<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
¡Bienvenidos en Español!
Bem Vindos em Português!

Editorial Policy and Disclosures

Narco News is supported by:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism

Site Design: Dan Feder

All contents, unless otherwise noted, © 2000-2011 Al Giordano

The trademarks "Narco News," "The Narco News Bulletin," "School of Authentic Journalism," "Narco News TV" and NNTV © 2000-2011 Al Giordano


Christmas Comes Early in Caracas, Venezuela

Chronology of the Strike that Wasn’t

By Al Giordano

December 22, 2002

Kind Reader: If at any time during December 2002 you were led to believe that a “strike” occurred in Venezuela, and if you got the impression that said “strike” was popular, national, or general, or that it would topple the democratically-elected government of President Hugo Chávez, somebody lied to you.

Juan Forero of the New York Times lied to you when he claimed there was a “grueling national strike.” T. Christian Miller of the Los Angeles Times lied to you when he claimed there was “a nationwide shutdown now.” Nancy San Martin of the Miami Herald lied to you when she claimed that, “the strike expanded Monday.” Andy Webb-Vidal of the Financial Times of London lied to you when he claimed that Venezuela was “a country on the verge of collapse.” That smarmy Brit weasel Phil Gunson, interviewed on National Public Radio, lied to you when he said, “uh, first of all it’s not really fair to, to, uh, to call it a coup attempt.”

NPR to Gunson: “What’s it like on the streets today?”

Gunson to NPR: “Well, I haven’t been out on the streets very much.”

All of these “desk reporters” and others like them, copying from each other and from a corrupt Commercial Media in Venezuela (instead of doing real reporting by interviewing real people and wearing out their own precious shoe leather) tried to portray a series of orchestrated media stunts and some isolated acts of sabotage by the former ruling class as a massive nationwide action with popular support. It wasn’t. It was an “imagined strike,” simulated, invented – a fantasy repeated daily over three weeks so often that many people began to believe that it was reality – the pinnacle example of everything that is wrong with “pack journalism” in this day and age.

I repeat: The “strike” never happened. There was conflict. There were marches. There was even eco-terrorism. Some events worth reporting did happen, but they were not reported honestly by the Pinocchios of the Commercial Media.

What did happen cannot honestly be called a “strike” (or a “general strike,” or a “national strike”) or anything like it. The events of December have been no more or less than the same group of people – mainly from the upper classes – marching around obediently for Commercial Media led spectacles, that have been marching around for the past year. The size of their protests has not increased since those of a year ago. I say to them, “keep marching around, it’s a free country.” And the fact that they’ve been able to march around daily in so many circles without being arrested or repressed is evidence that Venezuela is, by any nation’s standard, a very free and tolerant country.

These people, the same people marching since a year ago without any significant additions to their ranks, are playing make-believe; they’re not playing firemen or astronauts or beauty pageant contestants like normal kids; from their little pink bubble, they call themselves “strikers.” And a few particularly elite ones call themselves “journalists.”

They’ve been acting like children in a very literal way: Asking for Mommy Bush or Daddy Military to trash their Constitution and remove, by force, the president twice elected by their country’s majority. They have cynically – and led by oligarchs of Commercial Media who write the script – tried to provoke the conditions for a coup d’etat.

They have every right to play-act and discover their “inner spoiled brat.” But they are not, by any reasonable definition, having a “national strike.”

This critique goes far beyond matters of semantics and how one defines a “strike.” Without question, the professional simulators of the Commercial Media sat at their desks, or in their hotel rooms, took dictation from the rich and powerful from Caracas to Washington, and phoned it in.

In the isolated instances in which these simulators did interview “real people,” they were often led around by the nose-ring by political consultants and other spin-doctors to give “credibility” to staged “stories.” (Think I’m kidding? See Narco News Associate Publisher Dan Feder’s analysis of the day that the NYT’s Forero and the LAT’s Miller, in this country of 24 million people, amazingly ended up interviewing the same two “real people” for their stories.)

But where there is smoke, there is at least some fire. Something happened in Venezuela this month. So what did happen?

We now recount for you, kind reader, the facts available to working reporters, but avoided by squalid desk reporters.

Day One, December 2nd:
A Failed “Strike” Attempt

For weeks prior to December 2nd, the Commercial Media in Venezuela (and the lazy English-language media correspondents who take dictation from it) could barely contain their gleeful anticipation of yet another effort – the fourth in a year (the other three also failed, although April’s came too close for comfort) – to depose a democratically elected government.

When we say “democratically elected government,” we are on very firm ground: In six elections over just four years, the Venezuelan People have gone to the ballot box and voted, again and again and again and again and again, for President Hugo Chávez, his allies in Congress, and in favor of referenda supporting his policies and the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999: the most democratic, pro-Human Rights, and pro-freedom, Magna Carta in all América. (What? Forero and Miller didn’t tell you that?)

The former ruling class – having lost those six elections in four years – announced what it called a “general strike” to begin on December 2nd. The goal of the “strike”: To depose President Chávez. First they said they wanted a non-binding referendum on Chavez’s presidency. Then they said they wanted a binding vote. Then they said August would not be soon enough. In recent days, their leader, corrupt union boss Carlos Ortega (a leader of the April coup attempt) told reporters that the goal is no longer a vote; he wants Chavez to resign, period.

The organizers of this so-called “strike” are the very same collection of slimy forces that backed the April coup d’etat and Dictator-for-a-Day Pedro Carmona, who, once in power, abolished the Supreme Court, the Congress, shut down Community TV and Radio Stations, assassinated 50 political activists, and nullified the Constitution. Carmona also freed the sniper-assassins who had fired shots from rooftops on April 11th into crowds of people, creating the pretext for what was, back then, a military coup. (Stay tuned for our upcoming report about the undisclosed conflicts-of-interest of one of the foreign reporters that helped to create this pretext last April.)

That the same forces – the national chamber of commerce, the corrupt oil executives’ union bosses, and the dishonest commercial media in Venezuela – were behind this latest “coup in strike’s clothing” should have been the first hint to the simulating foreign correspondents – Juan Forero and T. Christian Miller (the Mary-Kate and Ashley of El Hatillo), Nancy San Martin, and the English mercenaries Andrew Webb-Vidal and Phil Gunson, cowering from behind their desks, among others – that the effort was doomed to fail.

By the night of the first day of the “strike,” after reviewing the real facts, Narco News reached this conclusion: The “strike” was, we reported, “an abject failure, limited to wealthy neighborhoods while the great majority of Venezuelans work and shop today in open defiance of the strike call.”

That’s how it began, and that is how it has continued, for three weeks. This thing was a non-starter from the get-go.

Yet, you would hardly be able to believe it, listening to the shrieking of the Commercial Media. Ivan Roman of the Orlando Sentinel (he’s a rookie at covering Venezuela for English-language newspapers, but give him time: his work reads like a CIA press release) claimed, on December 4th, that, “Tensions escalated in Venezuela as the opposition took its general strike to the streets.” Ahem. They “took it to the streets” because their “strike” wasn’t succeeding in the shops and workplaces. A march is not a strike. Hello?

The para-journalist Phil Gunson (one day in the Miami Herald, another in the Christian Science Monitor, another in the St. Petersburg Times) wrote in the Herald that the “strike” had not yet hit Venezuela’s major economic sector – oil – but that “it would.” On the second day, he took dictation:

“Although there were problems at some (oil) refineries, gas plants and loading docks, due to the absence of personnel, sources said it would be several days before the situation became critical.”

Translation: “Nothing is happening. But something will happen. Thus speaks Langley.”

Kind reader, you have to learn to read between the lines.

Despite all the efforts by the Gunsons, the Foreros, the Millers (and the other coup plotters of April and December), and the rest to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to vampires, the “strike” was not a strike on Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four or Day Nineteen… In fact, it has never been a “strike.” Have I mentioned that there was no strike this month in Venezuela?

During these days, the leaders of the “strike” that never happened called repeatedly on the Venezuelan Armed Forces to force the elected government out by violence and force.

The military, purged since last April of 400 officials who tried the first coup d’etat, told the coup plotters to fuck off. Thus, the first door slammed on December’s coup plot. The soldiers – and this is also unprecedented and good news for Latin America – said, “no, we prefer democracy.”

With their Daddy figure, the Armed Forces, unwilling to play the coup game, all that was left then for the “Strike of the Spoiled Brats” to do was to appeal to Mamá: The United States government and its Au Pair, Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS). The entire show of recent days has been a desperate effort to create conditions – with the theatrical support of Gaviria – that would allow military intervention by the United States and whatever Soldiers of Fortune can be hired to rip a democracy from a people’s hands.

Twelve days ago we called on Gaviria to get the hell out of Venezuela.

Five days ago, the Permanent Council of his own Organization of American states rebuked him, and, in doing so, rejected a major Washington proposal (to force “early elections”) for the first time in OAS history.

Yesterday, finally, Gaviria finally got out of Dodge. ¡Hasta la vista, baby!

Poor Cesar: Limping back from his luxury lodgings in Caracas with no peace agreement in hand and the deserved comeuppance by his own organization is not going to help the Washington-backed campaign to implant Gaviria to succeed Kofi Annan at the helm of the United Nations. (Horrors! After what Gaviria did to Colombia, imagine what he could do to the Middle East!)

For peace to Venezuela, Gaviria did not bring. He only brought lies and confusion. Gaviria’s presence merely delayed the day – the wonderful day that has now arrived – in which the whole world realizes that the Strike that Wasn’t has failed to steal Christmas. Is it any wonder that the day after Gaviria left down was the precise day that peace and calm returned to Caracas?

They may not have gas in all the pumps, but every Who down in Whooville is singing. One can just imagine Little Cesar in his hotel suite, covering his ears while packing his bags: “Oh the noise, oh the Noise, oh the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! That’s the one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!”

Gaviria, with his dishonest quotes to the media and his stalling tactics to give oxygen to the Strike That Wasn’t did cause a lot of problems in Venezuela. Mainly, in direct contradiction to his purported reason for being there, he delayed many solutions that are now, finally, occurring. Most – like getting the oil flowing to 100 percent capacity again – will be fixed in a matter of weeks.

Others – like the losses in human life – are the permanent consequences of Cesar Gaviria’s duet with the simulating Commercial Media.

Day Four, December 6th:
The Gunman from Portugal

Historic memory of April’s coup is important for understanding the mentality of the same coup-mongers today. Last April 11th, suspicious shots rang out from rooftops during a clash of pro and con demonstrators. Nineteen human lives – the majority of them supporters of the democratically elected government of Venezuela – were extinguished.

As we will report in greater detail this week, one of the “reporters” (Phil Gunson) that helped create the false impression that these shots came from one side of the conflict – the Chávez side – helped bring about a series of events based on knowingly false impressions that was used to justify a military coup d’etat, and all the human misery it entailed.

But for various hours beginning April 11th the coup-plotters had succeeded, and they want to return to their jackbooted utopia when Dictator-for-a-Day Pedro Carmona ruled by decree. So if you’re political infants like the make-believe “strikers,” what do you do? You try to repeat the same script!

The script was played out on Friday, December 6th, in Altamira Plaza, home base of the pro-coup forces.

On that date, around 6 p.m., “opposition leader” Carlos Ortega was holding his nightly press conference covered live on Globovision TV, a key coup supporter. There – again, this was live, folks – he was asked by a supposed reporter about gunshots that had just been fired in Altamira Plaza. Reporters: here’s a chronological lead worth following; Venezuelan citizen Valentin Herrera later told the Cuban daily Granma that the timing of the live TV question was bizarre because it came before the shots had been fired.

I don’t know if that chronology accurately reflects the what happened or not, but I do know that when statements like that, which are damaging to the “opposition,” are demonstrably false, the Foreros, the Millers, the Gunsons and the other simulators are all over them like a cheap suit. Their silence on that – and other – disturbing facts about the violence of December 6th leads me to wonder.

There are some important facts, however, that we have been able to confirm, and they directly contradict the Commercial Media’s rush to blame the shooting on Chávez and his supporters:

Shots were fired that evening at Altamira Plaza, the base of the coup-mongers, against innocent civilians, this time all on the opposition side. Three people were assassinated and 28 wounded. That’s a lot of shots fired purportedly by one gunman, but facts are slow – even two weeks later – to dribble out of the opposition-controlled Municipal Police, the first on the scene.

A shooter was apprehended. His ID had the name of “Joao de Gouveia,” a Portuguese citizen. I put the name in quotation marks because it now appears that either there are two “Joao de Gouveias” of Portuguese descent in Caracas (not a common Venezuelan name), or that the shooter was using a skillfully forged ID of the sort that intelligence agencies are so talented at creating. (Days later, members of the opposition chased, beat to a pulp, and nearly lynched the other de Gouveia, a simple working man, also of Portuguese descent, but who has lived 20 years in Caracas, even though the shooter was – and is – still in jail. But this does give us a glimpse into the irrationality of the opposition forces and the results of the constant Commercial Media Psy-War upon their behavior in Caracas this month.)

As reported above, Ortega was already on live TV, and without receiving any facts, he immediately blamed the shooting on Chávez, calling the president an assassin.

Ex-General Enrique Medina Gómez – one of the April coup leaders relieved from his post, and at that moment in Altamira Plaza – also blamed the shooting on Chávez and called on the Armed Forces, also via live TV, to remove the President from office. In other words, he called not for “elections,” but for the opposition’s real goal: a coup d’etat.

The plot gets even more bizarre: Within a few hours of the shooting, Globovision claimed to have a “home video” made by a citizen, that showed the shooter “de Gouveia” next to the car of a pro-Chávez official. The video had the date and time: Thursday, December 5th, at 2:17 a.m. The video, according to correspondents who had seen it, taken in darkness, was fuzzy, but had someone with a clear resemblance to the shooter – a red-haired, white-skinned man – standing at 5 feet and six inches tall.

The shooter “de Gouveia,” however, stands at 5 feet and nine inches tall.

Globovision has not publicly made the “home video” available for independent analysis by all sides.

With this strange “proof” the Commercial Media thereby concluded that the shooter was from the Chávez camp (as if the Chávez forces would have had any motive at all to repeat the horrible pro-coup script of April 11th).

But the chronology that placed “de Gouveia” in Caracas at 2:17 a.m. December 5th doesn’t add up, and here’s why: The tall red-headed “de Gouveia” arrived in Caracas from Funchal on the Portuguese Island of Madeira – 160 miles off the coast of Africa – at 4:30 p.m. later that same day – 14 hours later than the alleged “home video” had been taken. When the Venezuelan government made the immigration forms public that showed this fact, it was accused of inventing it. But days later – in a story not touched by the US or British correspondents, but covered in the Portuguese press – the Portuguese airlines TAP-Air Portugal confirmed that the man with the ID that said “Joao de Gouveia” had been on its flight to Venezuela that day.

Do the math, kind reader: According to
the TAP-Air Portugal website
, there is a Thursday direct flight lasting 7 hours and 25 minutes from Funchal (at 12:15 Madeira Island time) to Caracas (at 4:15 Caracas time).

But the only flights from Caracas to Funchal on Thursdays make two stops – Porto and Lisbon, Portugal – and
last 12 hours and 35 minutes

Even using a direct flight on his own chartered jet, it would still have been mathematically impossible for “de Gouveia” or anybody to have been in Caracas at 2:17 a.m., gone to the airport and flown to Funchal and then turn around immediately and fly back to Caracas in just 14 hours! Mathematically, the shooter “de Gouveia” could not have been the same person in the Globovision “home video.”

Does Globovision correct that evil distortion? Of course it does not.

The profile of the “de Gouveia” in custody also has the mark of what some reporters have called a “deranged” individual: a classic “patsy,” unable to pull off such a stunt by himself. The opposition will soon enough join in the change of portrayal of this shooter from that of a professional government hit-man to that of a crazy: On a video, “de Gouveia” did say that the same pro-coup General Medina Gómez had paid him to shoot at his own crowd: That video was not aired by Commercial TV stations in Venezuela.

There was an interesting story here for U.S. and British correspondents to investigate and report on. They chose not to do so. British correspondent Phil Gunson, in a December 18 letter to Narco News complaining of our report about simulation by the Associated Press, complained that “the fact that one or two government spokesmen have claimed that gouveia was paid by the opposition doesn’t turn it into a ‘credible theory’ – especially when the only impartial evidence we have (including that from gouveia’s former landlords) suggests he had links with the government.”

Gunson, of course, is mongering rumor here without citing a single documented or searchable fact to back up his rumor, since he has not reported anything of the sort in his own published work, which would bring a higher level of scrutiny and accountability to his claims. Former landlords? Nobody is even sure who this tall red-haired shooter is or if he previously did live in Venezuela; there’s pretty good evidence he’s not the other Joao de Gouveia who has been there for 20 years. Which “landlords,” for which “de Gouveia,” is Gunson referring to? And why doesn’t he investigate and publish his results instead of confining his conspiracy theory to a letter to Narco News?

Well, Gunson’s been caught at more serious ethical violations for a journalist: We’ve sent him a list of questions with some of that information and told him that we’ll be publishing the questions – hopefully with his answers, which we have offered to publish uncensored and in full – in the week to come.

Of course, events, day by day, have turned so fast in Venezuela that there’s been little follow-up by Commercial Media on this or other key stories.

What is uncontested about the December 6th shooter, though, is that the Chávez government has him imprisoned him while the investigation continues – unlike what happened with the April 11th snipers who were inexplicably allowed to walk free by Dictator-for-a-Day Carmona’s coup.

The Oil Sector Sabotage

There was, this month, one sector of oil company executives that claimed they were on “strike,” but who in fact have spent this month actively working to lock-out rank-and-file employees and, according to their own public statements, to facilitate the sabotage, including eco-terrorism, of oil facilities.

According to public records at the Venezuela Secretary of Mining and Energy (MEM, in its Spanish initials), these were the annual salaries of the 22 major oil “strike” leaders, including their bonuses, paid vacations, and other benefits, at the trough of the state-owned oil company, Petroleum of Venezuela, or PdVSA:

Edgar Paredes makes 837 million bolivars a year ($643,000 U.S. dollars).

The lowest paid of these 22 ringleaders, Luis Ramírez, makes 310 million bolivars a year ($238,000 U.S. dollars).

The highest paid, Karl Mazeika, makes 990 million bolivars a year ($761,000).

The average annual salary of these 22 “strike” leaders is $426,000 U.S. dollars a year; almost 100 times the per capita income of the average Venezuelan citizen of $4,760 dollars per year. In the Venezuelan economy, $426,000 gives somebody more buying power than people who make millions of dollars a year in the United States.

Check out the rest of their salaries in the Venezuelan currency of Bolivars (at 1,300 bolivars to the dollar), here they are, the annual booties of the oppressed “vanguard” of The Strike That Wasn’t:

Luis Andrés Rojas: 688 million
Vincenzo Paglione: 979 million
Raúl Alemán: 687 million
Horacio Medina: 320 million
Juan Fernández: 399 million
Edgar Rasquin: 668 million
Rogelio Lozada: 410 million
Luis Matheus: 533 million
Carlos Machado: 542 million
Iván Crespo: 498 million
Luis Aray: 530 million
Andrés Riera: 508 million
Maria Lizardo: 444 million
Armando Izquierdo: 501 million
Luis Pacheco: 542 million
Gabriel García: 322 million
Francisco Bustillos: 643 million
Salvador Arrieta: 596 million
Armando Acosta: 471 million

Each of these oil executives, of course, had their own team of highly-paid middle managers underneath them: controlling the paperwork, the computers, the hiring and firing, and all other aspects of the company.

In recent weeks, they locked out the workers, and installed their own men at key strategic points where sabotage has been committed to facilities under their watch.

The “opposition” complains about graffiti on the wall of a Commercial TV station and calls it “vandalism” or “violence.” These guys, meanwhile, have presided over the destruction of pumps, pipelines, tankers and other ships, trucks, and other key points in the flow of oil from the ground to the consumer, including to the United States.

If they had tried anything like this inside the United States, we would see the White House calling them terrorists, locking them up in Guantanamo Bay, and suing them for the millions of dollars of losses that they have caused. Some of the members of the “oil-igarchy” have made public statements that some oil supplies have been contaminated, and some facilities have been booby-trapped to cause environmental disaster if they are re-started.

Between the oil drilling facility and the gas pump there are many stops along the road. Shut down or sabotage one of those points, and you shut down the entire pipeline. That has certainly happened at various points. But to hear the U.S. and British press correspondents, the language of distortion always uses these events to claim that there is somehow universal compliance with the strike at every point in the pipeline. That is not the case, nor has it been the case at any point during December 2002.

As the government is now firing these petrol-terrorists and retaking tankers and other facilities, it has had to bring in licensed foreign inspectors to make sure that environmental disaster doesn’t occur once the facilities are inevitably re-started, and to make sure that the oil that is sent to the U.S. and elsewhere meets safety and quality standards. Thus, the delays and the shortages in certain regions: but none of the true facts reveal anything close to a “strike” or “work stoppage” by the eco-terrorists who claimed to be rank-and-file oil workers.

Even with so much sabotage, five tankers have already left for the United States with crude oil. Hundreds of tanker-trucks have been shipping gasoline to service stations all over Venezuela.

It’s going to take a few more weeks to restore the situation to normal; that will happen sometime in early 2003.

But what is unforgivable by the U.S. and British correspondents, like the corrupt Commercial Media in Venezuela, is how they abused the facts of these delays, withheld the true reasons for them from the readers, to create the false impression that there was a “strike” (when there was nor is none), that it was “growing” (when it was not), and that the problems “increased” (when they did not) for the democratically elected government.

When the final history is written of December 2002, it will be known as the month that the Venezuelan democracy took its oil industry back from a clique of over-paid and corrupt coup-plotters after the executives tried to sabotage it. (Just as April 2002 is now remembered as the month that the people brought the Armed Forces back under democratic control; a fact that is underscored by the events of December, in which the military, now purged of most of its “School of the Americas” trained terrorists from previous administrations, has behaved in an exemplary manner.)

To repeat: In April, the problem of military coup was solved by a creative popular movement and its democratically elected leaders; in December, the last gasp of elitist control of a nation’s oil has played itself out and the petrol-terrorists have been sent packing.

Also in December 2002, for the first time in history, the nations of the entire hemisphere stood up to the United States executive branch through the Organization of American States Permanent Council. There were still games being played by the OAS secretary general Cesar Gaviria and by the White House in continued efforts to destabilize democracy in Venezuela, but they now have much less maneuvering room today than they had a month ago or ever before. As reported: Gaviria has already run from the scene of the crime. And come January, with Brazil and Ecuador inaugurating popular presidents smart and savvy enough to stand up to foreign intervention, this is already not Bush’s father’s América.

This is history in the making. In the middle of the simulated “War on Terrorism” and its Twin Tower, the “War on Drugs,” being used by cynical Power to get its way on every front, a grassroots democracy movement in Venezuela, related to similar movements throughout our América, has beaten the empire’s advances.

Venezuela and América in 2003
What’s in store?

With the Armed Forces and the oil industry returning to their rightful owners – the Venezuelan people, through their democratic electoral choices – and the maneuvering room for foreign intervention now more limited than ever, the pro-coup and anti-democracy forces still have one major weapon: The Commercial Media, within and without Venezuela.

Unless the Commercial Media surprises us with some kind of Glasnost (“Glass House”) policy of its own (Gustavo Cisneros as Mikhail Gorbachev? That would improve TV ratings!), the battle will now move to the final obstacle to Authentic Democracy: The Media.

That’s why, kind readers, it is so very important that you and I act now to hold the Commercial Media simulators of 2002 accountable. We must make sure the world knows who cannot be trusted, whose credibility should be questioned loudly, who should forever be reminded of their crimes of December 2002, and why. In the coming weeks, I urge all readers, all fellow and sister Authentic Journalists, to work hard to analyze the events of December 2002: to name the names of the professional simulators, and document their knowing falsehoods: to limit their maneuvering room to ever try to steal anybody’s Christmas again. And I’m not a religious person, but I do think that real workers should be able to rest at least for this week each year.

The agenda for 2003 is clear: We must continue to break the information blockades by developing our own better routes of Community Media, working together throughout the globe.

It is Sunday, December 22, and we’ve just survived, again, the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere from Caracas to Washington. I just got off the phone with our colleagues at Catia TV – the cutting-edge Community TV station in Caracas – and the mood is joyful.

Our colleagues report that all is calm in Caracas. That although on Friday, coup leader Carlos Ortega announced a march toward the presidential palace at Miraflores to provoke a violent confrontation as his last gasp coup attempt, that nobody marched on Saturday and nobody is marching today.

The streets and malls are filled not with protesters, but with shoppers, many of whom are only strolling, perhaps window-shopping, holding hands with their loved ones, showing great dignity and grace in the face of the economic damage the upper-class tantrum caused. Kitchens are beginning to enjoy the warmth and scent of holiday meals. Kids are playing “soccer games for peace” throughout the country and have announced that everyone is welcome except for anyone on any side who wants to hijack the event to make speeches.

Of course, our colleagues are at their watchtowers in the newsrooms throughout the Venezuelan Community Media stations, vacation plans cancelled, like ours at Narco News, we’re all remaining vigilant, monitoring every possible trick or trap by those who tried to steal Christmas in 2002. We’re not complaining: Like Christmas, the beach will still be here in 2003, somewhere in a country called América, that after the Battle of December 2002, is an América more free.

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