest remarks from New York, saying that he is going to return to Venezuela. I am referring to former President, Carlos Andrés Pérez, a member of AD.
What does Carlos Andrés Pérez want? He says that he is glad that it is none other that his close collaborator, Pedro Carmona, who is now leading Venezuela. He called him an educated businessman, an economist by profession, a democrat by vocation.
Who is talking about a democratic vocation? Who is calling Chávez a dictator? Carlos Andrés Pérez, the man who ordered repression against thousands of Venezuelans who were killed in the Caracazo when the residents of El Cerrito came down from the hill to demand food and work, neither of which they had, and he quite simply drowned the Venezuelan people in blood. And this is the man who stole from the state treasury. In fact he was being tried for misappropriation during his two tenures and INTERPOL was even seeking him.
And what does he say? He says: "I am now making preparations for my return to Venezuela, but not motivated by personal ambition, I only want to contribute my political experience." His political experience were the Caracazo, the 3,000 dead from the hills of Caracas and his theft from the Venezuelan public treasury.
Randy Alonso.- This is another part of this dirty business. Just who some of the members of the counterrevolutionary forces are who carried out the coup to oust President Hugo Chávez in the early hours of this morning; a military coup, a coup against Venezuelan Constitutional order which has also lead to the persecution of ministers and other important people in Venezuela.
Just after 5:00 p.m. we were able to make contact with Aristóbulo Isturis, President Hugo Chávez’ minister of education. He is one of the people marked for arrest, sought by the putschers and vilified by the Venezuelan media.
I suggest we listen to the Venezuelan minister of education.
Randy Alonso.- We are once again talking to Venezuela. We have on the line Aristóbulo Isturis, minister of education in President Chávez’ government overthrown by counterrevolutionary forces.
Minister, we would like to welcome you on behalf of the Cuban people and to ask your opinion about what is happening now in Venezuela, about the latest events and the ousting of President Chávez.
Aristóbulo Isturis.- Randy, I was with President Chávez in the Miraflores Palace and the President, I can assure you, never resigned. The President told them that he would hold them responsible for everything a coup d’état entails, and that their government would be a de facto government, would be a dictatorial government, in violation of the Bolivarian Constitution. So he would let them take him prisoner but he was never going to sign a resignation for them, because if he signed a resignation it would not be a coup. President Chávez never signed a resignation for them.
They have tried to make people think that President Chávez resigned. They gave him some time, a deadline. If the President did not give himself up in that time period, then they would attack the palace. We argued about it with the President who said that enough blood had been shed, that we should go on fighting, but that it was better to safeguard the security of our cadres, etcetera; that there was no need to sacrifice them and that he would allow himself to be taken prisoner so we could live. We decided to go along with the President’s decision. He was then placed under arrest and right now he is being held incommunicado. Not even the Attorney General of the Republic has been able to see President Chávez and they have not allowed him to speak.
The Attorney General stated publicly today if this was a de facto government, a dictatorship or what. Today they did not allow us to enter any of our ministries, they are violently breaking into all the ministries and showing it on television. They are mobilizing a mob that spit on, knock down, and insult the ministers and their families. That is what they did to the Minister of Domestic Relations, and to Vice President Diosdado Cabello’s family members. They violated deputy Karel William Sáez’ parliamentary immunity, they violently took him from his house, kicking and pushing him in the midst of the mob. They are unleashing terror campaigns.
As for me, they say that the mayor of Caracas and I are the most dangerous and the ones they most wanted, that they have looked all over for us but haven’t found us. That is a lie, because from 3:30 in the morning when I was with the President, I went to my house and I have been at home. I went to one of the television channels for a short while to say: "Look, I am here at home, what you are saying is not true." They have not let us speak to the newspapers, they are not allowing us to speak on Venezuelan radio, and we are virtually incommunicado with public opinion.
They are now breaking into the Cuban Embassy and they are also mobilizing people who are the enemies of our process outside the Embassy.
What can I say? In six hours these people have created a disaster from a human rights point of view: the abuse, the fact that those under arrest are held incommunicado, the President is incommunicado, the unexplained violent raids, the public mockery of every leader and the lack of access to communications for each of us and for those under arrest.
They have already violently raided my mother’s house, my sister’s house, and well, they will come for me. I have not moved from my house, I am going to wait for them here. I have tried to communicate with all the international media because that is the only way that Venezuela can bounce back and so I really thank you, brother, for calling me.
Randy Alonso.- Minister, given this witch-hunt that has been unleashed in Venezuela over the last few hours, do you think that President Chávez’ life is safe?
Aristóbulo Isturis.- We fear for President Chávez’ life. If the negotiations dragged on a bit it was because, in order to leave and not die with the President there making their take-over of the Palace more difficult, we demanded that President Chávez’ life would be spared. They won’t keep their word, everyone knows that they won’t keep their word.
We are calling on international agencies to watch out for President Chávez’ life and for the lives of all of the officials in President Chávez’ government.
Randy Alonso.- Well, minister Aristóbulo, are there any other details of the situation of the last few hours that you would like to comment on?
Aristóbulo Isturis.- Well, brother, that this is a de facto state, that you please stay aware of the fate of Venezuelans and of Venezuelan fighters for social justice because at this point a really bleak, really gloomy panorama stretches before us. We know that this is part of the struggle that a process of change has begun in Venezuela that will not go backwards but it has been interrupted. At any moment we are going to regain control of the Bolivarian Revolutionary process and forward! brother, forward!.
Randy Alonso.- Minister Aristóbulo, I reiterate the Cuban people’s faith in you and in the rest of the leaders of the Bolivarian Revolution and I repeat the expressions of affection and solidarity that you have always received from the Cuban people. We want you to know that our people are aware of what is happening and is in solidarity with the Venezuelan people.
Aristóbulo Isturis.- I was at the Lázaro Peña School. I say hello to all my friends there and this is the struggle.
Randy Alonso.- We once again convey the solidarity of the Cuban people and we want you to know that we are aware of what is happening, that Cuban radio and television are open to you, to all Venezuelan fighters for social justice, so that you may continue to get coverage for the truth about this counter-revolutionary plot against President Chávez and his Constitutional government.
Aristóbulo Isturis.- Thank you, very much.
Randy Alonso.- Thank you for your remarks for our television service.
Randy Alonso.- A report from AFP, precisely on what the minister of education was saying about the ousting of President Chávez’ government reads "that Venezuelan Ombudsman Germán Mundarain, this Friday denounced the widespread violation of human rights in Venezuela, which must cease, after the fall of President Hugo Chávez and his replacement by a government junta headed by Pedro Carmona, the President of Fedecámaras, the top executives’ organization.
" We believe that there is a widespread violation of human rights which must cease for the good of our people and for the good of the country. It is a widespread violation of human rights which we think is linked to an avenging crusade’, Mundarain told Union Radio.
"The Ombudsman, who is still in his post, said he is concerned about the way members of parliament and ministers who enjoy special privileges are being arrested. ‘We are concerned about the way they are arresting governors, alderpersons and mayors’, he said. ‘Several of these arrests have even been televised’.
"My office has opened an investigation into the situation the country is experiencing’ he added. ‘It is not possible that the masses are taking part in something that seems to be more vengeance than justice’, he said, referring to the televised arrests and house raids by those who oppose the ousted President."
This use of the television was an important part of the whole conspiracy against President Chávez, against the Constitutional Venezuelan government.
The media waged a media war these last few days and that helped the counter-revolutionary coup. Rogelio Polanco will comment on this.
Rogelio Polanco.- It was a media war, which reached its climax yesterday. Let us remember, however, that this media war has been going on for months, for years against the Bolivarian process and that Chávez’ government, authorities and policies were systematically attacked by the mainstream media controlled by that aristocracy, by the powerful media which is in the hands of the same people who are aligned with the business top leadership and the illegal Workers’ Confederation.
Some have suggested that this was, first and foremost, a media-made coup; in other words that the media, especially the private television stations, were the first to take power and then incited violence, incited people to stage the coup d’état. In other words, the private television networks were, for hours on end, broadcasting only one point of view about what was happening. And the international television networks joined forces with them and offered only one point of view. This caused great confusion in the international media and in international public opinion.
It must be said that yesterday the media were openly looking for a Pinochet. The corrupt business executives and some military, some media-darling military top brass, appeared one after the other talking about instability and about the need to take the decisions that the de facto junta did take. I think, therefore, that a very large part of the responsibility for what happened yesterday and for what is happening in Venezuela today lies with the mainstream media. This was clearly denounced yesterday afternoon by Hugo Chávez himself who, in many of his public statements has spoken of the irresponsible role of, and the provocation incited by, the mainstream media.
At one point yesterday President Hugo Chávez himself said to La Jornada that "in recent days there were groups of hooded men who hid behind the cameras of private television stations to throw stones during street demonstrations". In other words, having received no reply from these television stations concerning these acts of provocation that were evident during these days, a decision was taken —President Chávez himself was explaining that yesterday— to suspend some of these private TV stations which were inciting violence and covering the disturbances live as they were happening.
Today, I think we can ask ourselves, where are those media’s ethics? Where is the Inter-American Press Society today, which has been constantly attacking Chávez’ government, now that these extremely serious events have occurred? Where is the Venezuelan media’s freedom of expression? Where are the champions of human rights now when there is complete silence about the developments in the country and when even some of the country’s most important leaders have been prevented from addressing international public opinion to denounce the coup, which is underway in Venezuela?
Randy Alonso.- Yes, Polanco, those of us who had the opportunity to watch those TV channels for several hours to follow what was going on and to provide our people with the news, found the diatribes of these private Venezuelan TV stations to be really disgusting, the way they manipulated the facts, manipulated all the events.
Some of the top people from Venevisión, one of the most important private TV companies in Venezuela, were openly glorying in the fact that the media had for the first time taken on a Venezuelan government. This was a recognition by them of what had been the Venezuelan private media’s position from the very beginning; a media, which is in the hands of the business establishment, which was one of the allies in the putsch against President Chávez. This gives us an indication of the way the privately owned media attacked the Bolivarian Revolution, which was trying to solve the problems of the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans, something that this business establishment always opposed.
A lot more could be said about this, about the role of the media, I think there is a lot of material there, but these are just a few examples. The media have prevented any statements by ministers, by people allied to President Chávez from being broadcast. Any mention of a coup d’état has been immediately pulled from the air by these stations. That happened today in a CNN overseas broadcast. Spanish language CNN also played an important role in what happened yesterday, manipulating the events. But then today, the Spanish language CNN broadcast the interview with the Attorney General of the Republic of Venezuela in its entirety. The Venezuelan channels did not, they pulled him off the air.
I suggest we watch the statement by the Venezuelan Attorney General.
Isaías Rodríguez.- I should like to begin by telling you that the Attorney General’s office at this time has three of its attorneys at Fort Tiuna, one of them the director of Fundamental Rights, Magali García Malpica.
The reason for the visit by the Attorney General’s Office to Fort Tiuna is to meet with President, or ex-President, Chávez, whatever you wish to call him, those who want to call him anything at this time.
Why meet with him? Firstly, because we have information from the military attorneys who have spoken to him, that the President has not resigned. If in fact the President has not resigned, if the Attorney General’s Office has not been shown written, express proof of this resignation, then President Chávez is still the President of the Republic of Venezuela. But in the hypothetical case that the President has resigned, Presidential resignations must be presented to the National Assembly, and it is only when the National Assembly accepts this resignation that a Presidential resignation can be considered to be effective. Therefore, even in the hypothetical case of the President having resigned, he is in fact still the President of the Republic because he did not present his resignation to the National Assembly where a hypothetical resignation by the President is validated.
But I want to point out some other things: the President of the Republic at this time has been deprived of his freedom, he is incommunicado, and not even the Attorney General’s Office has been allowed... (break in transmission)... the President of the Republic. We have some information from some military attorneys who have given this information to attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office who are at the fort now.
In other words, we are in a situation where the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights has been completely and absolutely violated.
Furthermore, there is an even more significant fact in this situation: if he is deprived of his freedom, what crime has he committed? The crime of resigning? Is it a crime to resign? In the hypothetical case that this were the situation. And if he did resign and if that is a crime, why is he incommunicado, why have they allowed the Attorney General’s Office no opportunity to talk to him in the person of the director of Fundamental Rights and the attorneys who are with her?
The situation is really serious from a Constitutional point of view. In other words, there is a de facto state, the situation is really de facto, and there is no Constitutional state. And I am not talking about the 1999 Constitution, even the 1961 Constitution provides that a situation such as this is illegal and unconstitutional.
Besides, the person who should take over from the President is the Vice President. There is no record, none at all, that the Vice President has also resigned. There is no record of the dismissal of the Vice President of the Republic of Venezuela. And in the hypothetical case that the Vice President had also resigned, according to the Constitution, the person who should take over is the President of the National Assembly. This means that the events developing at this time in Venezuela are in violation of the Washington Protocol.
Randy Alonso. - That is what the Attorney General said. His remarks were, I repeat, taken off the air by several of the Venezuelan media, they were not broadcast in their entirety.
Meanwhile, we have learned from AFP that the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro, said this Friday that "in spite of Thursday’s tragic events, this was an extraordinary day for the country which was governed by ousted Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez".
"Reading an official communiqué on Union Radio, Shapiro said that April 11 was an extraordinary day in Venezuelan history, although he also acknowledged that it was a day of tragedy. He welcomed what Carmona said as head of the interim ruling junta, that he intended to strengthen democratic institutions and processes, within a framework of respect for human rights and the rule of law. He stressed that the U.S. Embassy would continue to keep a close watch on events in Venezuela."
Meanwhile, this afternoon, as our Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque announced, the group of people who follow the putschers and who have taken over the management at Petróleos de Venezuela —the Venezuelan company involved in this important energy sector— made public statements referring to the trade agreement with the Republic of Cuba. The PDVSA distribution manager addressed the media today and this is what he said:
Journalist.- Meanwhile the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela announced the indefinite suspension of oil deliveries to Cuba. The friendship between Hugo Chávez and Cuban President Fidel Castro, had made Venezuela Cuba’s main trading partner.
Edgar Paredes.- "... some good news. We are not going to send another barrel of oil to Cuba."
Randy Alonso.- That is what that PDVSA representative said. That was the news, you also saw the reaction of PDVSA top executives, allies of the putschers who are now running that company and who had a heavy hand in yesterday’s events, in the overthrow of the Constitutional President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. The generals in the Venezuelan Armed Forces also played a role, the same armed forces that that afternoon had declared they would support the Constitutional President, defend the Constitutional order but who in the evening threatened to blow the Presidential palace to pieces.
Eduardo Dimas has something to say about that.
Eduardo Dimas.- Forty top Venezuelan officers did the same as many other Latin American officers throughout the history of our subcontinent. In other words, they betray the role given them by the Constitution, betray their duty to defend the legitimate powers in the country and they always crown their betrayal in the same way, in that cunning, low, dirty way which is their trademark when this kind of situation occurs.
All day yesterday, on several occasions, the high command of the Venezuelan army gave Chávez assurances that they were in control of the country and they repeated their loyalty to the Constitution and to the President himself. In the afternoon they rebelled.
I have here a statement from the Inspector General of the National Armed Forces, General Lucas Rincón that, in a brief radio and television statement, denies that Chávez is under arrest or in a military facility and restates his loyalty to Chávez’ government.
But I have these other statements. At 10:00 pm, two generals, Luis Camacho Kairux, former deputy minister of national security and General Rafael Damiani Bustillos went on television to announce that the army was in control of everything and that Chávez had to resign.
That general, in this situation made the following statement: "Tonight we ask the Venezuelan people to forgive us for what has happened and to help us sink a force that is assumed to be incapable of keeping its promises. Today’s deaths cannot be tolerated." This same general and all the other generals, tolerated the deaths caused by the Caracazo, more than 1,000, as indicated here. And then we have the general commander of the Venezuelan army, Efraín Vásquez, apparently the man who rebelled, and one of the main people involved in the coup. Well, he has the military power to do that, and he ordered his subordinates to stay in their barracks. At the time he made his statement he said he had 95% of the armed forces and 40 high-ranking officers on his side. It was rumored that there was a high-ranking officer who did not want there to be a coup. But, anyway, the coup took place.
I think, Randy, there are two points here that we cannot overlook. Firstly, the role that the U.S. army has historically played as advisor to all Latin American armies, and secondly, that when we were talking about the help that those Fedecámaras groups and the unions received, that is the sectors that were definitely opposed to Chávez, we have to mention the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. There are, for example, the statements made in January by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet, and even the statements of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell himself, because if this coup has a father it also has a mother. I don’t know which of those two it is, but obviously this coup got a lot of help, a lot of support. And Shapiro’s statements —we know him well because he ran the Cuba desk in the State Department and as a reward they gave him the job of destabilizing Chávez’ government in Venezuela. I think that gives us some idea of the role played by the United States in this whole thing.
Randy Alonso.- Dimas, important political forces from our continent have also condemned these events.
There is an ANSA cable which reads that "the Workers’ Party, the PT --the main opposition party in Brazil-- today condemned what it called a coup d’état that ousted President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and demanded that international agencies do not recognize authorities which are not legitimate according to the rule of law."
Meanwhile, we have talked with major Venezuelan figures during our roundtable, who have said there is a witch hunt, and important members of Chávez’ government are being humiliated and hunted down, that many have been violently taken from their homes and have also been physically assaulted. One of these is William Lara, the Speaker of the Bolivarian National Assembly of Venezuela.
William Lara managed to make some statements to the Venezuelan media, one of which was Globovisión, one of the private channels, which also had a hand in yesterday’s coup d’état. Globovisión crudely edited William Lara’s statements and even took them off the air. I suggest we watch what the Speaker of the Venezuela National Assembly had to say.
William Lara.- There is an overwhelming, asphyxiating, oppressive media campaign to put a pretty face on this dictatorship that is attempting to install itself in Venezuela
They want to pretty it up to look like democracy. But look carefully at this contradiction. How can a regime that began by dissolving the parliament elected by the people be called democratic? It is a dictatorship.
Journalist.- ... what, on a social level, could cause this?
William Lara.- That, quite simply, confirms that we are facing an illegitimate and illegal regime and the democratic Venezuelan society, a society whose democratic values are deeply rooted, is not going to accept...
Randy Alonso:- Well, that was when they cut off William Lara’s words, and that is part of that "freedom of expression" that those media have been trumpeting throughout the months of confrontation with Chávez’ government, months when they vilified as many of Venezuela’s public figures as possible. What happened yesterday was the worst of their manipulation and showed how low the media can sink in its behavior.
I think that this is all part of that dirty business that brought about the counter-revolutionary coup. A coup, furthermore, which amazed some people but confirmed things for others, according to an EFE report from Washington, which reads that "even when the situation in Venezuela technically falls under the provisions of the famous democratic charter, sources consulted by EFE say that there is very little inclination in the OAS to start any proceedings. The most they are going to do is invoke the spirit of the founding charter of the OAS and call for a democratic normalization in Venezuela. It is highly improbable, however, that the Democratic Charter will be invoked or that a permanent council will be convened, sources in the OAS said requesting anonymity."
Lázaro Barredo has some international reactions, including that of the United States and the OAS.
Lázaro Barredo.- Yes, Randy, there have been frivolous statements, like those of the United States and some of their European allies and others which are very irresolute. This indicates that hardly anything will be done apart from making rhetorical statements.
"The White House," reads an EFE cable, "today thinks that the former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ government was the cause of the crisis that brought about its fall by ordering the army to fire on a peaceful opposition demonstration Thursday." That is really slanderous, it’s not true, and it’s a lie. It was completely the opposite. That is what Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman said. Nevertheless, he dared to make that statement when he later said in their unchanging attitude. "The details are still not very clear, but what we know is that Chávez’ actions caused the crisis". This shows how strongly the oppose the Chavez administration.
"The United States and Spain urge the OAS to come to the aid of democracy in Venezuela", reads a cable from the DPA, the German press agency, dated today in Washington. "In a joint communiqué today the United States and Spain urged the Organization of American States to help Venezuela to consolidate its democratic institutions", in other words, to help not to condemn the putsch.
"The IMF (the International Monetary Fund) is ready to work with the new authorities in Venezuela." This, after all their boycotts, after all they did.
"The United States praises the Venezuelan armed forces and asks for a return to democracy".
The ambivalence: "The Rio Group condemns the interruption of the democratic order in Venezuela."
Reuters: "Friday, the Presidents of the Rio Group condemned what they called an interruption of the democratic order in Venezuela when an outbreak of violence forced President Hugo Chávez out of office and they called for free elections in Venezuela."
That is what the Presidents of 19 Latin American countries meeting in San José came up with; only 11 were present. "We condemn the interruption of the Constitutional order in Venezuela caused by a situation of growing polarization", said the statement read by one of the Presidents.
In a word, this is more of the same. There are others who really support the government imposed on Venezuela, such as the Colombian government which has faith in "a swift return to democracy in Venezuela in the hands of her new integrationist President", according to what a spokesperson of the Colombian Government told Venezuelan business executive Pedro Carmona. The rest of the statements from many Latin American governments are more or less along the same lines as are those from several European governments, which are along the lines of the Spanish and US statement urging the OAS to support, to help the new government to set up a democratic regime.
Randy Alonso.- And the AFP agency today published an analysis by some Bolivian political analysts. Bolivia is a country that has experienced a military dictatorship. It reads that, "Bolivian political analysts said this Friday that a military coup had taken place in Venezuela which has caused an interruption of the institutional order and could set a dangerous precedent for Latin America.
"What has happened in Venezuela is a military coup supported by one sector of the population’, said Bolivian political commentator Jorge Lasarte, former member of the Bolivian Electoral Court. He voiced his concern over the interruption of the institutional process that cannot be hidden by saying that the President has been forced to resign.
"Political analyst Jimena Acosta was of much the same opinion when she said that ‘it is worrisome that a country would resort to a military coup to change its government. But what is even more surprising is that the interruption of this institutional order, which has cost Latin American countries so much effort to build, has been looked on as something natural or with indifference or acceptance by the international community’"
This is the kind of news that continues to reach our round table from international news agencies.
To conclude, I would like to let our people and the international public opinion know that the latest news on the Republic of Cuba’s Embassy in Venezuela that has reached us at approximately 6:15 this evening is that at about 4:00 this afternoon, surrounded by the deafening racket of the mob around the Embassy, the ambassador has been notified that the head of the Metropolitan Police would like to have a meeting with him. When he informed Cuba of this, he was told to find out if the high-ranking official really wanted a meeting with him and, if that were the case, to give him permission to enter the Embassy.
He did turn up, accompanied by two more people, a representative of the Mayor’s Office, representing Mayor Peña, and the mayor of the Baruta municipality, Enrique Capriles, who also asked that representatives of channels 33 and 2 be allowed to be present.
Germán, our Ambassador, indicated that some people, incited by a small group, had destroyed vehicles, cut off water and electricity and were even talking of preventing food from being delivered, a situation that could have unforeseen consequences, and that if anyone broke in, our people would defend the Embassy, even if it cost them their lives.
The visitors said that those people were out there because they suspected that Diosdado Cabello and some other ministers were in there. Germán said this was not so.
They asked him if he would give people asylum if they asked for it. Germán responded that it was up to the person empowered to grant asylum to decide that.
They asked if "they could make a friendly tour (of the Embassy)", in other words, an inspection of the Embassy, to assure themselves that Diosdado and the others were not there. They justified this request by saying —and I quote— that "the crowd would believe them but not Germán". Germán declined their request saying that in 40 years we had never accepted any inspection. They then tried to have the Norwegian Ambassador make the inspection. He had volunteered for that. German thanked him for his graciousness and told him about the attacks and battering the Embassy had suffered.
Germán repeated the determination of the Embassy staff to defend the Embassy in which there were five women and one child.
Finally, the chief of the Metropolitan Police, the mayor’s representative and the mayor of Baruta promised to ensure that the mob would not get into the Embassy.
We’ll see what happens.
The ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the Security Council, the Movement of Non-aligned Countries and some of the Ambassadors to Cuba and Caracas of this situation.
The responsibility for any violent denouement will rest with the putschers and with who has illegally taken over the presidency of the noble and long-suffering people of Venezuela.
This news brings today’s news roundtable to a close.
I want to thank the panelists who have been with me, our guests in the studio and to tell our people that our media will keep up reporting on the events in Venezuela.
We will continue to report on this dirty business, about the counterrevolutionary punch leading to the ousting of the Constitutional President of that country, Hugo Chávez Frías. We shall keep our people updated on the latest developments.
I thank you all for your attention.