The Venezuelan opposition and the Caracazo

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Venezuelan protesters attacking the office of the ruling Acción Democrática party in San Agustín during the Caracazo, 1989. Photo: Venezuelanalysis.

Right now, Venezuela is remembering one of the worst episodes in its history: the Caracazo riots of 1989. Over a five-day period, more than a thousand Venezuelans, most of them from poor neighborhoods and unarmed, were killed when the military and the Caracas police were ordered to fire on them to quell their protests against the IMF’s drastic (and disastrous) neoliberal economic policies. The fact that the late ex-president Carlos Andrés Pérez (“CAP”, whose face appears in the photo above, alongside a party logo) was guilty has never been a point in doubt; he called out the army. But what about the Caracas metropolitan police? Well, for that we need look no further than who was sitting in the mayor’s office at the time. And, as it turns out, HE is still living…and an active figure in the opposition:

His name is Antonio Ledezma. He is also known as “Grandpa Monster”, after his superficial resemblance to Grandpa Munster from the old TV show. A Munster he ain’t, but a monster he most certainly is. He claims innocence, but he’s unconvincing to say the least. And a popular government minister is calling for him to be investigated at long last:

The Popular Power minister of Penitentiary Services, Iris Varela, assured that one of the principal actors of the Caracazo massacre was the metropolitan mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who, as governor of the Federal District, was in charge of the Metropolitan Police, which in turn was responsible for guarding and overseeing the Catia Prison.

“The Metropolitan Police told the inmates that they would be freed, so that they could later murder them in vile ways, and of course, those orders were received in advance, since they could not operate without the consent of their chief — Ledezma,” Varela said.

The minister recalled declarations the metropolitan mayor made to a Spanish newspaper, in which he confessed that president Carlos Andrés Pérez and himself “had to act, and that the expected result were many dead.”

“How is it possible that this personage goes on walking very calmly through the streets when there were so many dead in the barrios higher up?” Varela asked.

The minister made these remarks during her radio program, “No te prives”, on Alba Ciudad 96.3 FM, where she was accompanied by the Director of Communicatios and Institutional Relations from her office, Francisco “Frasso” Solórzano, and the journalist, Freddy Bravo.

Translation mine.

Frasso’s photos figure prominently in the coverage of those terrible days in late February and early March of 1989. He witnessed a 14-year-old being abused in the street by the police, and when he demanded to know why, because the demonstrators were only singing the national anthem, he was menaced by the armed officers. The singing of “Gloria al bravo pueblo” was a part of many of the spontaneous uprisings of the barrio dwellers; some sang the anthem while looting the shops of speculating storekeepers, making clear that there was a patriotic component to their seeming lawlessness. They were trying to feed their families; they were also saying outright that there was still a need for the poor to revolt and “throw off the yoke”, in the words of the song. The “freedom” of trade and commerce meant nothing to them, except for 200-odd more years of exploitation and poverty, which came to a head on the morning of February 27. That was when the “reforms” CAP had promised the IMF took effect, and the poor workers from the barrios suddenly found themselves unable to afford bus fare to their own jobs (which, of course, were NOT paying them enough to cover the sudden increase in the cost of living.)

This week also marks the swearing-in of the Truth Commission, whose duty it will be to catalogue and document the abuses of the “democratic” Fourth Republic (1958-98). It will be interesting to see what other blatant lies they will catch Grandpa Monster in.

Meanwhile, the next generation of would-be Fourth Republicans is busy “protesting” in the streets. It’s easier to say what they are against (Chávez, what else?) than what they stand for. And their leaders are no more credible than Grandpa Monster. At least one of them, Julio César Rivas, alias “Pajulio” (a play on the Venezuelanism pajúo, meaning an airhead, or someone whose brain is made of straw) has been caught literally with his pants down:

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Nice ass, Pajulio.

Of course, Pajulio & Co. are too young to remember the Caracazo, and too blinded by hereditary ideological hate and greed to care what it all means. These are upper-class kids we’re talking about here; they have no interest in the public good. All they care about is making sure the money that trickles down from the lucrative private sector pools in their own pockets, as it did for their parents.

And while they wait for their unearned profits to roll in, they’re getting a lot of financing and other “aid” from Washington, from the shadowy corporation STRATFOR (a CIA front if ever there was one), and from “exile” organizations with ties to the CIA and organized crime. Wikileaks has exposed all this to the light of day. Venezuelans are all too aware of the interference, but they also have good cause to laugh. The clowns of STRATFOR and the CIA really do believe that their little puppets stand a fighting chance. Meanwhile, even with the target of their ire momentarily out of commission, they can’t seem to scratch up an ounce of credibility.

Gee, I wonder why.