Proceedings on a Coup, the Media and An Embassy

Proceedings on a Coup, the Media and An Embassy
Fecha de publicación: 
11 April 2023
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On Thursday, April 11th, 2002, Venezuela suffered a coup with the intention of ending the government of Hugo Chávez Frías. They kidnapped the President, lied about his resignation, and began the persecution of his cabinet, allies, and militants.

In this macabre move, not only groups from the extreme right of the Bolivarian nation participated; the media were also a fundamental part of the conspiracy, by becoming completely biased, manipulating information, hiding part of the truth of what was happening in the streets, and positioning criteria that promoted violent actions long before those effervescent days.

The antecedents were cooked prior. From the beginning, Chávez was a pebble in the shoe, both for opponents of his political management and for market opportunists. Chavez social project, its sociopolitical and economic model, was annoying. The idea of sharing the wealth obtained from natural resources was infuriating.

The country of oil was around that time experiencing deep contrasts based on inequality. Therefore, it was inconceivable a nation so rich, with so many poor people. The big capital was concentrated in the elites, that is, in two or three, so Chavez government began to implement measures that had a rapid media response, in addition to marches, strikes, protests and stoppages, with a balance of discontent, disorder, dead, and wounded. But it was all a well-orchestrated hoax.

Part of the plan was to reach a chaotic environment and hold President Chávez responsible for the events unleashed that week of April 2002, with clashes between the people and various law enforcement agencies, and that’s what happened, followed by military disobedience with the support of sectors of the opposition, from the business leadership, the Church and right-wing civilians. They quickly split the tasks and tried to halt public powers. Pedro Carmona Estanga, a businessman and politician who for 47 hours assumed the de facto presidency of Venezuela, was sworn in.

Besieged Embassy

At 10:00 p.m. on April 11th, the signal of state channel Venezolana de Televisión was cut short, and thus only the private media were on air. The following day, the Venevisión 24-hour program opened its broadcasts at 6:00 a.m. with a close-up of the host Napoleón Bravo saying: "Good morning, we have a new president." And he said it with total insolence, with great joy and triumphalism. Of course, that's how the country found out. That outraged Chavez’s followers, who did not understand or believe the resignation of their president and, at the same time, emboldened the Venezuelan ultra-right to continue their thirst for violence.

While the followers of the ruling party mobilized to demand the return of their president, a few hours later on Friday, April 12th, an angry mob went to the Quinta Marina, on Roraima street in the Chuao neighborhood, east of Caracas, where the Embassy of Cuba is located in that country. Inside were officials and some of their young children.

Since before noon they were surrounded there, without communication, no one could enter or leave, nor could they receive supplies. Outside they shouted all kinds of insults, and with loudspeakers they demanded to enter to inspect the facility and look for Chávez government officials who they assumed were refugees, such as the then vice president, Diosdado Cabello. They destroyed the security cameras and also all the diplomatic cars parked outside, cut off the water and electricity services, painted offensive posters on the walls of the façade, and even trampled on a Cuban flag.


It was not an isolated event, it did not come out of the blue. In advance, the anti-Cuban campaign was brewing by word of mouth, in the media, in the stands. There was talk of the Cubanization of Venezuela. And just shortly before, while the opposition claimed to be in favor of peace, right-wing extremists vociferated in various venues that weapons were coming out of the Cuban embassy, as if suggesting that they were actively participating in the massacre in downtown Caracas. The private media echoed it, they lacked journalistic ethics and did not verify sources, they did not verify the facts, they did not show proof of what they were repeating.

Since before April 12th, the diplomatic headquarters had already been attacked, even with explosives. And the subsequent acts of vandalism were also carried out before the eyes of the press and police. The media recorded how the people gathered there trashed the place. They never mentioned that this harassment was punishable by law, nor did they condemn the events that violated international standards, which, in accordance with Article 22 of the Vienna Convention, establishes that it’s a crime to break in by force and mistreat the facilities of an embassy, as well as any means in its perimeter; under any concept it’s unchallengeable and condemnable. And the worst thing is that neither the press, nor the police officers, nor the figures present with the capacity to decide and mobilize, acted to stop the anger unleashed there.

An interesting fact is that in the images released, leading the opposition was the mayor at the time of the municipality of Baruta, Henrique Capriles Radonski. He was not there all the time, but it’s clear that he led, and participated in the dialogue with the then Cuban ambassador, Germán Sánchez Otero. Nor did Capriles move a finger to quench the euphoria. In addition, analysts say that the United States collaborated with the failed coup, perhaps it was also behind the events at the diplomatic headquarters. There’s evidence that there, in the crowd, actively, were people with proven ties to the Miami mafia, such as the Cuban dissident Salvador Romaní.

The blockade of the Cuban embassy in Venezuela lasted about 36 hours, it was violent, threats flying, and the conditions for its staff were very complex, who saw not only international laws violated, but also their human rights. On national radio and television, various opponents called for suspending diplomatic relations with Cuba, alluding to interference in their affairs. However, not only was it never verified, but after calm was restored, what happened went practically unpunished, but lessons were learnt.

Failed Coup

At the same time, confusion controlled Miraflores Palace. Chávez was confined, and the people located in the presidential headquarters were growing in numbers and demanding the return of their Head of State. They didn't televise that either. It was silenced in the private national media and also in the international ones, they reported calm in the Venezuelan streets, when in reality thousands of people were demonstrating for the restitution of democracy and constitutional order.

If I learned something from Venezuelans, it’s about their explosive character when they are mad, both for better and for worse. Faced with such a scenario, many were not suspicious and decided to trust the press; they did not stop for a second to analyze the context, to verify the information, to question the origin and intention of what was said, and they let themselves be carried away by their own impulses. And it all happened so fast. They believed the story for convenience, because, of course, supposedly the media and politicians handle privileged information.

It was a perfect media coup. They used the huge power that the fourth power has as an opinion maker to also legitimize the disorder, which was triggered by a polarized society marked by a real political, economic, and even military crisis. However, the coup failed, it lasted around 48 hours until Chávez was returned on Saturday April 13th, 2002, and as soon as he arrived in Miraflores, he resumed his responsibilities. Without the support of the media, but with all the popular support, it was the people who rescued him, and he was all the time against fascism and in favor of the Bolivarian revolution started by his dignitary.

Also commendable was the effort of Fidel Castro, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cuban press to mediate, denounce and give visibility to the fact so that there would be no more bloodshed and the life of the constitutional president of Venezuela would be respected.

Chávez experienced firsthand the great power of the press, which in this case was capable of demonizing his progressive project with unparalleled aggressiveness. Fortunately, he emerged successful, but, above all, strengthened, and knowing what his administration was suffering from, what it had to reinforce, where to direct efforts, what to pay special attention to, such as the media and the armed forces.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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