Translation of Chávez’s Speech on his Reinstatement to Power Following the Attempted Coup

The translation is based on this source text:


Miraflores Palace, Caracas

April 14, 2002

“To God what belongs to God, to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to the people what belongs to the people.”[1][2] I begin today with these words filled with the innumerable feelings and thoughts in my heart, in my soul, and in my mind.

At the moment, I’m like a multi-color sea; and as I wish you all a good morning, I should also confess to all of Venezuela, to all Venezuelan people, and to all of Venezuelan society that I’m still in a state of shock, that I’m still coming to terms with this process, what we can call a process when recording these events in I don’t know how many Venezuelan history books and as an example to the world, that this is a process of counter-, counter-, counter-revolution, and many things have been left demonstrated, that we still have time; and at this early hour, at twenty before five this morning, my desire is not to have this greeting overshadow that message. This is my heartfelt greeting for Venezuela and for the world from this Palace, which belongs to the people and that the people. I said so three nights ago, speaking from Urdaneta Avenue or river, and I saw many people there when we returned by helicopter.[3] There were many people on Urdaneta Avenue and further beyond, and there we said, the people have come to the Palace and will not be moved, and that has been made evident. Speaking of the people, I should tell you all that what happened here in Venezuela during these last hours is truly unprecedented throughout the world.

The Venezuelan people and their true soldiers, the Venezuelan people and their Armed Forces. Those soldiers of the people have written a new page for Venezuelan history—and this is not mere grandiloquence but the truth—and what a great page for Venezuelan history, for Latin American history, what could also be a great page for world history. An example of a people that has definitively awakened, of a people that has recognized and assumed its rights and obligations, of an Armed Forces whose essence, whose structural heart, whose officials, sub-officials and troops are conscious of their historical responsibility, who has not allowed itself to be misled, or manipulated or deceived, and emerging from the depths of this situation, from the depths of one soul, of one body, has been the force that has reinstated the legitimacy of this government and the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

I’ve been reading the Constitution a great deal, going over the details, certainly. Now, before reflecting on a few things, as I want to make this early morning message brief, like a rebirth, I want to call your attention to a few things, and these are perhaps the most important things that I can speak about today, Sunday, April 14. I was held incommunicado for the last few hours and didn’t have access to any sort of information on what was going on, and I was really worried. The first and most important thing I can say to all Venezuelans is to go home so that peace may be restored.

We’ve experienced quite the shock, one that has brought pain, one that has brought blood, one that has brought tears and one that has brought uncertainty. The causes for what happened, we’ll analyze those calmly and make reforms where reforms are needed, improving ourselves where improvements are needed. But in the meantime we need that same “calm and sanity” called for by another Venezuelan from our history; calm in this moment.[4] Now that I’ve been reinstated once again to the Palace of the Government, and having received once again the legitimate power that the people gave me, I’d like to recognize Vice President Diosdado Cabello, who valiantly assumed his duties along with the people, along with those representatives of legitimate public offices, that here accompany us, along with the courageous soldiers who knew to act quickly against the pretense that here calm had come.

Now that I’ve returned, I’ve been informed, and when returning by helicopter, as we returned from La Orchila, I was worried because I saw columns of smoke rising from some parts of Caracas, and I’ve been informed that there were some disturbances during the last few hours mostly of today, and some looting in some parts of Caracas.[5] I call upon you all, compatriots, go home. Let’s all go home. Let’s restore order to our house. Let’s reflect on the course of the past few days and continue working. So I ask you all, end any actions still be going on out there in areas where small disturbances have taken place during the last few hours.

And I call upon the police forces, a very special and firm call. To the police forces that have been out there on the streets and who have been—according to firsthand and preliminary reports I’ve received to bring me up to speed with recent events—that some members of the police forces have been cruelly repressing the Venezuelan people. I call upon those responsible for overseeing the police forces, call for calm, so that all this can come to an end.[6] From this point forward, everyone to their homes, everyone to their families. We’ll collect ourselves at home. We’ll reflect. We’ll put God before us, this picture of the crucifixion that my good friend, General Jacinto Pérez Arcay, gave me exactly forty-seven hours ago, as I was leaving as a prisoner in the early morning hours of two days ago, saying, “Son, take Christ with you.”[7] I brought it with me and here it is once again. So we’ll call upon Christ, upon God our Savior and we’ll fill ourselves with peace. We’re sorely lacking spiritual peace, and in this moment, for all of the country and for all sectors, I call for peace, I call for calm, I call for the rationality of all, and I call for us all to reunite as a country.

These events that have brought blood and pain with them are, however, and should be a gigantic lesson for all of us. I hope we all can see it that way, that we all can learn that lesson, that we all can come to conclusions and learn something from this. I hope we all can appreciate the signs for needed improvement, rectification and further scrutiny, for the need to have greater faith in what we’re doing, so that every sector of the country understands and definitively accepts, with good will, that ours is a legitimately established government, that we have a constitution, the most legitimate in all of our history. One that was developed and discussed by the people, approved by the people and that’s now beginning to take effect, allowing us to see the need for negotiation, for acceptance of one another, and this call is for all. I expect myself to be the first to set an example.

For example, in La Orchila a few hours ago, I had a good conversation with Monsignor Cardinal Ignacio Velasco. I asked him if we could talk alone on the beach, and we sat down on the beach and I told him, “Monsignor, let’s pray on this beach.” I asked him to bless me, and I told him that all sectors of the country needed to make a greater effort, with all possible good will to coexist in peace, accepting the rules of the game, accepting the norms of coexistence as citizens. What happened is a call to all. We all need to reflect.

I’d like to send a very special greeting to the international press. In the first place, to international organizations, the Organization of American States. Although I still have no concrete information, and I’ve received no reports, having just arrived, but I’ve already received some verbal reports from the young men and women of that valiant, courageous team that accompanied me. To the Presidents of the Americas, of the world, to the Group of 15, the Rio Group, where we should have been at a meeting yesterday.[8][9] Various organizations, the Group of 77 and China, all serving as an example that internationally, Venezuela is not nor will she ever be alone, that the Venezuelan people are not and will never again be alone.[10]

That the International Community recognizes the legitimacy and sovereignty, the valor and courage of the Venezuelan people, has been demonstrated once again today. Thus, I’d like to acknowledge the international organizations, the international press, and international journalists. And the press in our own country, the time to make profound reforms has truly arrived. Those reforms must be made. We must return to the way of reason, because now it seems that they’ve lost even that. So I say in name of the revolutionary government, the Bolivarian government, peaceful and democratic. I come before you not burdened with hate or resentment against anyone, truly. My heart has room for neither hate nor resentment. But clearly we need to make some decisions and adjust many things. Always, always and forever adhering to that almost sacred Constitution, after the Bible, the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela.

Actions taken by the Bolivarian government will always adhere to the Constitution, and thus I call upon those in local offices as well, governors, mayors, all of the men and women who have followed me on this course. May we not fall. I know we won’t, that no one will fall to the extreme to which some sectors have fallen in the last few days, upon whom I also call to reflect. No, we Bolivarians, we revolutionaries, we’re humanists. We respect human beings. We respect dignity, and we must take special care to show that in moments like these. So there’ll be no retaliation. There’ll be no witch hunt here. I don’t stand here before you looking for vengeance. No. We’ll have no persecution here. We’ll have no fighting or other abuses, nor will we disrespect freedom of expression or thought or human rights in general.[11] But things must re-align with constitutionality, from which they’ve strayed due to the will of a blind minority that may have acted out of ambition or may have acted out of hate. Or based on innumerable other feelings, but I call upon you all.

To the opposition, we need an opposition in Venezuela, but an opposition that’s loyal to the country, an opposition that’s loyal to the people, an opposition with legitimate criticisms, one that presents alternatives to the country. All those parties and groups opposed to this government for one reason or another need to understand and to accept that. All those leaders from the many sectors of the country that may oppose this government, or disagree with this policy or that decision, whether they’re from the political sector or the economic sector, or wherever, make that disapproval public. Declare it. Announce any criticisms, recommendations or alternatives. Let them work. Let them truly participate in politics. Let them work in the streets, in the cities, but ethically and with good faith, accepting what needs to be definitively accepted. I’ll repeat, as I’ve already said, we have a national constitution here. We have a legitimate national government here, one with the support of a great majority of the nation and the central core of the Armed Forces.[12] A project is under way here that cannot be reversed, and those who oppose it have every right and freedom, as we’ve demonstrated, the right to participate, freedom of expression, and the right to organize.

Organize yourselves, gentlemen of the opposition, participate earnestly, fairly and loyally in politics. Don’t fall into despair or rash actions, now that we see where those things will take us. Unfortunately, we’ve been shown once again that we have two countries here, one virtual and one real. And certainly, you all saw the virtual one, likely here in this very room just a few hours ago. The virtual one staged a conspiracy, with desperate, rash actions, disrespecting everything. But the real country prevailed in the end. Because the real country carries the flags of reason in her hands, the flags of truth and the infinite force of faith, and above all, the infinite force of love.

The power of the people—the glorious people of Bolívar—has been demonstrated once again. There they are for those who doubt it. Yes, it’s true that for many years the people were deceived. Yes, it’s true that for many years the people were manipulated. Yes, it’s true that for many years the people were at times led along like sheep. That the people have awakened and are conscious of their power has been demonstrated, that they’ve now become a historic actor, constructing a new course. The Armed Forces, the central command, the central core, has demonstrated once again that beyond the manipulation, beyond the treason present in some sectors of the Armed Forces, and there was manipulation and treason. However, there they are, our young military men. I’ve met them; they’re right there. So, I’ll acknowledge those two important groups of people, groups who have always been my primary audience, and who make up the most powerful force—after God—in Venezuela today, for this process of unstoppable change. These two groups that at heart are the same, the people and the military, the people and the Armed Forces.

I’d like to share an anecdote. I was surprised, I’ve been going from surprise to surprise. I was in five different places while I was gone. I’ll tell the story tomorrow. In a few hours we’ll have Aló Presidente. What did my Aló Presidente team think? That we weren’t going to have the show? That they were going to take Sunday off? Anyway, I had already been thinking about how to shoot it from where I was. We were already making plans. Listen, I’ve been in five places since the early morning hours of the day before yesterday, and I should tell you, because the young men were telling me, some of them so emotional they cried. There in La Orchila, we were enveloped by a single emotion, because those soldiers you see holding rifles across their chests, with sometimes serious faces, they are pure love. So one of them said to me, “Oh, I couldn’t breathe until I saw you. I felt dead,” he said. And then he said, “No, because they were saying you’d been ousted, that they tortured you into signing the resignation.” No. Let me clarify that I wasn’t mistreated by anyone, not at the military headquarters I was at, or at the battalion in Fuerte Tiuna. They moved me, I think they moved me, among other reasons, because wherever they took me I was greeted by the embraces—and even tears—of the young men. Those who brought me my meals stayed for a little while to chat, to encourage me.

So those different interactions led to my certainty that the virtual situation in which I found myself, that kind of movie—I don’t know what to call it—that we lived, that it wasn’t going to last very long. Later, they took me to Turiamo for a night, and I was received there by a group of soldiers, soldiers from the Marines, and they treated me excellently. Later on, there wasn’t anywhere for me to sleep, because they had no idea I was even coming, and they took me around, trying to find me some sort of a bed or a mattress. I told them, “No, don’t trouble yourselves for me, guys. All I need is a sheet. I’m a soldier like you.” And we talked for a while, and drank a lot of coffee, of course. The Marine Captain, that’s what they called him, he looked after me very well, and we talked a lot. Oh! Do you know something? Traveling to those five military bases allowed me to do something that I haven’t done for quite some time now, to speak with the troops, to hear the sergeants, to hear the lieutenants, to hear the captains, their criticisms, their contributions. They have a lot to say.[13]

So, that’s one of the lessons I’ve learned. One of them told me, “My Comandante, don’t forget about us. Don’t let this gap between us and the high command keep growing. The truth stops at the high command and doesn’t reach you.” And so I felt like a soldier once again. I even told one of them this morning, “Listen, I don’t know what they’re going to do with me, but if they decide to demote me, maybe I’ll ask them to let me be a private here with this unit of soldiers.”

But later, and this is what I was going to tell you. I don’t know if any of you have the fax they tell me the whole world has seen. Hand me one, please. There are plenty. Listen. This is what I wrote this morning, actually, in the afternoon. It was about three in the afternoon. Oh, what happened? The helicopter was ready to move me again, to move me again, and where? To La Orchila. So they were rushing me along. They were rushing me along, and I said, “Hold on a second, I have to pack my clothes and a few others things I brought, just a few things over there.” I was washing some of my undergarments and washing a pair of socks. Yes, like old times, doing the laundry. I had marched for a bit and ran with some of the young men there, troops. Not as much as them. They’re trained. It was a beautiful day in Turiamo, and when I came back to take a bath, I was going to get dressed, and they told me to hurry up because the helicopter had arrived. And a young man from the National Guard came and asked me a question. “Listen, Comandante, could you clear something up for me?” He came into the little room and closed the door. There were some higher ranking officers outside, and he didn’t them want to hear, so he said to me in a soft voice, “Tell me one thing,” he said, “clear something up for me. Is it true that you resigned?”

I told him, “No, my son, I didn’t resign, and I’m not going to resign.” So he stood at attention and saluted me and said, “Then you’re my president, but tell me something,” he said. “The people need to know that because they’re going around saying you resigned, saying you resigned and left the country.” So I told him, “Well, I’m about to go.” And he told me, “Write me something, write me something and leave it in the garbage,” he said, “and I’ll leave and then come back to get it.” So I got out a little piece of paper, and I wrote this in a minute. Then I folded it, and the garbage can was filled with papers, so I put it at the bottom. But as I left I thought, maybe he won’t be able to come back, or he won’t find the paper, or he won’t be able to get it, how should I know. The unit in Turiamo doesn’t even have a telephone, and they don’t have a TV signal there either. So this is what I wrote, what was in my heart:

“Turiamo, April 13, 2002

At 2:45 P.M.

To the Venezuelan people…

(and to anyone else it may concern)

I, Hugo Chávez Frías, Venezuelan, President of the Bolivarian Republic of

Venezuela, declare:

I have not resigned the legitimate power that the people gave me.


Hugo Chávez Frías”

And as it turns out, he was able to get back and now everyone has a copy. And they tell me the news is spreading around the world. That young man did it. He must have come back, found the paper, hid it somewhere and left. I don’t know how he got permission to come back, and I don’t know how it started to circulate.

I congratulate you, Isaías Rodríguez, Attorney General of the Republic. Yesterday morning, by chance I saw, on a TV one of the officers had lent me and put in my room. I was laying down on a cot and, well, they were saying all sorts of things on TV, weren’t they? I was wanting to get a little bit of sleep, and suddenly I heard a voice I recognized, Isaías Rodríguez. And it was like a lightning bolt, and I sat up in bed and thought, “I’m going to see what Isaías has to say.” And when Isaías had finished speaking, the truth is I had tears in my eyes, and I said, “There he is, a man speaking the truth.”[14] And what Isaías said was like a sign. It was like a ray of hope in that storm of lies. It’s true they put a sheet of paper in front of me on the table that said, “Resignation.” I didn’t even read it. I told those who were there that morning, “Put it away because I’m not going to resign. I may be a prisoner president, but I don’t resign.”[15] Yet they circulated it and read it, read it on the news as if it were signed. Such lies!

But anyway, that’s just part of the reflecting we need to do. I also saw on one TV station while I was there—I had a TV for a while there—and I was paying close attention, I believe it was yesterday morning. So I saw this female announcer, from one of the Venezuelan TV stations, reading a sheet of paper, reading my resignation. And of course she knew it was a lie, or at the very least that they had falsified my signature. But as Isaías very clearly said, “I want to see the resignation signed by the President. Where is it? And even if you have it, there’s an entire procedure that needs to take place.” So in the end, we need to recognize the courage of the Attorney General. Because he made those statements when they were detaining people, taking ministers from their homes handcuffed, forcibly removing governors from their posts, that is to say, amidst an avalanche of hate I hope we never see again in our country.[16]

And I’ll take a moment to call upon those who oppose me. You Venezuelans, you Venezuelans who oppose me, go ahead and oppose me. I’ll try to change your opinion, hopefully. But you cannot oppose this Constitution, because it’s a book for everyone, it’s like the Popul Vuh, that Mayan book, a book for everyone, a book for the community.[17] Everyone has to recognize that. And above all, don’t let yourselves become embittered. Don’t let yourselves become embittered by so many things and so many lies. We’ll all reflect. We’ll put things back in their rightful place, for the good of all, for the good of Venezuela.

Anyway, I’m not going to go on much longer. There are a lot of people out on the street, and there are many things to review, many reports to receive, many decisions—some urgent—that must be made so that the country is no longer held hostage and so that things that have run off course, areas where there has been looting, repression by some police officers, and the worry of millions of Venezuelans, well, all of this must return to calm. A return to calm, that’s what must prevail now! I call for this country to return to calm. I call upon us all to strengthen the unity among all Venezuelans. I call upon us all to continue that slow march to victory.

Last night I went outside, and looking at the stars from Turiamo, and so I’ll finish this early-morning message to my beloved country, to my beloved Venezuela, to my most beloved people and to my most beloved men and women of the Armed Forces. I was looking at a star, and thinking, looking at it fixedly, thinking about many things, my family, my wife Marisabel Rodríguez, if I could talk to her, my children, my five children. Where would they be? And I said, “God. Take care of them for me!” My granddaughter, my father, my friends, my closest friends, because I knew they were going to suffer persecution, abuses and threats, even death threats. I thought a lot about Diosdado Cabello.[18] I called him that morning and told him, “Get out of here,” and he didn’t leave.

I thought a lot about Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, Minister of the Interior and Justice.[19] I had been told he’d been taken away handcuffed. I thought a lot about all of you, about the millions, about the worry, and about the uncertainty. But suddenly looking at that star, there on the beach, remembering things, things coming to mind, to the surface and to my consciousness, bringing forth, bringing to the surface an understanding of who I am, memories from so many years, the knowledge that my work has been centered on the Venezuelan people. Because my work has been centered on the Venezuelan people for almost a decade, and I’m never going to leave that work again.

Knowing the courage of the Venezuelan people, knowing the organization of the Venezuelan people. And that’s one of the most important resources we have, that level of organization and response, political parties, Bolivarian circles. And I’ll take this opportunity to defend them, because the Bolivarian circles are not armed groups, but a social organization.[20] A movement broke out, and if for some reason a member of some Bolivarian circle was out there armed, that person was armed without authorization or with intentions of another kind; and I call upon those individuals—if for some reason these reports are true—to abandon that stance. We really don’t need those kinds of actions.

Where the arms of the Republic lie, the arms of the people to defend this Government and the Republic, has been demonstrated: in the hands of an awakened people. Because truly, military personnel who broke their vows, who for whatever reason fell into dishonor, they must stand before history and before the law.[21] But really, they had no command. They were a virtual group. Those who were really in command of the troops began an immediate response. So, on the one hand, the great capacity of an organized people, and I’m so proud of them, and on the other, the capacity for response of an also organized Armed Forces.

For that reason, I tell you, knowing the people like I do and knowing the Armed Forces like I do, looking at that star I came to the conclusion, something from inside of me said, “Don’t worry Hugo, neither the people nor those military guys, true supporters, they’re going to see right through this outrage. Something has to happen,” I said to myself. “There’s no way that so much effort is going to be wasted like this. There’s no way efforts requiring so much time, so many people, so much intensity, from which the Constitution was born, from which the new and Fifth Republic was born, there’s no way that’s going to just disappear with a stroke, just like that. No.”

I was sure this couldn’t happen, because if it could, well, I wouldn’t have survived. No. The seeds that we’ve planted have sprouted and grown, and there are our fields, our crops, and our fruits in the hearts of the people. Now, I was sure, completely sure, that we’d be back, absolutely sure. But you know what? The only thing is that I never thought that we’d be back so quickly. Yeah. Look, I was going to write some poetry, and I couldn’t even finish the first one. I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t even get to rest a day, and I thank you all very much. Thank you very much. Thank you so very much.

Now, I’d like to close by repeating something very important to me, and I hope that these words don’t fall on deaf ears. I pray to God that these words aren’t just carried off with the wind. I sincerely call for the unity of Venezuela, a unity that respects differences. I call for good sense. I call for understanding. I call upon the Roman Catholic Church, on the Evangelical Church, on religions. I call upon business people from the private sector. I call upon political parties, on everyone. I call upon the leaders of those parties, on union leaders. I call upon business leaders, and above all, clinging to the cross, I call upon owners of media outlets. Goodness gracious! Reflect for crying out loud. This is also your country. I also have to reflect on many things. Yes. I’ve done so for many hours. I carry lessons here in my heart that I’m not going to forget, from so much thought, from so much worry, from so much pain and from so much uncertainty.

So I return ready to reform where reforms are needed, but I shouldn’t be the only reformer. We all need to reform many things so that we can return to calm, to work, to our efforts and to the construction of a Bolivarian Venezuela. So that we can continue constructing a country for our children, for our grandchildren, to keep making Bolívar’s dream a reality. A few things I remember that were on the agenda for this week, beginning today, Sunday. We had already agreed upon holding round tables for national dialogue a few weeks ago. I call upon all sectors of the country to participate in these round tables, which will begin this week with a session on April 18. April 19 is also coming this week, a good day for raising with renewed energy, as always, the flags of our country, and these dates, just like today’s date, will pass into the history of the Republic.[22]

On April 18 we’re going to inaugurate the Federal Government Council, which will be the epicenter or the nucleus from which an amplified, coordinating commission will come, with participation from other sectors of the nation, to promote the round tables for national dialogue.[23] We want to hear criticisms with regards to the economy, politics, and society, along with those on territorial and international issues, but we’re going to discuss them. Those who don’t agree with our policies, with our decisions, say so, but do so loyally, honestly, so that we can continue seeking the greatest consensus possible, because we must all have the same objectives, despite our differences: the country, a Venezuela for all.

On the other hand, I’m going to announce something that I wasn’t allowed to the other day. I was going to the other day, but they wouldn’t let me. There wasn’t time, the situation wouldn’t allow it. On April 11, the president of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Gastón Parra Luzardo, came to see me, and he said, “President, here, to contribute to the search for a definitive solution for the PDVSA problem.”[24] So this shouldn’t be seen as a problem resulting from that transition, those changes and errors that were committed over there and over here, that have us very worried. And yes, this is a real problem, not a virtual one, but the virtual was mounted on this real one, as was a conspiracy that tried to disavow and disapprove of our people and our Constitution. So Dr. Gastón Parra brought me, and it should be right here. I didn’t bring any of my papers. They’re all back there. He brought me the collective resignation, the resignation of the entire Board of Directors of PDVSA. And I accepted their resignations, and I’ll gladly accept anyone else’s to open a path to the reformation of the Board of Directors of Petróleos de Venezuela, to strengthen it, and above all, to give it the capacity necessary to continue driving this important oil company forward.[25]

So I call upon all, management, workers from other sectors, mid-level technicians and workers, nobody’ll be affronted, but I call upon us all to work, to change our attitudes, and let’s go to work, to produce, to refine, to export, to sell oil and its derivatives and to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of this company that belongs—as we’ve said—to all Venezuelans.[26][27]

With these announcements I return, not only to civilization, but after two days of absence, of uncertainty, I return spiritually charged with a great love, and above all, if two days ago I loved you, today after this historical journey, this demonstration, unprecedented throughout the world, of how the people and their soldiers stopped a counter-revolution, setting in motion a counter-counterrevolution without firing a single shot, without spilling any blood, putting things back in their place.[28] After this memorable, historical, unforgettable journey, if yesterday I loved you, today I love you so much more. “Amor con amor se paga”—love is repaid by love.”[29]

A very good morning to all of Venezuela, a very good morning to you all.

[1] For source text, see Chávez, “Discurso del presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, con motivo de la restitución de poderes.”

[2] Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25: ‘Very well then,’ he said, “pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.’

[3] Chávez may be referring to a special broadcast he delivered from Miraflores Palace (located on Urdaneta Avenue) from approximately 3:45 to 5:25 p.m. (Nelson 62, 121). Nelson’s The Silence and the Scorpion contains translated selections of the statements made by Chávez during that broadcast, in which the president called for calm, spoke to the legitimacy of his government, and threatened to shut down media outlets. (Later that day, his people carried out that threat.). See Nelson, The Silence and the Scorpion, 68-69, 72, 76-78.

[4] “Calm and sanity” was the motto of Eleazar López Contreras, president of Venezuela from 1935-1941.

[5] La Orchila Island is the location of the final military base to which Chávez was transported during his detainment. It is approximately one hundred miles to the north of Caracas.

[6] Throughout his book, Nelson points to the police not participating in repression, but serving as a barricade between opposition marchers and pro-Chávez forces. He states, “It is important to note that the police did not try to… completely drive back the armed Chávez supporters. Instead, they stayed between the two groups, acting as a buffer, returning selective fire at the armed chavistas. This is significant because the police were by far the largest armed forces on the scene… [and] if they had really resolved to push back the Chávez supporters so that the march could reach Miraflores—as the Chávez regime would later claim—they could have easily done so.” See Nelson, 94-95.

[7] General Jacinto Perez Arcay was among Chávez’s professors at Military Academy. He later served as one of Chávez’s advisors. See Nelson, The Silence and the Scorpion, 22.

[8] The “Group of 15” is an intergovernmental organization of developing countries established in 1989. Latin American member states include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela. See

[9] The Rio Group is a coalition of Latin American states that was founded as an alternative to the Organization of American States. See

[10] The “Group of 77” is an intergovernmental organization of developing nations within the United Nations. It was formed in 1964 with a joint declaration of the seventy-seven original member states and now has a membership of over 130 nations. See

[11] In the aftermath of the coup, the opposition was indeed silenced and persecuted. No investigation was carried out on complaints made by opposition marchers regarding injuries they had sustained at the hands of the armed Bolivarian Circles and the National Guardsmen stationed at Miraflores. Nelson even points to statements made by Chávez following his return in which he declared “he would go after anyone who tried to bring a case against the government because all such accusations must be lies” (256). Members of the opposition who adamantly called for investigations faced violent beatings and death threats, and military personal who had been disloyal to Chávez were forced to resign or even go into hiding, as was the case with General Rosendo. (See note 11.) Further, although sixty gunmen from Bolivarian Circles and the National Guard were identified in the shootings on opposition marches, the government refused to carry out widespread investigations, and just four were tried in connection to the deaths and wounds inflicted upon the opposition during the April 11 march. They received minor weapons charges and served no jail time, and overall, the gunmen were also openly celebrated by Chávez’s government. A monument in their honor was even erected on the Llaguna Overpass, from where they had fired on unarmed marchers. For a more in depth discussion of the aftermath of the coup, see Nelson, “Rewriting the Coup,” The Silence and the Scorpion, 255-277.

[12] In the introduction to The Silence and the Scorpion, Nelson notes that among the primary causes for the opposition marches that led to the coup was Chávez’s decision to replace the Board of Directors of the PDVSA, the state-owned but privately operated oil company. The board was replaced with Chávez’s allies and Chávez subsequently began firing non-chavista employees of PDVSA. This led to a general strike, and Chávez’s approval rating fell from eighty to thirty percent as a result. Those approval ratings point to something other than the “support of the great majority of the nation” that Chávez claims here. See Nelson, 6-7. Further, Chávez claims the support of the central core of the Armed Forces; however, key members of his high command refused to implement the Plan Avila that would have required the military to march on opposition forces. Those officers included General Lucas Rincón, the Inspector General of the Armed Forces, and General Manuel Rosendo, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Additionally, General Efraín Vásquez Velasco, Head of the Venezuelan Army, resigned on April 11, 2002 because he disagreed with the president’s plan to implement a Plan Avila and with his style of governance overall. See Nelson, 6-7, 123-124. The Caracazo was the last time a Plan Avila had been implemented, and the 1999 constitution prohibited the use of the plan against Venezuelan citizens (and not foreign powers), among the reasons why Chávez’s high command refused his order to implement it. See Nelson, 301.

[13] Although Chávez speaks very nonchalantly about his detainment, throughout he feared for his life. On April 11, while negotiating the terms of his resignation, including possible asylum in Cuba, Chávez requested that two bishops accompany him to the plane that would carry him there to ensure his safety. Later, while at Fort Tiuna he gave away most of the personal possessions he had on hand, as he was sure he was going to be assassinated. See Nelson, 175-180, 227-229.

[14] The original Spanish, “Ahí está, un varón diciendo la verdad,” is reminiscent of Simón Bolívar’s poem, “Mi delirio sobre el Chimborazo,” in which the character Time advises Bolívar, “di la verdad a los hombres” [speak the truth to men]. See “Mi delirio sobre el Chimborazo.”

[15] Late into April 11, one military official after another publicly called for Chávez’s resignation, citing Chávez’s responsibility for the deaths and violence that had occurred that day. Chávez agreed to leave the country if his and his family’s safety were guaranteed. Chávez’s resignation was publicly announced in the early morning hours of Abril 12; however, Chávez then refused to sign the resignation. Later, he again agreed to sign, but only once on the plane that would transport him to asylum in Cuba. A plane to Cuba was readied, along with the resignation, but Chávez refused to sign two drafts of the document unless textual changes were made. In the early morning hours of April 14, Chávez’s plane sat ready and a finalized version of the decree on his resignation was being typed when a mission led by General Raúl Baduel rescued Chávez. See Nelson, 155-157, 168, 176-177, 245-247.

[16] Nelson outlines the “backlash” that occurred in response to the Chávez ouster, which included manhunts for the gunmen who had fired on unarmed opposition marchers and for government offices who were complicit in the arming of the Bolivarian Circles. A crowd cut the water and electricity lines to the Cuban Embassy and even set the building on fire, believing that high-ranking officials of Chávez’s government had sought asylum there. On April 12, interim President Pedro Carmona announced sweeping changes to the government. He reverted the country’s name back to the “Republic of Venezuela,” vetoed Chávez’s forty-nine laws, dissolved the National Assembly, along with many other government offices including the Supreme Court, the Office of the Defender of the People and the National Electoral Council. The rash and sweeping changes he made would result in the Armed Forces withdrawing their support for his government and protests, looting and marches by Chávez supporters. See Nelson, 184-187, 196-197, 204-205, 224-225.

[17] In his 2003 translation of the Popul Vuh (published electronically in 2007), Allen J. Christenson speaks to possible contemporary translations of the K’iche’ title, including “Book of the Community” or “Counsel Mat Book.” See Christenson, Popul Vuh: Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya People, 56, note 33.

[18] Diosdado Cabello was the Vice President of Venezuela at the time of the coup.

[19] Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, who participated in the negotiations on the terms for Chávez’s resignation, was placed under citizen’s arrest by opposition leader Leopoldo López and others during the coup. See Nelson, 166. Also see “5 Things to Know About Venezuela’s Protest Leader.”

[20] Some Bolivarian Circles were armed, and according to Nelson, Chávez was at least aware of the possibility of arming them. During the early afternoon of April 11, Chávez participated in discussions on the possibility of mobilizing the Bolivarian Circles as a “paramilitary force to stop the marches and defend the president.” Nelson points to reports that Defense Minister José Vicente Rangel gave orders for the circles to arm themselves with rocks, sticks and knives. Journalist Luis Fernández and crew caught footage of individuals firing on the opposition marchers from the Llaguna Overpass, and later dozens of these gunmen were identified. See Nelson, 21, 52, 78‑87, 265.

[21] Nelson notes that while the military would be vilified by Chávez following his reinstatement to power, the high command conducted itself within the parameters of the constitution during most of Chávez’s detainment. Nelson states, “By following the letter of the constitution instead of implementing Plan Avila as ordered by President Chávez, many deaths were avoided… Although… the military certainly stumbled by initially supporting Carmona, they eventually found their feet again and followed the constitution.” See Nelson, 283. When interim President Carmona announced sweeping changes to the government, the high command responded by publicly denouncing his actions, leading Carmona to vacate the office of the presidency and flee. See Nelson, 224-226.

[22] April 19 marks the beginning of the Venezuela’s Independence Movement in 1810, when the first junta in all of Latin America was declared.

[23] The Consejo Federal de Gobierno, or Federal Government Council, was enacted in the 1999 Constitution. Its primary function is the “planificación y coordinación de políticas y acciones para el desarrollo del proceso de descentralización y transferencia de competencias del Poder Nacional a los Estados y Municipios” [the planning and coordination of the policies and actions to develop the process of decentralization and transfer of power from the federal government to the states and municipalities]. See “Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela,” article 185.

[24] Dr. Gastón Parra was a leftist economist appointed by Chávez as the head of the Board of Directors of PDVSA in February of 2002. See Jones, ¡Hugo! The Hugo Chávez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution, 313.

[25] Chávez likely refers here to his April 7 decision to fire seven PDVSA executives and force twelve other to retire in response to the strikes held by PDVSA. However, Chávez had already announced that decision on Aló Presidente. See Jones, 315.

[26] The degree “técnico medio,” or mid-level technician, is roughly equivalent to an associate degree in the United States. See “A Guide for the Placement and Transcript Evaluation of Foreign-Born Students,” 109.

[27] A number of nation-wide strikes were carried out in response to Chávez policies in 2001 and 2002. The first ever nation-wide strike was called in November of 2001 in response to Chávez’s passage of forty-nine laws by decree. Many other general strikes followed, including the March 2002 strike called in response to Chávez tightening his control over PDVSA. See note 11. See also Nelson, 6-7. Chávez’s comments here are therefore very likely directed at striking workers.

[28] That the counter-counterrevolution carried out “without firing a single shot” and “without spilling any blood” is unequivocally false. First, Nelson notes that while Chávez would later claim that the video capturing Chávez supporters firing on unarmed opposition marchers from the Llaguna Overpass was a fraud, fabricated in Hollywood, he would later go on to praise the gunmen’s use of arms: “The truth is that these four… compatriots with their short-range weapons had the courage to stand up to snipers and terrorists dressed as policemen firing with their military weapons upon thousands of defenseless compatriots” (trnsltd in Nelson, 264). Second, Nelson outlines the many gunshot wounds treated at the Central Bank Clinic and Vargas Hospital. See Nelson, 70-71, 103-110. Additionally, while a number of deaths resulted from the violence that took place at the marches, the government’s “sterilization” of the narrative surrounding the coup included refusal to investigate deaths associated with the opposition and the government’s falsification of the number of deaths and injuries suffered by Chávez supporters. The number of deaths associated with the coup is therefore unclear. See Nelson 255-261.

[29] “Amor con amor se paga” is a play written by José Martí.