The Boston Globe
April 12, 2007
Venezuela --On the fifth anniversary of a coup that briefly toppled
him, President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that soldiers who disagree
with his government's socialist leanings should leave the military.
marked the anniversary of his 2002 ouster repeating his accusation that
the U.S. was behind the coup and telling troops to be on alert for new
plots against the government.
every commander at every level is obliged to repeat, from the soul and
raising the flag high, this slogan: 'Fatherland, Socialism, or Death!'"
Chavez told an audience of soldiers in a televised speech. "If some
feel uncomfortable with this, well, ask for your discharge and go do
a former paratrooper who led his own failed coup in 1992 before being
democratically elected president six years later, has vowed to
transform Venezuela into a socialist society. Government opponents
accuse Chavez of leading the country toward authoritarianism, while
U.S. officials call Chavez a destabilizing influence in Latin America.
a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was arrested by rebel
officers on April 12, 2002, and was briefly replaced by a transitional
government, but returned to power in less than 48 hours amid street
protests and with the help of loyalist generals.
must remember that five years ago today, the first government that
declared its support for the new transitional government was the U.S.
government -- of course, they planned the coup," Chavez said.
Bush administration has repeatedly denied involvement in the coup. It
initially blamed Chavez for his own ouster, then joined other countries
in criticizing it.
cannot let down our guard," Chavez continued, drawing comparisons
between the coup and the war in Iraq. "Five years ago we were there on
the verge of a civil war, which is what some people want. Why? To
justify the intervention of the United States."
ouster came after 19 people were killed when shooting broke out during
a massive opposition march that was headed for the presidential palace.
Chavez opponents accused government loyalists of firing on the
marchers, while the president's backers blamed police and anti-Chavez
snipers of firing on both pro- and anti-government demonstrators.
suspects have been convicted of those slayings, though eight former
police officers are jailed on charges linked to the killings of two
pro-Chavez protesters. The ex-police insist they are innocent.