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

Adán Chávez Frías

I

The mercenary and terrorist aggression against our Homeland at the beginning of this month, which was defeated by the Venezuelan people in a civic-military union, summons us to continue deepening this fundamental aspect of the legacy of Commander Hugo Chávez, the historic leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, giving continuity of the reflections we have made in previous articles, which led to the birth of the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army (EBR) in 1982, later renamed the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement 200 (MBR-200).

A few years later, in 1985, the then Captain Chávez was transferred to the “Francisco Farfán” Motorized Cavalry Squadron, in the town of Elorza in the province of Apureña. This was considered an important responsibility, given the strategic location of this military unit: the border with Colombia.

Hugo Rafael arrived in this town, feeling that the historic birth that was being prepared could not be stopped by anything or anyone. The MBR-200 was alive and was now the purest expression of the liberation dreams of those of us who were members of the Movement.

From there, I confided to Ramonet that in Elorza he lived one of the happiest periods of his life, of great achievements, “in the military, in the social and in the political. Elorza became a kind of sociological laboratory where I began live experience of our theses regarding the relationship between the Armed Forces and the people, which I had never done before”.

In that border town, abandoned by the Puntofijista governments, like most of the territories in the interior of the country, Chávez became, besides the military leader of the area, a social leader, maintaining direct and permanent contact with students, indigenous people, sportsmen and women, teachers and professors.

In addition, he managed to integrate his soldiers into the community, organizing sports teams, fisherwomen and fishermen to learn how to defend their rights, and the campesinos to confront the terrible latifundia that existed in the area. He also went to great lengths to work with the indigenous communities, respecting and appreciating their customs and culture, living their reality and their suffering with them. All this, while researching Maisanta, whose memory and example remained alive in the memory of the savannah.

His rapport with the people of this town was so strong that for two consecutive years, 1986 and 1987, Hugo was appointed president of the Elorza festivities, which, as is well known, are a reference point for national culture, and it is only fair to acknowledge that their importance has much to do with Chávez’s management and his efforts to make the festivities a stage for the organization and participation of the people.

I remember that in those years a small group of Bolivarians who worked at the National Experimental University of the Western Plains “Ezequiel Zamora” (Unellez), in Barinas, managed to persuade the university authorities of the time to support us in bringing to these festivities, as part of the new program organized by Chávez, the cultural manifestations that were alive in that house of study: dances, theatre, puppets and a llanera musical group.

Also, our passion for the ball is well known, the Unellez teachers’ softball team travelled to Elorza. Chavez cleaned up a vacant lot and built a “sabanero stadium”, where we played against the novena he organized, made up of soldiers and some inhabitants of Elorza and San Fernando; he had as his manager for these exchanges, none other than the great Venezuelan baseball player Pompeyo Davalillo, who had been Hugo’s coach at the Military Academy. That town, with its parties, integrated like never before, organizing itself like no one had ever thought of. Elorza changed forever since those years of Chavez’s stay in those beloved lands; and we can assure you that most of his daughters and sons remain faithful to the legacy of the Eternal Commander today.

III

When Chávez was president of the Elorza parties for the second time, he held the rank of Major in the Venezuelan Army, having been promoted in July 1986. In May of that year, the 3rd National Congress of the MBR-200 was held in San Cristóbal, Táchira state, in a clandestine manner, of course; where I personally met several officers who were part of the Movement, among them Commander Arias Cárdenas.

In addition to the officers who served as members of the Board of Directors of that Movement, two civilians were specially invited: Manuel, a professor and old member of the Venezuelan Revolutionary Party (PRV), who had stayed with us; and myself.

In that meeting, we discussed the ideological line of the three roots and the strategy to continue adding military and civilians to the Movement, including the incorporation and participation of popular organizations; among other aspects. We left that meeting feeling that we had an organization ready to finish preparing the civil-military insurrection aimed at liberating the country from the ignominy of the Fourth Republic.