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The coup they televised: Venezuela, Chavez and a cinematic masterpiece

chavez_filmAn exciting new radical film festival Seeing Red: a festival of subversive cinema takes place this weekend and the organisers are to be congratulated on choosing to show the ground breaking docu-film about the temporarily successful 2002 coup against the left-wing government in Venezuela, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

This unique film came about as a television crew from Ireland’s Radio Telifís Éireann happened to be recording a documentary about Hugo Chávez (and in the Presidential Palace itself!) in April 2002. Shifting focus, they follow the events as they occurred, from the President being deposed to the joy of the US administration and Venezuelan private media, to mass protests around the country demanding his re-instatement, and finally, his return to power in one of the most poignant political moments ever captured on film – a moment particularly important in that it represented one of the first major defeats for the US ‘empire’ since the collapse of the Eastern bloc.

Of particular interest in the film is how the crew recorded and captured images of the actual events. Images and footage that clearly contradict explanations given by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, the rabidly anti-Chavez Venezuela private media, the US State Department, and then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

In terms of the relevance of the film to the current situation in Venezuela, mayoral elections will be held in December. These are the first elections following the violence and destabilisation unleashed in April by sections of the Venezuela’s right-wing, neo-liberal opposition in response to the socialist and former trade-union leader Nicolas Maduro being elected President.

In April, the right-wing opposition immediately alleged fraud despite providing no evidence and having themselves signed off a dozen audits prior to the election. They continued to make these baseless allegations even after a 100% recount, that they had demanded, confirmed the results.

Opposition leader and darling of much of the international media Henrique Capriles, emboldened by a US refusal to acknowledge the election results, used claims of fraud as a pretext to encourage opposition supporters to “vent their anger”. A wave of opposition political violence followed leading to the death of 11 innocent people and petrol bombings and arson of government funded health centres, National Electoral Council buildings and headquarters of left-wing parties supporting Nicolas Maduro. This showed the true, anti-democratic face of Venezuela’s opposition, whose ultimate aim is to restore the former ruling elite to power and overturn the remarkable social changes which have taken place in the country in recent years.

Today, destabilisation attempts are ongoing, many echoing the events chronicled in the Revolution Will Not Be Televised. There is growing concern of the use of sabotage to exploit and create difficulties in the economy and damage key infrastructure. This has worrying echoes of US President Richard Nixon’s strategy to “make the economy scream” initially used to try to overthrow the progressive government of Salvador Allende in Chile in the 1970s. In Venezuela today, the hand of the US and bodies such as USAID and the International Republican Institute can be seen again in tactics of economic sabotage and destabilisation.

The aim of this destabilisation is ‘regime change’ to replace the legitimate, elected Maduro government. In that context, progressives should be particularly alarmed by the recent statement by 45 Venezuelan retired military officers, including a dozen generals and admirals, and a former defence minister, supporting a military intervention – ie another coup like that documented in the Revolution Will Not Be Televised to replace the Maduro government.

When watching The Revolution Will Not Be Televised don’t only be inspired by the resilience of the Venezuelan people and their revolution, but also use it to educate yourself on the true nature of the Venezuelan opposition and as a much needed reminder of why our international solidarity is so vital.

Buy tickets online for this weekend’s screening of ‘The Revolution will not be Televised’ at the Seeing Red film festival. For more information about Venezuela go to the Venezeula Solidarity Campaign website

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