Jesus A. Rivas, Ph.D.

Dear sir or ma'am:

I am very worry about the situation with human rights and respect to the rule of law in Venezuela, my natal home. Mostly, due to the abuses of the current transition government that, in complicity with the country’s media, tramples human rights left and right; while the media hides and justifies unspeakable abuses that the new government does towards the people.

First of all I want to set the record straight about the events that reportedly lead the military to overthrow president Hugo Chávez. I will do an analysis based on what I know first hand experience, and several issues that are out in the media that all the world have seen but the explanation that goes with the footage and the editing of it is misleading or down right false. I have divided my argument on several accusations and inaccuracies that we have heard on the media.

Inaccuracies #1: The reason that the military overthrew Chavez is because abuses towards people

The reason that the military uses to overthrow president Chávez, is that they say that they could not condone that Chávez had turn the guns of the military towards the people. As a student from the Universidad Central de Venezuela and a fireman that gave my services to the Cuerpo de Bomberos Universitarios between 1980 to 1987, I witnessed many times many events in which there were demonstrations and the military and police forces brutally repressed and attacked these manifestations producing many times casualties and death (thus the need of my services as a fireman in the ambulance). I was very surprised (I was rather disgusted) to hear all the military that decided to turn against the president because he had, reportedly, attacked the Venezuelan people; while that has been a customary practice among Venezuelan presidents prior to Hugo Chávez. There is no doubt in my mind that all those generals that were condemning president Chávez, not only had seen that before (and done nothing) but it is very likely that they themselves had been involved in that repressive actions in the past.

Inaccuracy # 2: Chavez ordered snipers to kill civilians

President Chávez was arrested not only for been accused of something that all other presidents have done in the last 40 years but also without any prove whatsoever that he had anything to do with the death of the people that died on April 11th. Most of the people that died on April 11th were shot on the head or face, which leads to believe that they were shot by snipers that were hiding on the buildings by the area of the two demonstrations (one pro Chávez and one against Chávez). It was assumed, with no further investigation, that the snipers were there by Chávez’s instructions but a little thinking simply renders this conclusion senseless. How would Chávez benefit from killing random people in the demonstration? If the snipers had targeted leaders of the movement it would be at least remotely possible to think that Chávez ordered it, but Chávez did not obtain any benefit what-so-ever from killing random demonstrators; but all the way around. Killing people in the demonstration would have benefited to the opposition (as it clearly did). Given that the military used the killing of people as the only reason to overthrow president Chávez, gives grounds to suspect that the killing of the people could have been actually prepared by an orchestrated opposition, the only beneficiary of the death of people as it has been shown. President Chavez had done actions and taken decisions that did not please the media and Fedecamaras (Corporate Venezuela to give it a name) and both groups were pushing for a long time to remove him from power. Fedecamaras had both reasons and means to stage such a barbaric plot and provided the military with a flag to raise. The fact that the president of Fedecamaras was appointed president by the military leaders of the coup supports this interpretation. The only beneficiary of the snipers killing civilians was the opposition but unexplainably, nobody has brought up this point in the numerous analyses that the several TV stations have done. With no reason at all the media and the military concluded that Chávez had done it and thus was prosecute, judge, and executed the sentences.

Inaccuracy # 3: The snipers shot people only on the demonstrations against Chavez

One of the scenarios where the media has presented people shot on the street by snipers is on the bridge of Avenida Urdaneta (this is easily recognizable from the footage for anybody who knows the area) where the demonstration that supported Chávez was. The media makes no mention to it and that dead person is presented as if it had been shot on the demonstration against Chavez. Obviously, if the it is known that the people that supported Chavez also got killed, that would cast doubts on Chavez’s involvement on such atrocity and convey the idea that whoever killed the people did so in both sides of the demonstration, most likely to seed confusion and chaos which is not what Chavez needed.

Inaccuracy # 4 People from the circulos Bolivarianos shot unarmed demonstrators

One of the major points that earned Chavez dislike among the international and national audience is some footage of people that supports Chavez shooting against demonstrators. In the following paragraphs I will explain with information taken from the footage that such footage has been viciously manipulated.

On TV we can see people on the demonstration against Chavez running bleeding and even people dead on the street. Next we see people from the Chavez demonstration shooting with hand-held guns from the high part of a bridge. The narration emphasizes that the people from the Chavez demonstration is shooting to unarmed peaceful demonstrators following Chávez’s instructions but we never see both in the same take. Needless to say that we do not know if these people is really following Chavez’s instructions, but I will focus my analysis on clear facts that are on the footage and I invite you to confirm the accuracy of my analysis. The people that shoot from the bridge (Avenida Urdaneta with Baralt) are hiding with a corner of a building and they take turns coming in and out to shoot from the shooting position in the corner. If we look at the people over the bridge it is clear that they are face down on the ground as if they were hiding as well. It is very apparent to me that the people that were on the bridge at that moment were under fire themselves. It certainly does not seem that they were shooting to harmless demonstrators. Unfortunately, the camera never panned to the right to show us who they were shooting to, as we would expect if they were doing a fair reporting of the facts. Please, do not take my word for it, look at the footage that have been broadcast about these unfortunate events. Another take from a helicopter shows the demonstration of the opposition and an empty Avenida Baralt for about three blocks where we can see three trucks of some armed forces (probably Policia Metropolitana) and after other three or four blocks we can see the bridge of Avenida Urdaneta. Upon looking at these takes it seems to me that the demonstration was far too far for the bullets shot from the bridge (from hand-held guns) to reach to it. People from the bridge is probably exchanging fire with the police (this police is managed by the mayor of Caracas who opposes Chavez). Shooting against the police is certainly unlawful and those people should be prosecuted according to the law but the information presented in the media expressly says that they are shooting against harmless demonstrators following Chavez’s instructions. Thus, the information as presented on the media is in all likelihood not trustworthy.

Inaccuracy # 5 Chavez did not respect human rights and civil liberties

Other than these killings president Chávez has been accused of violations to human right, freedom of speech, and other forms of violation to civil liberties. Throughout Chavez’s government there have been many accusations of him not respecting human rights and being repressive, yet despite the clear leaning of the media against him there is not any piece of footage or evidence about it but only people arguing so. Quite often we see people on the TV asking for Chavez to resign and asking for freedom of speech. Could they really ask for freedom of speech is there was not freedom of speech? Could they really have done that demonstration that went peacefully throughout Caracas if there had not been respect to people’s right to protest? The only moment in which military forces intervened in the places where pro Chavez demonstration (just as big as the other) and anti Chavez demonstrations were going to meet. Both the Guardia Nacional and the Policia de Metropolitana intervened with tear gas to keep demonstrators away from each other. If these demonstrations had met it would have been unavoidable a much larger blood shed than we have seen. After three years this was the only time when the armed forced took any action regarding a demonstration and it was to protect people from each other

Inacuraccy # 6 Chavez did not allow freedom of speech

For the longest time the different media complained against repression to the freedom of speech but all the time we could see demonstrators on TV and people asking Chavez to resign, apparently not realizing that the very fact that they can talk about freedom of speech is because there is some and when they ask for the president to go away means that there is plenty of it. In fact we see all media from printed to broadcast opposing Chavez and many times lying blatantly about the president without the president ever repressing those actions.

In the last week that Chavez was on power we saw all the time different networks not only asking for Chavez to resign but blatantly asking for the military to come out and overthrow him by force. It was “encouraging to subversion” which is illegal in the constitution. Yet, Chavez did nothing and did not take any measures against it. In the last few hours he was in power, he did shoot down the signal of the other networks given the situation. The media has gotten a lot of mileage out of this last action, yet the frequency of the governmental channel was shot down during the night of the coup-de-tat and to the present it has not been restored. To the present there have been very few people from Chavez’s team that has been allow on camera except for those that betrayed him. Some of them have dared to talk to camera on TV but in the middle of their speech the volume is turned down. Many of these are elected officials (governors, mayors, and congress men and women) whose positions are constitutional and originated on the people’s will

Biggest and most dangerous inaccuracy: now things are better

At the present time we have total abolition to civil and democratic rights. There are people being arrested left and right and the congress and all the elected officials from Chavez’s party are being hunted down and arrested with no knowledge of what happens to them afterwards. The civil demonstration of April 11th was a group of people asking Chavez to resign but they did not ask for all the elected officials to go away or being arrested. Plus, there was an equivalent number of people supporting Chavez to stay, yet the media only showed the size of the opposition and denied that there is a majority of Venezuelans that still want Chavez as a president. In his last address to the people Chavez reminded that the constitution offers the possibility of a referendum where people can express their will and take down or confirm a president. Chavez said that he would certainly step down if a referendum indicated so.

On Friday night there were massive manifestations of angry people protesting Chavez’s arrest on the following neighborhoods: Petare, Guatire, Guarenas, Vargas, Gramoven, La Vega, 23 de Enero, Propatria, just to mention a few. These demonstrations have not only not been shown to the international (or national) community but they have also been brutally repressed by the arms forces with a death toll that we will never know.

I implore you to let everybody know what the truth is of what we are living in this country and to attract the attention of international agencies to help Venezuela in this crises. It is very important that international representatives come to Venezuela and see first hand what happens since the media will not show the truth. Chavez, was overturn after shameless slandering campaign despite the immense majority that supports him and he must be returned to power; for the sake of justice and for the sake of democracy. I have never seen my countries with more civil liberties and human right than when Chavez was in power and I can only hope that the new regime still has not gotten a hold on tapping internet services.

I am ready to go on record, and under oath of needed, about any of my former statements and I beg you to take the actions you feel are needed to help this situation.