23 Years Ago Hugo Chávez Walked the Original Bolivarian Path
Venezuela’s President Invites the People to Commemorate February 4, 1992
This February 4 will mark the 23rd anniversary of the civil-military rebellion which saw a group of young revolutionaries, committed to honoring their uniforms, rise up against neoliberal policies that had subjected the people to harsh misery. It was an uprising that sparked hope among Venezuelans and remains an inspiration for the construction of a just nation.
In 1992, the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez entered its third year with dismal political and social policies that pointed the country towards an abyss. Three years earlier, on February 27, 1989, Venezuela experienced a social crisis in which hundreds, if not thousands, of people were killed for protesting against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) neoliberal policies impose by President Pérez.
At the time, 67.2% of the population was in poverty and 34.1% were in absolute poverty as a result of the neoliberal economic package called “El Viraje” (the switch) that led to a reduction in social spending, the privatization of public firms, an end to caps on prices and interest rates, and the high cost and shortages of food, among other measures imposed by the IMF.
Furthermore, claims of corruption within the Peréz administration were widespread. It is estimated that by the start of 1992, Congress’ Auditing Commission was handling over 200 cases of corruption involving government officials. With public policies biased towards powerful financial and economic interests and against the people, a group of military patriots organized the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement 200 (MBR-200) in 1983. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez Frías, they rebelled in favor of emancipation and a fairer society.
At 10:10 p.m. on February 3, President Pérez arrived in Venezuela from a trip to Switzerland. He is alerted about the uprising while at the airport. Given his professed disdain towards people’s struggles, he neglected to inform his Defense Minister Fernando Ochoa Antich, and went to rest at the presidential residence. An hour and a half later, he decided to go to Miraflores Palace.
After midnight, the young officers began Operation Zamora, using barracks in Maracay as a headquarters. From there, the José Leonardo Chirinos Paratrooper Unit made its way to Caracas to take power. Other units from the armed forces undertook similar actions throughout the country.
In La Planicia, a part of the 23rd of January neighborhood in Caracas, Commander Hugo Chávez took charge of the 422nd battalion of paratroopers and a company of infantry, occupying an area 1,500 meters higher and within line of sight of Miraflores Palace. At around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, February 4, they managed to take control of Maracay, Valencia, Maracaibo, Miraflores Palace, Fort Tiuana, La Carlota Airport, the presidential residence and La Planicie.
On the outskirts of La Planicie civilians gathered to support the movement, demonstrating civil-military unity for the rebellion. However, tanks and planes committed to the uprising failed to reach Caracas and communications with Fort Tiuna were cut.
For now and forever
At around 9:30 a.m., Chávez was detained in La Planicie and sent a message to his fellow soldiers about his decision to retreat.
On being taken to the Ministry of Defense, where journalists and the media had congregated, Chávez faced the cameras and bravely accepted responsibility for the uprising. Speaking to his comrades in arms and to the public, he uttered a phrase that changed Venezuela’s history: “For now, the objectives we had planned were not achieved.”
“And I, in front of the nation and all of you, take responsibility for this Bolivarian military movement,” he continued.
As Chávez later said in 2011, the 1992 military rebellion was like a shot in the arm that was to lead to the path to building a just and sovereign nation. It was a movement that awoke consciousness and hope within the people, a people that today has decided to maintain the inexorable spirit of February 4, a day that marked the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution and the end of neoliberalism in Venezuela.
Activities in Venezuela
During his Contact with Maduro program, the Venezuelan President invited the public to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the February 4 rebellion.
“Tomorrow is February 4. It will be 23 years since the rebellion led by Commander Hugo Chávez Frías, 23 years of re-conquering the original path, Bolivar’s path, the path of independence and dignity,” President Maduro said.
“One has to see what Venezuela was on February 4, 1992, and how Chávez changed it all,” he recalled before explaining that after the rebellion Commander Hugo Chávez “began conquering the hearts and spurring consciousness among men and women, thousands, millions, first here in Venezuela, but then later he had an impact in all of Latin America.”
“Chávez was the founder of a new era in Latin America and the Caribbean. He has been the biggest descendent of our Liberator Simón Bolívar,” President Maduro added.
MinCI / AVN / Press – Venezuelan Embassy in the US / February 4, 2015