VENEZUELA: ANATOMY OF A COUP
Today, the President of Venezuela faces an ultimatum from his opponents - resign, call elections, or suffer an indefinite general strike. Six months ago it was another general strike that led to a coup d'etat, in which President Hugo Chavez was deposed, only to be rescued and reinstalled two days later. The bungled coup was an object lesson in how not to attempt regime change. With exclusive access to the main players in this drama, and unique behind-the-scenes pictures, Bentley Dean has produced a minute-by-minute account of the coup in progress. Tonight we bring to you the first part in a story that will be continued next week.
REPORTER: Bentley Dean
DIOSDADO CABELLO (Translation)(In the palace): Give me a hug.
HUGO CHAVEZ: I was worried about you.
ALL CHANT: He's back! He's back!
Hugo Chavez is back. Two days ago, the Venezuelan President was overthrown by sections of the armed forces. Now, he's making his triumphant return. Hugo Chavez has just survived his first coup.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Translation): I must confess I'm still stupefied. I'm still taking it in. This process that, well... A process - if we could call it that - which could inspire who knows how many books, for our history and as an example for the whole world. This is a process of counter-counter-revolution.
Outside the presidential palace, supporters of Chavez celebrate. In an extraordinary example of people power, thousands of Chavistas had risked their lives taking to the streets to secure his return. For two days, while their beloved president was held captive, the fate of Venezuela's democracy had hung in the balance. Within 48 hours, what had started out as another example of people power - a massive demonstration by the opposition, had escalated into unprecedented violence. Demands for the President's resignation, his forced removal from office and a transfer of power to his opponents. But this was not a spontaneous uprising. There is abundant evidence that the coup had been carefully scripted from the start, that an alliance of powerful business and military interests had collaborated to unseat Venezuela's elected president.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Translation): I am, of course, president of all, even of that minority that doesn't want me. (Sings) I'm not a gold coin that everybody likes.
As much as Chavez is loved by the poor, he is hated by the rich and middle class. His revolutionary rhetoric and poor economic management has been alienating many since his election three years ago.
MAN AT DEMONSTRATION (Translation): This man is destroying the country with hunger and destitution. I'm tired of this man supporting terrorists, and helping and embracing Fidel Castro. We don't want communism. We want liberty and democracy. Down with Chavez!
Chavez's friendship with Fidel Castro has also antagonised the United States, as did his criticism of the war in Afghanistan.
DENNIS JETT, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO PERU: We have a person who is basically unstable and I think a threat to his own country, let alone a threat to American interests.
Three years ago, Chavez established good relations with fellow oil producers Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.
CARLOS MOLINA (Translation): I reject the sharp deterioration in international relations with our traditional allies in favour of seeking links with non-democratic regimes.
Early this year, a succession of military officers called for his resignation. But Chavez dismissed the rumours of a coup as fantasy. The former army colonel, who had attempted a coup himself 10 years ago, felt supremely confident of the army's loyalty.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Translation): I don't believe that the conditions here would allow a repetition of what occurred in Chile with Allende in 1973. Above all, the Chilean armed forces of the time do not resemble at all today's Venezuelan armed forces. I'm a military man. It's my background. I know the army, in particular, like the palm of my hand.
But, by April 11, opposition to Chavez had reached fever pitch.
WOMAN AT DEMONSTRATION (Translation): Chavez, the die has been cast.
Two weeks earlier, Chavez had sacked the directors of Venezuela's national petroleum company, one of the largest energy companies in the world, and replaced them with loyal supporters, who had little business experience. It was the last straw. Union and business leaders joined forces to demand the President step down.
CARLOS ORTEGA, UNION LEADER (Translation): And towards that end we've agreed on a strike, not for 24 or 48 hours, but a general strike for an indefinite period.
ADVERTISEMENT: Venezuelans, take to the streets! On Thursday 11 April we'll march for Venezuela.
The anti-Chavez commercial media joined the call for a march to the petroleum company headquarters.
ADVERTISEMENT: Venezuela won't surrender! We will not be defeated!
Pedro Carmona was president of Fedecamaras, Venezuela's most powerful business association. He says he was stunned by the response.
PEDRO CARMONA (Translation): I didn't imagine when I left my house on 11 April that, within 24 hours, I'd be in the eye of the hurricane, assuming responsibilities.
PEDRO CARMONA ADDRESSING CROWD: It's with a sense of great responsibility that I address our nation to request, in the name of a democratic Venezuela, the resignation of the president of the republic.
Carmona was addressing the largest protest in Venezuelan history. Among the opposition marchers that day was Maria and Hector's teenage son, Jesus. They were among the millions who watched the demonstration unfold live on television.
HECTOR (Translation): There was joy, they marched with the hope that Chavez would leave, etc. And, with the desire to get what they wanted. But, the fact is most participants went on, incited by certain people in the march.
In a bold move, the protest leaders announced their intention to march on the presidential palace, Miraflores, something they had never dared do before.
CARLOS ORTEGA (Translation): Let's not rule out the possibility that this crowd, this human river, marches united to Miraflores to expel a traitor to the Venezuelan people.
The decision to march on Miraflores was calculated to provoke Chavez supporters, who rallied to their president.
JUAN BARETTO (Translation): The people of Caracas, the people of Venezuela, the poor and the humble of this country must gather at Miraflores. To Miraflores! The people must go to Miraflores to defend their revolution. They will not pass! They will not pass.
Meanwhile, the opposition streamed towards the palace. The scene was set for a showdown. Abraham Rivero was a journalist who was sent to cover the march by his newspaper, 'El Nacional'.
ABRAHAM RIVERO (Translation): The people arrived between about 2:30 and 2:45. That's when the first confrontation took place with the National Guard, which had cordoned off the area around Miraflores.
For many of the middle class, it was their first taste of tear gas.
ABRAHAM RIVERO (Translation): The people saw they couldn't get to the palace because of the heavy attack of the guards, so they moved to the main avenue, Avenida Baralt.
The marchers soon had their first clashes with Chavistas. Rocks were thrown by both sides. Chavez interrupted TV and radio stations to broadcast a call for calm.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Translation): A very good afternoon to my dear Venezuelan compatriots. Here we are, in the government palace at Miraflores. Here we are, facing our responsibilities, as always.
As Chavez addressed the nation, the first gunshots of the coup were being fired in the streets outside his palace.
ABRAHAM RIVERO (Translation): Practically all the wounded and those who died on April 11 had been shot in the head by bullets. This leads one to believe there were snipers posted in the area.
MARIA (Translation) (Watching video of her son dying): A friend called me from Cagua, which is another city, and asked me where Jesus was. I told her he was in Caracas. She told me to turn the TV on. When I turned the TV on, the first thing I saw was my son. That's my son. The one being carried. He's breathing there...but he's dead. He's beautiful.
The President continued his address as news of the violence outside was passed to him. Then, an army general ordered television stations to split the screen in order to show the mayhem unfolding, while Chavez warned the opposition that more of his supporters were on the way.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Translation): They won't fall into provocations. But, hey! Keep your eyes peeled.
The violence appeared chaotic and spontaneous but it was, in fact, orchestrated. Otto Neustald was a CNN correspondent in Venezuela at the time of the coup. Speaking to university students in Caracas recently, he described a phone call he received the night before the opposition march.
OTTO NEUSTALD (Translation): On the evening of the 10th someone phoned me and said "Otto, tomorrow there will be a video from Chavez. The march will be held towards Miraflores. There'll be deaths and 20 high-ranking military officers will speak against Chavez and ask for his resignation."
On the morning of the march, long before deaths occurred, Neustald was among journalists invited to record an announcement by Vice-Admiral Ramirez Perez, an announcement that would not be made public until much later in the day.
RAMIREZ PEREZ (Translation): Venezuelans, the president of the republic has betrayed the trust of his people. He's massacring innocent people with snipers. Just now, six people were killed and dozens wounded in Caracas.
OTTO NEUSTALD (Translation): I was with these men who were going to issue a communique against Chavez. I was there at least two hours before the killing started.
RAMIREZ PEREZ (Translation): He's trying to use units of our glorious army to repress the civic march. This is despite the fact that he has sworn and repeated on numerous occasions that he'd never use the Armed Forces against his own people. This is intolerable. We cannot accept a tyrant in the Republic of Venezuela.
It turns out the march organisers also knew about the violence to come. Union leader Carlos Ortega received a call warning him of the snipers. He pulled out, but did nothing to prevent the march from continuing. Organisers like Admiral Molina, seen here in plain clothes, actively encouraged the marchers on.
ADMIRAL MOLINA (Translation) (Addressing crowd on megaphone): The wind's blowing this way. We must avoid the tear gas. We must move to the other side quickly. Pass it on! As soon as they throw tear gas, move forward quickly.
Business leader Pedro Carmona did not go to Miraflores.
MARIA (Translation): Ask Mr Carmona why he didn't stop the march when they knew they would kill my boy. Tell him he was only 18, an innocent boy.
HECTOR (Translation): You ask for your child, that's all.
MARIA (Translation): He should remember he has children. He should have stopped the march, turned it around. Because he was there, he turned around and saved himself.
HECTOR (Translation): They knew everything. Everything.
PEDRO CARMONA (Translation): There was no cowardice nor premeditation that could be interpreted as has been said, as some sort of conspiracy or premeditated action.
Meanwhile, Chavez supporters were also being slain by the snipers. Minister for Education Aristobulo Isturiz was inside Miraflores Palace with Chavez at the time.
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ (Translation): We started to see that from the roofs of various buildings they were shooting towards the crowd at the palace. Some people fell, even inside the palace.
WITNESS (Translation): The snipers were in that hotel. It's called Hotel Eden. They were firing from there. They were firing at the people who were here. There were many wounded... 40 people. Some got killed. I believe they were also shooting in the other direction. There was a third factor. The opposition at one end, Chavez supporters at the other and a third element shooting in both directions causing a confrontation that should never have happened.
Soon, Chavez supporters and police started shooting at each other. This footage was the pretext for the coup to come. Pedro Carmona, safely ensconsed inside a television studio, described a scene in which Chavistas were firing at unarmed protesters.
PEDRO CARMONA (Translation): They kept shooting, aiming and unloading their automatic weapons. This will go down in history. Thank God there's this evidence. They're shooting at the people marching below. This is an unspeakable act of savagery. Is this what they call revolution?
But what was broadcast by the commercial television stations and rebroadcast around the world, was the result of some very creative and deliberate editing. Witnesses agreed that there were in fact no demonstrators on the streets below the bridge.
WITNESS (Translation): The march never got to this point. It never got this far. I work at that corner. I've been working here for 18 years. Here, at the corner of Munoz. They didn't get to the corner of Baralt.
As this camera angle shows, the Chavistas were not shooting at unarmed protesters, but at police who were firing on them.
HECTOR RAMIREZ PEREZ: Fortunately, we have a great weapon. And that's the media. As you and the people saw today, neither the army nor the Armed Forces fired a single shot. All of this was... Our weapon has been the media. And I take the opportunity to congratulate all of you because you've been important players in these events.
For the coup-planners everything was going according to plan. Almost two hours and 24 deaths later, Chavez finished his address to the nation.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Translation): Many thanks and a good afternoon to you, ladies and gentlemen.
The President ordered the army on to the streets in an attempt to restore order. The army refused. Almost immediately, Vice Admiral Ramirez Perez's pre-recorded communique was broadcast for the first time.
RAMIREZ PEREZ: We have decided to address the Venezuelan people to publicly withdraw our support of the current government and the authority of Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias.
Other high-ranking officers also took to the airwaves to demand Chavez's resignation.
GENERAL LUIS CAMACHO (Translation): You must resign now! Enough is enough! The Venezuelan people, the whole world, has had enough of this farce that's been served up to our compatriots.
GENERAL VASQUEZ VELASCO (Translation): Stay in your barracks. This is not a coup. This is not insubordination. This is a show of solidarity with the Venezuelan people.
On the evening of April 11, Pedro Carmona was meeting with the military high command at their headquarters. The strategy was to force Chavez to resign.
RAMIREZ PEREZ (Translation): He either takes this opportunity or we'll launch a military operation.
ARISTOBULO ISTRUIZ (Translation): They called and said we had ten minutes for the president to give himself up or they would bomb the palace. They'd bomb the palace. Everyone told the president not to resign, that we'd resist in the palace. They'd have to bomb it with us there.
Chavez weighed his options.
ARISTOBULO ISTRUIZ (Translation): The president said, "I have considered three alternatives and I think it's foolish for us to resist here. We cannot leave the people out there to continue alone."
Chavez decided to permit the coup leaders to take him prisoner, rather than resign. General Rincon Romero, the Chief of Staff, did not make this careful distinction.
GENERAL RINCON ROMERO (Translation): The president of the republic was asked to resign from his post, which he agreed to do.
ARISTOBULO ISTRUIZ (Translation): We were with him until the last moment, when he got into the car. It was 4:00 or 4:30am. They took him to Fort Tiuna.
PEDRO CARMONA (Translation): With the consensus of all forces, comprising the Venezuelan civil society and the military establishment, the Armed Forces, I've been asked to lead the government.
TV PRESENTER: Good morning. It's 6:14am. Thanks to civil society and the armed forces today we awake to changes. Good morning. We have a new president.
PEDRO CARMONA (Translation): What the constitution provides for is that in the absence of the president the executive vice-president can and should assume power and call elections. But the vice-president was absent. He'd disappeared, like the entire government.
The vice-president had disappeared, only after the new regime started to hunt down Chavez loyalists.
TAREK WILLIAM SAAB (Translation): They're violating my human rights. The State Security Police ordered my detention.
MAN: What's your opinion?
TAREK WILLIAM SAAB: I'm baffled. I'm a member of the National Assembly.
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ (Translation): They looked for me across the country and in Caracas
but they never raided my home and I was there. On Radio Caracas Television, they constantly referred to us as the most wanted. "Freddy Bernal, Aristobulo Isturiz etc. etc. haven't been found."
The minister of the interior, Ramon Chacin, was not so lucky.
PEDRO CARMONA (Translation): There wasn't even a suspension of constitutional guarantees, or a curfew. No special measures were introduced. Therefore, any individual abuse towards a government representative... Some exaggerated that they were victims of violations or abused...
REPORTER: I've seen some quite extraordinary footage, though, for example, of Tarek William Saab and Ramon Chacin being dragged off and people hitting him and…
PEDRO CARMONA: You know what? It was their neighbours.
REPORTER: Tell me.
PEDRO CARMONA: It was their neighbours.
REPORTER: So, they were terrible neighbours, was that it?
PEDRO CARMONA: It wasn't the provisional government, but their neighbours.
Meanwhile, Chavez was being secretly transferred to Turiamo army base.
OFFICER (Translation): You can rest assured that you'll have protection. I guarantee it with my life.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Translation): I believe you. I trust soldiers... Well, some. I'm here because I trusted those I made leaders.
With Chavez and his supporters out of the picture, it was time for the Venezuelan business leader to be sworn in as president.
GENERAL RINCON ROMERO (Translation): First Article. Pedro Carmona Estanga is designated President of the Republic of Venezuela.
In one breathtaking act, the new junta dissolved all democratic institutions.
GENERAL RINCON ROMERO: The principal and deputy representatives are suspended from the National Assembly. The president and judges of the Supreme Court of Justice are suspended. The same applies to the attorney-general, as well as the controller-general, the ombudsman, and the members of the National Electoral Commission.
CROWD CHANTS: Democracy! Democracy!
For the plotters, things were looking pretty good. The only thing now they needed to legitimise their coup was international recognition, most importantly from the United States. The US Ambassador to Venezuela was quick to meet the new president.
CHARLES SHAPIRO, US AMBASSADOR TO VENEZUELA (Translation): We met to exchange messages between our governments and the new president. That's why we're here.
LOCAL REPORTER: That's why you're talking to President Carmona Estanga?
CHARLES SHAPIRO: Yes, and the chancellor.
LOCLA REPORTER: What did you tell him?
CHARLES SHAPIRO: I just...I informed him...I informed him about the situation in Washington and the OAS and about some...evaluations on our part.
LOCAL REPORTER: What are they?
CHARLES SHAPIRO: It's a private evaluation. Very diplomatic and private.
Washington, it seems, was reading carefully from the script written by the coup leaders.
CNN ESPANOL (Translation): Washington's initial reaction was to blame Chavez himself for create ago crisis that precipitated his fall.
ARI FLEISCHER: Chavez's government suppressed peaceful demonstrations – (VENEZUELAN TV NEWS TRANSLATION): The Chavez government ordered its supporters to fire against unarmed demonstrators. Washington's antipathy towards Chavez wasn't new. The Secretary of State had criticised him a few weeks back. Chavez's orders to fire against demonstrators was a bad mistake.
Wayne Madsen is an investigative journalist and former National Security Agency officer. He's not surprised by Washington's line.
WAYNE MADSEN: I think, when you look at the Bush Administration, you have to look at the one common denominator that runs through this entire administration is oil, oil and oil.
Two days before Chavez was deposed, some members of OPEC had threatened an oil embargo on the US in retaliation for its support of Israel. The US could have become more reliant on oil from Venezuela and therefore more reliant on Hugo Chavez. Ali Rodriguez Araque, the Venezuelan Secretary-General of OPEC, has told the BBC he warned Chavez that a long-planned coup against him would be prodded into action.
WAYNE MADSEN: It was no accident, the timing of the coup, but the coup had been planned for an awful long time. Nine months before, there were CIA people sent to Venezuela to try to establish liaison with the, with the potential coup-plotters and that's what they were doing. Back in June of 2001, I was told by a Pentagon source that a Lieutenant Colonel James Rodgers had been sent to Venezuela for a 2-year tour of duty, ostensibly with the US military, but I was told quite openly, you know, candidly, that he was seconded over to the Central Intelligence Agency and his primary mission was to foment a coup against President Chavez.
On the afternoon of April 12, the new regime of business and military elites was congratulating itself inside the palace. Outside, unrest was brewing. Chavez supporters were descending on Caracas to demand his return.
DEMONSTRATORS CHANT: Chavez! Chavez! Chavez! This is a dictatorship. Chavez is the rightful president. The people love him and we'll defend him.
The coup appeared to have succeeded, but had it?
DEMONSTRATOR: Out with the dictator Carmona Estanga!
DEMONSTRATORS CHANT: Long live the revolution and democracy! We love Chavez and we will defend him!
NARRATOR: Jana Wendt
It started on April 11 with a march - the largest demonstration in Venezuela's history.
DEMONSTRATOR: Chavez, the die has been cast.
As many as a million people streamed towards the presidential palace. Clashes broke out with police and Chavez supporters, but protest leaders egged the marchers on.
CARLOS MOLINA ON MEGAPHONE: We must avoid the tear gas. We must move to the other side quickly.
Then, shots rang out. Snipers were firing at supporters of Chavez and at the opposition, sowing chaos in the streets. 24 people were killed. In an announcement that had been recorded several hours BEFORE the shootings began, Vice Admiral Ramirez Perez blamed Chavez for the deaths.
VICE-ADMIRAL RAMIREZ PEREZ: Venezuelans, the president of the republic has betrayed the trust of his people. He's massacring innocent people with snipers.
A chorus of high-ranking officers took to the airwaves to demand the President's resignation before delivering an ultimatum.
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ: They called and said we had 10 minutes for the President to give himself up or they would bomb the palace.
Refusing to resign, Chavez allowed himself to be taken prisoner instead, a distinction the generals failed to make.
GENERAL RINCON ROMERO: The president of the republic was asked to resign from his post, which he agreed to do.
Business leader Pedro Carmona then accepted the military's invitation to be Venezuela's new president. The junta immediately dissolved all democratic institutions.
GENERAL RINCON ROMERO: The president and judges of the Supreme Court of Justice are suspended.
Importantly for the success of the coup, Washington seemed pleased with the outcome.
CHARLES SHAPAIRO, US AMBASSADOR TO VENEZUELA: We met to exchange messages between our governments and the new president.
So far, everything had gone exactly to plan. Bentley Dean now takes up the second part of his anatomy of a coup.
REPORTER: Bentley Dean
By the afternoon of April 12, the situation looked hopeless for Chavez supporters.
DEMONSTRATOR (Translation): This is a dictatorship. Chavez is the rightful president. The people love him and we'll defend him.
With nothing to lose, they took to the streets.
DEMONSTRATOR (Translation): Out with the dictator Carmona Estanga! Long live the revolution and democracy!
Later that day, one of Chavez's Cabinet ministers dealt the new regime a powerful blow.
ISAVAS RODRIGUEZ (Translation): The Public Ministry hasn't at any time been given written evidence of a resignation or any specific evidence of a resignation. President Chavez continues to be the president of the Republic of Venezuela.
Just hours after would-be president Pedro Carmona swore himself in, the recently deposed attorney-general, Isaias Rodriguez, managed to hold a press conference.
ISAVAS RODRIGUEZ (Translation): Only when the National Assembly accepts the president's resignation can it be considered valid.
Unlike Washington, Latin American leaders meeting in Costa Rica expressed alarm at the coup in progress.
ALEJANDRO TOLEDO, PERUVIAN PRESIDENT (Translation): We have taken note of the news that the Attorney-General reportedly said there's no definite proof of the resignation of President Hugo Chavez.
PRESIDENT VICENTE FOX, MEXICAN PREESIDENT (Translation): Mexico will abstain from recognising or not recognising the new government of Venezuela and will limit itself to maintaining diplomatic relations.
But the international reaction, like the growing demonstrations in support of Chavez, went unreported by Venezuela's commercial media.
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ, EDUCATION MINISTER (Translation): They were showing cartoons, regular, normal programs, as if nothing was happening. They didn’t say a word about what was happening while people were blocking the streets. People were out in the street, not just in Caracas, but throughout the country, while the media didn't say a word. A media dictatorship.
The police took advantage of the media blackout to viciously crack down on Chavez supporters.
DEMONSTRATORS: They're killing us! They're killing us.
MAN: Why are you demonstrating?
DEMONSTRATORS: Because they kidnapped Hugo Chavez Frias. He did not resign. He was kidnapped.
More than one television station broadcast attempted explanations of the blackout.
GLOBOVISION NEWSREADER (Translation): We have not broadcast information or images that could further damage our country. This doesn't mean we're hiding information or violating your rights to be well informed.
In fact, Venevision, owned by Gustavo Cisneros, one of the richest and most powerful men in the Americas, openly endorsed the coup.
VENEVISION ADVERTISEMENT (Translation): We at Venevision are proud of our contribution to the country, with which we've always walked hand in hand. Unity, truth, justice, progress, tolerance and respect are the feelings that must reign amongst us. The moment for great national reconciliation has arrived. Today more than ever, Venezuela lives in you!
By now, tens of thousands of Chavez supporters were in the streets. They surrounded the commercial television stations demanding that they be heard. Fearing for their safety, the journalists let them speak.
DEMONSTRATOR: We just ask the media to please broadcast what is going on. The people have come out onto the streets to protest. We want news of our president.
Meanwhile, the paratroop regiment in the nearby city of Maracay was also becoming a gathering point for Chavez supporters. The commanding officer, General Raul Baduel, was an old friend of Chavez and one of the few high-ranking officers who had remained loyal. 37 hours after he was taken into captivity, Chavez managed to smuggle a message to General Baduel.
GENERAL RAUL BADUEL (Translation): The president wrote a brief letter. This corporal in the National Guard came with his wife. The woman had the letter hidden in her underwear. "To the Venezuelan people and to whom it may concern, I, Hugo Chavez Frias, a Venezuelan, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela declare - I repeat - I declare I have not resigned."
RAPPING DEMONSTRATOR: Just pay attention! People are going out of their minds. They're keeping Chavez prisoner but he'll get out and those responsible will pay for it. That corrupt bunch will pay the consequences.
GENERAL RAUL BADUEL (Translation): We started to assess the situation to see if we could rescue him.
General Baduel soon received intelligence that Chavez was being transferred to another military base.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Shaking hands with captors) (Translation): Don't forget your towel, shorts and talcum powder. See you soon. Thanks to all of you for everything. Thanks for your advice and care.
The coup leaders were moving Chavez in an attempt to foil a rescue. The general was not deterred.
GENERAL RAUL BADUEL (Translation): We were able to contact by phone our comrades in the Special Operations Brigade, who were given the mission to guard the president there. They agreed not to engage in any confrontation with us.
With moves to rescue Chavez under way, General Baduel set about the daunting task of removing the junta from power. He turned to one of China's greatest thinkers for guidance.
GENERAL RAUL BADUEL (Translation): The philosophical part of the plan was based on Lao Tse's 'Tao Te Ching'. "There's no greater disaster than underestimating the enemy." Those behind these events underestimated the Venezuelan people because they saw them as enemies. "If I underestimate the enemy, I risk losing my greatest treasure... love." If we take a careful look at the actions of those behind these events in our country, we can ascertain there was an absence of love. There was only greed and personal ambition for material things or for power. "And so, when two similar armies come into confrontation that which comes with a painful heart with triumph." So the plan was simple.
By the morning of April 13, a growing crowd of Chavistas were gathering outside the palace.
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ (Translation): They were in the swearing-in ceremony for the ministers and people flocked to Miraflores, right up to the gate.
DEMONSTRATORS CHANT: Out Carmona! Out Carmona! Out Carmona! It's our dream.
DEMONSTRATOR: For the sake of our children we want our president.
DEMONSTRATOR: We stay, even if it costs our lives.
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ (Translation): We were in contact with journalist friends who were inside covering the event. Because media owners aren't the same as journalists. So they'd call my house from inside saying "Things are really ugly here. People are arriving, and these people are scared."
General Baduel chose this moment to play his trump card. The Guard of Honour at the presidential palace had not been changed, and they remained loyal to Chavez.
GENERAL RAUL BADUEL (Translation): We contacted the Commander of the Guard of Honour. We asked him to evaluate the situation and whether he thought he could retake the palace installations. Which he did.
PEDRO CARMONA, COUP LEADER (Translation): It was clear that if control of the presidential palace was lost... Losing control of the palace in practice symbolically means the loss of power.
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ (Translation): Then they said, "The swearing-in ceremony was suspended. Carmona is leaving..."
(Storming through palace): We'll guard the palace with the people until the president, who'll be free soon, arrives.
REPORTER: Are you sure?
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ: I'm certain.
REPORTER: How did you get here?
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ: I walked with the people. (Sitting in President’s chair): We're waiting for President Chavez to join us.
REPORTER: Where is he right now?
ARISTOBULO ISTURIZ: He'll be here soon. We're guarding his chair.
HUGO CHAVEZ (Addressing the nation: Render unto God the things which are God's, unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto the people the things which are the people's.
Four months after Venezuela's 48-hour coup, no-one has been brought to justice. Dictator for a day, Pedro Carmona, has fled to neighbouring Colombia but, today, the military ringleaders of the coup are waiting to find out if they are to be tried for rebellion. They remain unrepentant.
GENERAL GONZALEZ (Translation): Right now we're giving Latin America an example of the adherence to and respect for democratic values such as respect for civilians and their institutions.
If they appear relaxed, it's because they are. Strong rumours have been circulating that the judges will dismiss the charges. Undaunted by the failure of their uprising, the commercial media, unions and business groups have maintained their attack on Chavez. The court's decision will be viewed as a test of the President's tenuous grip on power. Finally, a decision is made. The military men's lawyer announces the verdict.
CARLOS BASTIDAS (Translation): The charges are dismissed, the measures are suspended, and the request to try the generals and admirals has been rejected.
REPORTER: What about the other officers?
CARLOS BASTIDAS: They will have complete freedom without any restrictions. The Minister for Defence will decide on their new posts.
For Chavistas, it's too much to bear.
DEMONSTRATORS: My God! Why? Till when? My God! Why? Why?
(Army begins shooting): DEMONSTRATORS: They just can't do this! You can't do this to people who have come out into the streets asking for justice. What justice is there in this? This can't be tolerated in Venezuela. The court said there was no coup. What the hell was it? To Venezuelans and the rest of the world, that was a coup.
Encouraged by the judges' decision, Vice Admiral Ramirez Perez relaunches his attack on Chavez...
VICE-ADMIRAL RAMIREZ PEREZ (Translation): This is unheard of. He talks about a peaceful revolution but we all know he's leading us towards Castro communism.
..and appears not to be ruling out another coup.
VICE-ADMIRAL RAMIREZ PEREz: These things must be stopped in time. The situation we're experiencing is unheard of. Now... Whether it's constitutional or unconstitutional... Well, gentlemen...
Only yesterday, the officers who were behind the coup, including Vice Admiral Ramirez Perez, called on the army to declare itself in rebellion. The opposition has also repeated its ultimatum to Chavez - resign, call elections or face another indefinite strike. History looks about to repeat itself.