Venezuelans mark uprising anniversary, express support for Maduro

Supporters of Venezuela's government participate in a march in a Caracas to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the start of the Caracazo, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 27, 2019. EPA-EFE/Miguel Gutierrez

Supporters of Venezuela’s government participate in a march in a Caracas to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the start of the Caracazo, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 27, 2019. EPA-EFE/Miguel Gutierrez


Thousands of supporters of Venezuela’s government on Wednesday commemorated the 30th anniversary of the start of the Caracazo uprising with a demonstration in this capital, a rally in which they also expressed support for embattled leftist President Nicolas Maduro .

Constituent Assembly head Diosdado Cabello was the lead speaker at the event in the absence of Maduro, who referred to that deadly weeklong wave of protests in a tweet but did not mention the rally in Petare, a large shantytown on Caracas’ outskirts.

“Feb. 27. Yes, it all started there. Three years later, we rose up at an (army) barracks with a giant in the lead,” Cabello said in reference to a Feb. 4, 1992, attempted coup led by Hugo Chavez , who eventually took power via the ballot box and was Venezuela’s president from 1999 until his death from cancer in 2013.

On Feb. 27, 1989, thousands of Venezuelans protested on the streets of Caracas and the nearby city of Guarenas against steady price increases and a decline in purchasing power.

The protests devolved into widespread violence and looting, and the subsequent crackdown by security forces left more than 270 dead, according to official figures; Cabello, however, said Wednesday that at least 3,600 protesters lost their lives in clashes with government security forces during the Caracazo.

“When (the number of dead) reached 3,600, they stopped counting. They gathered up (the bodies) in the streets with heavy machines. Then they gathered them up and put them in trucks,” he added.

Cabello, regarded as Maduro’s right-hand man, said that among those killed in the Caracazo were “children pierced ... by rifle fire,” as well as members of the rebel movement that Chavez was hatching within the armed forces.

“And where were human rights? Who in world worried about that? Nobody,” he said, alluding to accusations of human rights violations leveled against Maduro’s government.

Participants in the rally reiterated their support for Maduro, who presides over an oil-rich country that has been racked for years by food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation.

The United States and several leading Latin American and European nations consider Maduro’s 2018 re-election victory as fraudulent.

They also recognize Juan Guaido, the speaker of the opposition-led National Assembly (superseded in 2017 by the Constituent Assembly) and self-proclaimed interim president, as the country’s legitimate head of state.

The US also has recently imposed crippling sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, which Maduro says is the latest move in a longstanding economic war against the Caribbean nation.

Several dozen other countries, including Russia, China and India, continue to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s president.

Guaido is trying to spearhead efforts to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Colombia and Brazil; Maduro’s government, however, says that aid is a Trojan horse that would pave the way for a US-led military intervention and has refused to let it enter.

After an unsuccessful attempt Saturday to get aid supplies past Venezuela’s military, which has remained loyal to Maduro, Guaido issued a tweet calling on the international community to consider all options for ending Maduro’s “usurpation” of power.

Cabello fired back on Tuesday, saying that the Venezuelan government will not accept the aid and that the opposition bears the blame for any violence stemming from attempts to force it across the border.