Venezuela: Genesis of the Civil-Military Union (I)

Adán Chávez Frías

I

The memories of our first days at the side of Commander Chavez are still present in these days of March, in the midst of the hard battle that the world is fighting today; a battle that we Venezuelans have decided to face with responsibility, discipline and awareness of social duty, as the historic leader of the Bolivarian Revolution did from the first moments when our revolutionary project began to take shape.

When, in December 1981, Hugo gave me the book País Portátil (Portable Country), in which he expressed, as is well known, the life commitment we had assumed forever, he was just completing four years of one of the most important stages of his life, of his training as a revolutionary leader; and of having begun to implement the strategic project of national liberation as “a civic-military-religious insurrection plan”, which was the fundamental thesis of the Party of the Venezuelan Revolution (PRV), led by Douglas Bravo.

This thesis included in its proposals the Bolivarian precepts; and it coincided almost entirely with what Hugo and other young officers had been debating for some time. Therefore, when I proposed to liaise with Douglas to work together in the formation of a civic-military movement to promote a transformative revolution in the country, it was not difficult to agree.

II

The first days of December 1977, then Sub-Lieutenant Chávez was appointed communications officer at the Bravos de Apure Armored Battalion in Maracay, capital of the state of Aragua; after his time as an officer at the Manuel Cedeño de Cumaná Hunters’ Battalion in the state of Sucre, where he formed, with four soldiers, the Venezuelan People’s Liberation Army (ELPV), the embryo of the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army-200 (EBR-200).

As he himself said, he already had a hurricane inside him, thinking about what to do to take on the liberatory path more rigorously. In those days he wrote in his campaign diary:

 “Vietnam, one and two Vietnams in Latin America. Bolivar, Che Guevara, come!! Come back. Here it can be… this war has been going on for years, I have to do it even if it costs me my life, it doesn’t matter, that’s why I was born, although I can remain like this… I feel impotent, unproductive, I must prepare myself to act”.

And he began to act more decisively, even though he did not yet have very clear objectives. “I was a rebel without a cause… I see it more as a quixotic gesture of protest against a general situation of things, of the country”; he tells Ramonet, a testimony that is collected in the book Mi Primera Vida (“My First Life”). It was during those months that he definitively decided to continue his military career and begin a revolutionary process from within the military institution, with the idea of forming a civic-military alliance. This was what was done, until the 4F insurgency of 1992 exploded: work within the army, create Bolivarian cells within it, deepen the relationship with leftist organizations; this gave definitive rise to the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200), which was formally born with the Samán de Güere oath in December 1982.

III

That December 1977, taking advantage of the New Year’s Eve holidays, we met in Barinas and one night, conversing in one of the locations then used for subversion, the Noches de Hungría bar, Hugo stressed his desire to leave the army. Although we always analyzed different topics of the country’s situation, and although I knew about his political concerns, as a matter of discipline I had not told him everything about my political actions in those times. I had already been a member of the party led by Douglas Bravo, PRV-Ruptura, for at least two years; then I joined the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR).

One of the strategic lines that we discussed in those days was precisely the need to reach an effective coordination with the patriotic military for the construction of a civic-military movement, which would provide real options of power to an insurrectionary action, from which to undertake a process of authentic transformation, which would allow us to take Venezuela out of the neocolonialism in which we found ourselves.

That was what I proposed to Hugo that night. I went ahead and told him, lacking a bit of party discipline, about the strategy I had designed (all that was clandestine, for obvious reasons); since I felt it was the only way to make him give up his determination to leave the army. Of course, he loved the idea, leaving with new energy and agreeing that I would look for a way to accelerate the process for him to get in touch with whomever the PRV leaders decided; expressing his willingness to work together to form a solid civil-military movement.

With the idea that it would be possible to do so now, Hugo told me that night what he had been thinking: to start an organization from within the Armed Forces, at a time that he said was propitious, given the discontent that existed in the young officers, due to the widespread corruption, the loss of national identity and, in general, due to the bad governments of those years; to then connect that military organization with the leftist parties and with the progressive working class.

When I arrived in Mérida, where I lived at the time, I raised the matter within the party; it was decided that if Hugo agreed, he would meet directly with Douglas Bravo. This was done, and based on the decision of the man who would end up becoming the historic leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, to continue in the Venezuelan army, as was said before, a stage began that led to the subsequent consolidation of the MBR-200 in the Armed Forces, in direct connection with the Dirección Nacional del PRV-Ruptura; a new stage, without a doubt, for the leader in formation, the genesis of the civic-military union that today constitutes one of the greatest strengths of our revolutionary process. As he himself confessed to Ramonet, he began a double life: one in the army and the other clandestine. “I would say it was one of the best stages of my life,” he said, referring to this period, which we will continue to elaborate on in future articles.

Translation by Internationalist 360º