Venezuela: April 11, the First Time a US Imposed Coup Was Defeated in 48 Hours

An Interview with Stella Calloni on April 11, 2022

Chavez freed by the people after 48 hours

April 11 is the 20th anniversary of the coup d’état that in 2002 removed, for 48 hours, President Hugo Chávez Frías from the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. In a heroic deed, and in record time, the people and the Bolivarian Armed Forces rescued the Venezuelan leader and restored democracy in that country. An event that many compare to October 17, 1945 in Argentina, when the people took to the streets to force the de facto government to free Juan Domingo Perón. Both were founding processes of two of the largest popular movements in the region, Peronism and Chavism.

To remember how they were and what the coup against Chávez and the subsequent popular uprising that restored him to power meant, Diario Contexto talked to Stella Calloni, one of the journalists who knew the Venezuelan leader best. Between 1994 and 2013, Calloni interviewed Commander Hugo Chávez eleven times: after his release from prison after leading a popular uprising, as a candidate, as president and even talked to the Venezuelan leader on April 11, 2002, when from the Miraflores Palace, and contrary to the version already circulating in the hegemonic media, Chávez assured her: “I have not resigned. What is happening here is a coup d’état”.

How did Hugo Chávez become this great leader?

It must be remembered that Chávez was a leader who appeared in the public scene in 1992, with a civic-military uprising against the neoliberal model carried out by the President of that time, Carlos Andrés Pérez. An uprising that the media wanted to show as an attempt of a coup d’état.

In turn, this uprising was a product of the popular uprising of 1989, known as “El Caracazo”, which was the first popular uprising against the neoliberal model in Latin America. On that occasion, the government of Carlos Andres Perez ordered repression and a massacre took place, which filled with indignation the young military, among which was Chavez.

That is why in 1992 that uprising took place, which was defeated, and Chávez ended up in prison for leading it, but he became the great referent of all the oppressed of Venezuela and, after his release from prison, Chávez won the 1998 elections with a resounding victory.

When Chávez takes office as President, the re-foundation of Venezuela begins and for this purpose, a process to create a new Constitution is carried out.

The policies promoted by Chávez reverted the totally unjust model. Venezuela was a very rich country, but before Chávez, the wealth generated from the sale of oil remained in very few hands and most Venezuelans lived in poverty. The oligarchy, allied with the United States, got rich and the majority of the people lived in misery. Chávez reversed this and for this reason he was always in the sights of the right wing, which immediately began to attack him.

How was the coup and the popular reaction?

In this context I was describing, the coup d’état of April 11, 2002 took place, which was a media-military coup. This is very well reflected in the documentary “The revolution will not be televised”, which shows the role of the media and the United States in that coup.

That same day, all the information that arrived was very biased and the hegemonic media spread the version that Chávez had resigned.  The correspondents in Caracas did not know what was going on. After insisting through different channels, I managed to communicate with the Miraflores Palace (the Venezuelan Government House) and I spoke very briefly with President Chávez who told me: “Stella, I have not resigned. This is a coup d’état” and from La Jornada de México we were the first to denounce that it was a coup and that President Chávez had not resigned nor was he going to do so.

The same media that today blatantly lies about what is happening in Ukraine, the same that way they blatantly lied about what was happening in Libya and in other countries, are the ones that at that time blatantly lied about what was happening in Venezuela and wanted us to believe that Chávez had resigned and that there was no coup d’état.

When the coup took place, Chávez was taken to the Orchila Island Base, and Pedro Carmona was sworn in as President, who was the resident of the employers’ association Fedecámaras, a representative of the Venezuelan oligarchy that responded to the interests of the United States.

It was incredible, extraordinary. In the poor neighborhoods of the outskirts of Caracas, people began to rise up, to call with megaphones and with the new Bolivarian Constitution in hand, to go out to defend democracy and their President Chavez.

It was a social outburst comparable to October 17 in Argentina. Millions of people from the poor neighborhoods took to the streets of Caracas and surrounded the Miraflores Palace. At that moment, the democratic military loyal to Chavez joined the popular rebellion, took back control of the government and a squad of paratroopers went to the island where Chavez was detained and rescued him. April 11 was the first time that a coup d’état imposed by the United States was defeated in 48 hours.

Did that event mark a before and after in the history of Venezuela?

Not only in Venezuela but in all of Latin America. One thing that Chavez taught us was that from each coup, from each aggression, he came out stronger. After that coup came the oil strike and after that came an infinity of aggressions and Chavez always came out stronger.

After reversing the 2002 coup, and with the phenomenal alliance between Chávez, Néstor Kirchner and Lula da Silva, came the “No to FTAA”, the regional alliance was consolidated, MERCOSUR was reformulated, OPEC was consolidated, UNASUR was created, ALBA-TCP was created, CELAC was created. TeleSUR was created, which is a fundamental tool for the communication struggle throughout the region. The Venezuelan government carried out an enormous number of policies that greatly favored the people. It was an extraordinary period. Therefore, twenty years after that historic event, it was a milestone for Chávez, for the Venezuelan people and for all Latin America.

Source Cuba En Resumen, translation Resumen – English