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

Adán Chávez Frías
https://i0.wp.com/media.cubadebate.cu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/14-de-abril-de-2002.-Hugo-Ch%C3%A1vez-regresa-al-palacio-presidencial-para-reasumir-la-presidencia-tras-la-derrota-del-Golpe-de-Estado.jpg14 April 2002. Hugo Chávez returned to the presidential palace to resume the presidency following the coup d’état on 11 April. Photo: AFP.

I

The month of April has arrived, and with it the commemoration of the heroic victory of the Venezuelan people over the coup d’état in 2002, in a civic-military union; a union forged by the historic leader of the Bolivarian Revolution from the very genesis of the project of extensive transformations taking place in the country since 1999, and about which we will continue to reflect, resuming the chronological sequence we initiated in previous weeks.

In July 1978, Hugo Chávez was promoted to Lieutenant in the “Bravos de Apure” Armored Battalion, located in Maracay, Aragua State; where he was assigned the command of two AMX-30 tank platoons. A few months earlier, he had established contact with the PRV-Ruptura and assumed, in a more intense and militant way, his revolutionary commitment. That was the beginning of a very important stage in the forging of the leader: training and maturity in the military, and theoretical-practical militancy in the PRV; a political organization in which he was appointed a member of the Central Committee.

In the second semester of that same year, he also contacted Alfredo Maneiro, General Secretary of the Causa R. The years 1978, 1979 and 1980 were years of intense organizational work, in order to build a real mass movement, with a strong anchorage in the working class, the peasantry, and the students; great efforts were made to achieve a unity of the left parties, starting with the PRV-Ruptura and the Causa R. As is known, this was practically impossible to achieve, due to divisions, groupalism, reformism and betrayals, among other factors. This is why the 4-F rebellion of 1992 was fundamentally a military insurgency.

In spite of this, Lieutenant Chávez continued his formation. In addition to meetings with Douglas Bravo and Alfredo Maneiro, he painted, wrote, researched Maisanta, continued to study Bolivar, Rodriguez and Zamora; and also Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, and other European Marxist authors; as well as Mariátegui and Mao Tse-Tung.

Chávez said that in those years he felt, “… as a set of triggers, in the spiritual, in the ideological, in the political. Although these were still years of study and reflection…I seriously began to prepare political reports and papers on military issues for the meetings with Douglas Bravo and the PRV-Ruptura command. it was by then the civic-military movement, it was not yet the MBR-200…In those years I wrote ‘El Brazalete Tricolor’ and other stories and essays…It was a permanent training. And I started looking for officers, because I was not going to stage a rebellion by myself”.

And so it was. Chávez emphasized his relationship with different army units, and with the Aviation School in the same city of Maracay, an intense work of several years to recruit officers and cadets.

II

In March 1981, he was transferred to the Venezuelan Military Academy (AMV), returning once again to the House of Blue Dreams; a decision of great significance for Chávez, for the work he was doing in terms of organizing the movement; although it also meant moving away from the group that had been strengthened in Maracay.

About this move, Chávez told Ramonet: “…there are times when it seems as if everything is conspiring to help me, as if there were a hidden plan…I arrive at the Academy…already a lieutenant with two years of seniority…I come ‘curdled’…In politics I had taken important steps in la fragua…Everything was going smoothly, and with that breeze in my favour I arrive at that patio again, the Patio of Honour, the Code of Honour…I saw it clearly: Here is the eagles’ nest. From there, it was clear to me that the Academy had to be the nest, the cradle of the Revolution. Our movement fell there on fertile ground… I was appointed Commander of a platoon of cadets until July 1981”.

Then, he consciously began to work politically with the cadets; the movement began to adopt an organic structure from the Academy, which until that moment it did not have. Also, taking advantage of his stay in Caracas, Chávez accentuated the meetings with the leaders of the PRV-Ruptura and the Causa R; and, at the same time, with university students, leaders and workers’ leaders in some Caracas neighbourhoods. The civic-military movement that would soon become the MBR-200 took shape.

In July 1982, Chávez was promoted to the rank of Captain, as the fifth in his class. Since his arrival at the Academy, he had been an instructor of tactics and war games, but also of history and leadership. In August of that same year, he was sent back to Maracay, to the Parachute Infantry Battalion “Coronel Antonio Nicolás Briceño”, the same one with which he rose on 4-F 1992. There, the movement continued to strengthen, especially in the military field.

At the same time, Douglas Bravo, and therefore the PRV, was distancing itself from the party, which had been confronting deep internal contradictions, which were of course reflected in its relationship with Chávez. So, there was a division at that time and we decided to separate ourselves definitively from that political militancy. A small group, where our dear comrade Alí Rodríguez Araque was, formed “Tendencia Revolucionaria”, which finally merged with Causa R; while Douglas organized “Tercer Camino”, which ended up dissolving completely. Thus, unfortunately, the PRV disappeared; a party that made important contributions, at the time, to the struggle for the freedom and sovereignty of la Patria.

Some of the young militants of that party, already aware of the strong internal deviations, decided to accompany Chávez and the structure of what would later become the MBR-200. Personally, it was my responsibility to carry out political and cultural work in Barinas and its surroundings, since at that time I was a professor at Unellez; work that I carried out clandestinely with other comrades in the region.

III

A key moment in the process of strengthening the civil-military movement is December 17, 1982, “…perhaps the most important event in the past few months for the paratroopers…”, as the historic leader of the Bolivarian Revolution himself put it. The immediate superior of then Captain Hugo Chávez, Colonel Manrique, asked him to give a few words that day, at an event organized to mark the 152nd anniversary of the death of the Liberator Father Simón Bolívar. There, he had an altercation with Major Flores, who was acting as master of ceremony, because the latter requested the written speech from the Bolivarian leader, who told him that he spoke without notes, that he did not write his speeches. The Major, although annoyed, had to allow Chávez to speak, because the entire staff was waiting in formation. And Chávez began with a quote from José Martí: “Thus is Bolivar in the skies of America, vigilant and girded, still sitting on the rock of creation, with the Inca by his side and a bundle of flags at his feet; thus is he, still wearing his campaign boots, because what he did not leave done, is still undone today; because Bolivar has yet something to do in America”.

Next, Chavez asked in that speech: “How can we not do something for Bolivar in America, when we have a continent full of misery”, taking great care not to refer, as he said to Ramonet: “…to the Venezuelan government…globalizing the unity of Latin America…I already had my own intellectual artillery, I had my personal concepts”.

When he finished his speech, the atmosphere was very tense. The Colonel called all the officers. At his side, Major Flores said to Chávez: “You looked like a politician,” by way of an insult; but before he responded, Acosta Carlez replied: “My Major, what do you mean ‘political’? What happens is that we are captains of the Simón Bolívar class, Bolivarian captains, and when we speak as Chávez spoke, you pee your pants”. Preventing the situation from escalating, the Colonel gave the command to attention, and said: “Look, gentlemen, everything that Captain Chávez has said had been repeated to me last night in my office, and I authorized it. So I ask for discipline. It was an interesting speech; let everyone reflect on Bolivar and on this patriotic act. You are dismissed”. Undoubtedly, a gesture of solidarity from that Colonel of the old guard.

After the altercation, Acosta Carlez and Chávez decided to go for a jog as a way of calming emotions, inviting Jesús Urdaneta Hernández and Raúl Baduel. They went to the La Placera sector, in the facilities of the “Coronel Antonio Nicolás Briceño” Parachute Infantry Battalion; and, on their way back, they went to the Samán de Güere Monument, where they took the well-known oath: “I swear by the God of my parents, I swear by my country, I swear by my honour, that I will not give peace to my soul nor rest to my arm until I see the chains that oppress my people broken by the will of the powerful. Popular election, lands and free men, horror to the oligarchy”.

From that day on, the work of recruiting officers, of organizing, of training, developed with greater intensity. That December 1982, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Army (EBR) was officially born, which later became known as the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement 200 (MBR-200).