Number 22 - December 26, 2002
|African Venezuelans fear new
U.S. coup against President Chavez
Written by Professor Alejandro
Correa of Barlovento, Venezuela with assistance from Willie
Thompson, Professor emeritus City College of San Francisco
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appeared in the Venezuela and Chavez Watch page of Trinicenter.com.
This month, for
the first time in history, Venezuelan people of African descent have
total control of their historic Black university, the Instituto Universitario
Barlovento. They are already planning a university administered hotel
and a restaurant for students, faculty and the community. This is an
achievement of a lifetime, and the people of Barlovento gather around
their seat of higher learning to reflect on their success.
Another topic on
their minds and hearts is the fate of President Hugo Chavez. He is Venezuela's
first multiracial president and is called "Negro" (nigger)
by his detractors because of his African-Indigenous features. Behind
the enemies of Venezuela and Hugo Chavez are very large sums of money
being spent to destroy the dreams of the people who historically have
been discriminated against because of race, economic ideas, etc.
These dreams of
the African Venezuelan people may be deferred if the United States replaces
Chavez with a rightwing businessman as president. Currently, three Blacks
are state governors elected by the people; the secretary of education
is Black; two Indigenous Venezuelans are congresspersons elected directly
by the people; Indigenous Venezuelans have the complete right to claim
their historic lands; land is protected and available to Black and Indigenous
Venezuelan farmers so that they can now engage in farming for the first
time in generations; and Venezuelans of African descent are participating
in conferences against racism around the world and establishing strategic
relationships with international organizations. They have attended Congressional
Black Caucus conferences in 2000, 2001 and 2002; the pre-conference
against racism in Chile in 2000; and the United Nations World Conference
Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The African Venezuelan
community in Barlovento also hosted the Second International Reunion
of the African Latin Family in 1999.
Sixty percent of
the population of Venezuela are people of African descent. The others
are Mestizos of Indigenous and European descent and Indigenous. The
support of the people of African descent in the United States is one
of the most strategic factors in helping the people of African descent
survive and prosper in Venezuela.
President Hugo Chavez
was elected in a democratic election with more than 70 percent of the
11 million votes cast. One of his first actions was to call for an election
of a National Constituency Assembly whose mission was to reform the
1969 national Constitution. During 40 years of democracy this Constitution
was used to avoid empowering the people. The election of the National
Constituency Assembly allowed the participation of students, business
related organizations, community representatives and parties opposed
to the president in the Assembly. The entire society had its opportunity
in the Assembly.
The National Constituency
Assembly designed a new national constitution, which was widely discussed
all around the country. Then a national election was called to consider
the acceptance of the new constitution. The Venezuelan people, in direct
election, said, "We do accept the new constitution" in 1999.
New national elections were called at all levels of government to test
the acceptance of the new constitution and renegotiate the public powers.
President Hugo Chavez, again, won the election with over one million
votes more than his closest opponent. The party supporting Chavez also
won, as did several state governors who belonged to the party.
During his three
years in power - the complete term is six years - President Chavez has
been an advocate for the education of the poor. After 50 years of being
eliminated, schools were created with full schedules from 8 a.m. to
4 p.m., allowing children to stay longer in recreational programs and
Never before have
small businesses flourished with the full support of the government
at the local and national levels. Chavez has opened the doors for the
participation of those who have long been excluded.
When President Chavez
came to power, 80 percent of the population lived below poverty. Overcoming
this difficult obstacle requires a joint effort at all levels of society.
Unfortunately, the support has not echoed in the upper economic brackets
of Venezuelan society. What have they done? Organizing a coup is not
the way to support the government.
Venezuela is the
fourth largest oil producer in the world and the second largest oil
exporter to the United States. President Chavez has never threatened
the export of oil to the U.S. He has visited the U.S. about five times,
holding meetings with businesspersons, seeking to stimulate foreign
investment in Venezuela in order to raise the level of employment and
mitigate the conditions of the poor.
sectors of society wanting to reverse these important advances decided
to violate Venezuelan democracy. A group of renegade military generals
formed a coalition with "businessmen" - land owners whose
ancestors stole it from Indigenous Venezuelans and used enslaved African
labor to build the Venezuelan economy and society.
Some members of
the press also belong to the business establishment. Three main private
TV stations led a campaign against the evolution of democratic change
in the same style Hitler used against the Jews: "Say a lie a thousand
times and everybody will believe it as a truth."
These forces formed
a coup to destroy freedom in Venezuela. For three days they controlled
the government and instituted practices not seen in Venezuela since
the '50s, during the days of the military rulers. Venezuelans in their
60s were astonished to see such violations of civil rights.
Leaders of the coup
imprisoned President Chavez, isolating him from any public contact,
lying about a presidential resignation, dissolving all legitimate national
powers at all levels. Then they started hunting down the legitimate
members of Congress and of the president's cabinet. Even the Supreme
Court was forced to resign. They did all that in a period of three days.
Further, they derogated the 1999 constitution.
In response, however,
people of all races and backgrounds took to the streets, the military
bases and public buildings to liberate President Chavez. He is in control
with deep concern how Ari Fleisher, Bush's press secretary, and Condoleezza
Rice, Bush's defense advisor - a Black woman - avoided calling the coup
against President Chavez what it really was: a vulgar, right wing coup
against a democratic government. Both have used vague rhetoric to criticize
Chavez' administration rather than condemn the coup. The Bush administration
in general looked with sympathy at the coup and issued no declaration
The New York Times
also has presented the facts in a less than objective way. Rather than
going into the countryside to talk with the people, Times reporters
appear to have visited only the Caracas suburbs to assess public opinion.
Furthermore, the local media consider only the opinions of wealthy people.
All other opinions are considered unworthy. So, if you are poor or if
you are not in agreement with the media, then you are not considered
a part of the public opinion.
U.S. Senator Christopher
Dodd has expressed dismay over the Bush administration's behavior regarding
the situation in Venezuela. His position is an example of goodwill and
is appreciated by Venezuelans.
There's an international
effort to destroy the public image of President Chavez. Let us briefly
1) Hugo Chavez
has visited Iraq, Iran and Libya. Because he is a friend of those
nations, he is branded an enemy of the United States. Venezuela and
the countries visited by President Chavez are members of the Organization
of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Together with these countries,
Venezuela regulates oil prices and must agree with them on strategies
for maintaining profitability while at the same time making prices
affordable to the oil importing countries such as the U.S. With 60
percent of its national budget based on oil income, clearly Venezuela
must talk with members of OPEC. This doesn't make Venezuela a partner
in terrorism as has been insinuated by the U.S. and the media.
2) Hugo Chavez
is a friend of Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro. It is insinuated
that he is therefore an enemy of the U.S. Venezuela is a free and
self-determining nation in its business relations with Cuba. It has
a right to have business relations with China or any other country.
3) It is said
that Hugo Chavez didn't condemn the attacks on the World Trade Center
on Sept. 11, 2001, and is therefore an enemy of the U.S. But President
Chavez most certainly did condemn the Sept. 11 attacks and said, just
as France and Russia and the Pope did, that he doesn't support a heavy
and indiscriminate attack against Afghanistan which might cause civilian
casualties. The Bush administration considers neither the presidents
of France and Russia nor the Pope as enemies of the U.S. and is not
willing to plan and finance a coup against those leaders because they
express humanitarian points of view.
4) President Chavez
is said to be a supporter of the Colombian guerrillas and is therefore
involved in terrorism. The truth is that President Chavez has condemned
terrorism in Colombia. Furthermore, the Venezuelan government under
his administration has been a mediator in peace talks between the
guerrillas and the Colombian government.
5) The people
of the U.S. should think deeply about U.S. support of the failed coup
and its leaders and its plans to change the regime in Venezuela. The
result of President Chavez' trip to oil exporting countries was agreement
on a solid oil price. In Venezuela, the price of oil is extremely
important for education, health care and public services generally.
The first declaration of the leaders of the failed coup was the abandonment
of the quota system, which caused oil prices to drop.
Africans and people of African descent are beginning to tell our own
story. Most other people have no vested interest in telling the truth
about us. Professor Correa of Barloyento University is an African Venezuelan,
and he tells the story of the achievements of African Venezuelans, the
United States' participation in the failed attempt to overthrow President
Chavez, and the certain reversal of the social, economic, cultural and
psychological gains to African Venezuelans if President Chavez is overthrown.
He pleads with us to:
in open forums, churches and community organizations the U.S. attacks
on Venezuela and the conditions there, and
2) write letters
to the U.S. Congress asking that the U.S. respect the Venezuelan government
and follow the rule of law and international treaties in dealing with
Venezuela and Chavez
Watch page, Trinicenter.com