Friday, February 27th, 2009 marks the twentieth anniversary of Venezuela’s popular upheaval against the imposition of neoliberal shock policies by the second government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. Known as “El Caracazo”, this historical upheaval mobilized over 1 million people around the country and was brutally repressed by the government at the time, leaving thousands of Venezuelans dead, according to human rights groups. Although the government of Perez claimed the death toll to be around 400 people, independent investigators have claimed that the death toll could have reached as many as 10,000. Venezuelans still do not know the exact death toll of that day. Known victims have been compensated by the government of President Hugo Chavez Frías.
In the aftermath of “El Caracazo”, many Venezuelans were detained, harassed and tortured, as the government sought the phantom culprits which had allegedly organized this act. The government of the time, out of touch with the realities on the ground, failed to understand that the events of 27 February 1989 were a spontaneous combustion from a society which had grown tired of social, economic and political exclusion and was being asked, through the IMF-imposed policies, to sacrifice even more. For the majority of Venezuelans that had been historically excluded, these measures made it impossible to buy food and have access to basic services, such as transportation.
The Caracazo is a key historical event in Venezuela’s contemporary history. It represents the watershed of the popular movement that, a decade later, brought President Hugo Chávez into the presidency. This movement demanded a new social, political and economic order that was later enshrined, by popular vote, in the 1999 Constitution.
After twenty years of “El Caracazo” and ten years since the approval by popular vote of the 1999 Constitution, human rights advances in Venezuela are visible and undeniable. These advances are found not just in the area of civil rights, but also in economic and social rights for all Venezuelans.
The reduction of extreme poverty from 20.7% in 1999 to 9.5% in 2007 and the reduction of poverty from 42% to 38% are just two examples. Examples also include sound economic policies that have managed to reduce public debt from 30.6% of gross domestic product in 1998 to 13.5% in 2008. Most importantly, Venezuelans commitment to democracy as their preferred system of government as measured by LATINOBAROMETRO 2008, and the recent and unprecedented level of political participation, where as many as 70% of the electorate has participated in 15 electoral processes in 10 years under one of the most advanced electoral systems in the world, are real proof of the great advances made by Venezuela over the past decade.
To commemorate this historical event, and in memory of the thousands of compatriots who died at the hand of security forces on that eventful day twenty years ago, the Embassies of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Washington, D.C. and London have prepared the following material that we gladly share with you.
“El Caracazo” in Pictures.
Fact Sheet about “El Caracazo”.
Pictures of the Achievements of the Revolution in these Ten Years.
10 Years of the Bolivarian Revolution in Figures.
Photograph courtesy of FRASSO and Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias (ABN)
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Press Office / February 27, 2009