telesur | 02 February, 2017
Feb. 2, 1999 — the date most people associate with the beginning of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. This was the day former president Hugo Chavez first took office.
But for Venezuelans, there’s another date that’s just as important to the beginning of their Revolution: Feb. 4, 1992.
On Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela celebrated the 25th anniversary of a civil-military rebellion of over 2,000 people led by Chavez.
The uprising confronted then-president Carlos Andres Perez. Chavez, then a Lt. Col. in the Venezuelan armed forces, united soldiers and civilians against neo-liberal measures instituted by Perez, which left millions in poverty. His administration was marked by loose restrictions on multinational petroleum companies exploiting crude oil fields and police repression on working class movements promoting privatization.
Operating under the banner of the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement 200, MBR 200, the uprising channeled growing frustration with government corruption into a mass movement.
Chavez, determined to empower working class Venezuelans against a government serving the global elite, launched Operation Zamora. The operation was named after Venezuelan national hero Ezequiel Zamora, a 19th Century liberal soldier who fought against conservative landowners monopolizing the country’s wealth.
Here’s how things went down.
Chavez, accompanied by revolutionary five army units, took hold of military bases and telecommunications centers across northern Venezuela. The plan was to take over as much territory and win over as many soldiers as possible to remove Perez from power.
Soldiers loyal to Perez, however, began cracking down on the MBR 200 units, encircling their locations. The encirclements, coupled with defections from Chavez’s revolutionary army, left the MBR 200 isolated inside of the country’s Military Museum in Caracas. Perez immediately received notice of the attempted coup and fled the Miraflores Palace, the presidential quarters.
All in all, 14 soldiers were killed and over 150 military and civilian members defending Chavez’s uprising were injured.
After admitting defeat, Chavez was interviewed on live television and asked his MBR 200 comrades to surrender to Perez’s administration. His televised appearance was the first introduction many Venezuelans had to the revolutionary leader’s Bolivarian movement.
Most notably, Chavez mentioned in his remarks that his movement failed “for now,” hinting at the fact that the mass movement he created would once again attempt to take state power, both militarily and electorally.
Chavez was immediately arrested and imprisoned at the San Carlos military facility. After his arrest, supporters of the MBR 200 led peaceful demonstrations outside of the prison, calling for Chavez’s freedom and Perez’s impeachment.
Demonstrators eventually got what they asked for.
Perez was impeached in 1993 and Chavez, leaving prison in 1994, eventually ran for president five years later and won, representing the MBR 200-inspired Fifth Republic Movement part, which is today the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.