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

Adán Chávez Frías

I

As stated in the previous installment, the popular rebellion of 1989 marked the birth of the Bolivarian Revolution; to the extent that it shook the national socio-political atmosphere, which from that moment on was characterized by an increase in protests as a consequence of the moral, economic and social deterioration of the country; and, as used to happen during the Fourth Republic, by the repression of the People.

This scenario accelerated the creation of the objective conditions for the development of a revolutionary action, which encouraged Chávez -who was conscious of it- to deepen the work of reorganizing the MBR-200, which as we pointed out before was disarticulated.

So, faced with this new panorama, Hugo decided not to leave the Army; a decision that was shared by the other members of the Movement, who agreed to resume the meetings and organizational activities. Thus, the MBR-200 was re-launched both in the military and in the civilian areas, and began to grow again and consolidate its actions in order to go on the offensive.

So much so, that the military, with Chávez at its head, practically assumed an “open conspiracy”; nevertheless, the government did not manage to gather convincing evidence against it. Even so, the government continued to persecute them and tried to tarnish their military career by developing an infamous campaign inside the barracks in an effort to discredit them. They began to call them “The Comacates”, in attention to the military hierarchies that the members of the Movement were supposed to have: Commanders, Majors, Captains and Lieutenants; against those who were said to be a kind of “sect” with satanic and dictatorial ideas, and who had a plan to assassinate the president in office.

II

In December 1989, Chavez and other Elders who were part of the Movement were detained for a few hours, under the pretext of being investigated for this alleged plan. This proved to be a hoax to get him out of the Palacio Blanco, where he was working in the SECONASEDE; and to separate as much as possible, with changes of this type, those suspected of being part of the MBR-200, one of them Hugo, who was sent to join a Hunters’ Brigade in Maturin, capital of the state of Monagas.

In October of that year, the historic leader of the Bolivarian Revolution had begun his course as a member of the General Staff, and in the following July he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel; a promotion that they tried to prevent in various ways, resorting to elements of discipline, academic performance, and even physical elimination. They did not succeed, not only because they never got any evidence against him or because no one had ever blamed him for anything, but because his grades were excellent.

After his promotion, in July 1990, the internal war against the Bolivarians was accentuated; an order was given that: “…Chávez and those of his group who are in the General Staff course should fail, that they should not graduate, it is the only way to stop them”.

Once again, and in spite of all the manoeuvres employed, they could not prevent Hugo and his comrades from successfully completing the course in July 1991; nor did this prevent the persecution against them from continuing.

The now Commander Chávez, who had completed his General Staff Course with very good grades and continued to have an impeccable professional career that made him worthy of the responsibility of commanding a Battalion, was, however, assigned to the Supply Service of the then Armed Forces. They did everything possible to prevent Hugo and the other comrades suspected of belonging to the Bolivarian Movement from commanding troops.

In spite of this, the MBR-200 continued to strengthen and now had a good number of Captains who took over as Commanders of Tank Companies, Infantry and Cadets; while several Commanders received Battalions. In addition, contact with leftist civil organizations had been resumed and the “civil wing” of the MBR-200 was organized.

Likewise, Chavez continued, with the support of some of us, his work of recruitment, organization and training. In his spare time at the Military Proveduría he studied and planned the development of the civic-military movement; at the same time, he dedicated himself to visiting the Military Academy, his House of Blue Dreams, the Cradle of the Bolivarian Revolution.

III

Once again destiny, that “invisible conspiracy” of which our Eternal Commander spoke to us constantly, continued to play its role; when Hugo attended the ceremony of appointment as Commander of the “Colonel Genaro Vásquez” Battalion of one of the Movement’s comrades, Lieutenant Colonel Ortíz Contreras, he reminded the latter of his situation, promising him that he would speak with the new Minister of Defense at the time, General Ochoa Antich, with whom he maintained a close relationship. Ortíz Contreras kept his word. The Minister recognized that an injustice had been committed with Chávez’s appointment to the Providuría and gave the pertinent instructions to assign him a battalion command, as was his due.

Thus, in August 1991, Chávez was appointed Commander of the Parachute Infantry Battalion “Colonel Antonio Nicolás Briceño”, located in the “José Antonio Páez” Barracks in Maracay, Aragua State. In this transmission of command, father, mother and I accompanied him; an event during which Hugo outlined, in a simulated way, the general lines of the “Simón Bolívar” National Project. It was, as I said before, an open conspiracy.

Chávez arrived at the Red Beret Battalion he was to lead on 4 February 1992, during the civil-military insurrection that split the history of our country in two.

He would have reflected on it that same day, as he told Ramonet: “…Five hundred and something men, well trained, in a strategic place like Maracay, near Caracas; and in addition, a group of MBR-200 officers already in command positions; our Movement ripe for uprising…and a whole People demanding a rebellion”.

So, aware of what this meant, Chávez continued to consolidate the MBR-200, awaiting the development of objective conditions in the country, recruiting new officers, maintaining contact with people from the Causa R, such as dear comrade Alí Rodríguez; as well as some comrades from the People’s Electoral Movement (MEP). By that time, the PRV had been dissolved, although Douglas Bravo was still politically active and a member of the Patriotic Front, an entity formed after the “Caracazo” by leftist intellectuals, former guerrilla commanders and retired military personnel such as Willian Izarra, among many other sectors and individuals.

They all shared the central strategic goal of the Bolivarian project: to form a civic-military movement, inscribed in the tradition of struggle of the Venezuelan people, from Bolívar to the present day, that would make it possible to achieve the changes that the country required; a movement that is today a fundamental support in the face of the criminal imperial onslaught to which we Venezuelans are subjected.