Today, April 13, is remembered in Venezuela as the National Day of Dignity. From April 11 to 13, 2002, the Venezuelan head of state was the victim of a coup d’état carried out by the extreme right-wing with the support of private media. The coup was short-lived because Venezuelans took to the streets to demand the return of their democratically elected leader, President Hugo Chávez.
Ten years ago on this day, the legitimate government was restored and the traitors overthrown. Glory was felt in the streets throughout the country because everyone joined the struggle against the imposition of foreign interests represented by the de facto coup government, which attempted to undo the 1999 constitution.
Reflecting on those days, President Chávez said they allowed for the reassertion of “true politics, because I think that is the most powerful reason for the popular revolutionary response on April 13.”
“We, those of us that hold government posts, must exercise political power by obeying the people and their interests. This is the central cause that determines our path and that will continue to determine it,” he said.
The Events of the Coup
Full of indignation, the people came out into the streets to demand the return of their president and the restitution of democracy. From where he was being held on the Turiamo Naval Base west of Caracas, the president gave a note to Corporal Juan Rodríguez which read: “I have not renounced the legitimate power that the people gave me.” Despite this, all the media linked to the coup announced his supposed resignation.
The note was sent out by fax and arrived at various military posts throughout the country. Loyal troops read it and took a stance against the usurpers. After mid-day that Saturday in April, the streets were filled with millions of Venezuelans that rejected the dictatorship of Pedro Carmona Estanga.
It was a true citizen’s revolution. The patriotic cause was spread through direct communication, through cell phone messages and alternative and community media outlets, which did the bulk of the reporting that day, since the major media refused to cover the events.
The demonstrations reached the military barracks. In Caracas, the Miraflores Presidential Palace was surrounded by masses of people demanding the return of President Chávez.
The Bolivarian Armed Forces would not recognize de facto coup government and opposed the abolishment of the constitution. The Honor Guard took over the presidential palace, and the coup leaders fled from the building. Some of them who were unable to leave were temporarily held in order to guarantee their own security. The doors to the seat of government were opened to give access to the people and the ministers.
Then Vice President Diosdado Cabello was sworn in as president by Willian Lara, president of the National Assembly, and held that post for five hours during the rescue of President Chávez.
With the people in the streets and military officials retaking the role of guarding the will of the majority, the conditions were set for the return of the elected leader and reestablishment of democracy and freedom in Venezuela.
Presidential Press Office / Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S. / April 13, 2012