The Boston Globe
April 12, 2008
A protester shout slogans against Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in front of the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico City, Friday, April 11, 2008. A small group of protesters held a rally against Chavez Friday, as part of a worldwide campaign organized by Internet.
CARACAS, Venezuela—Government supporters and foes held rival demonstrations in Venezuela on Friday to commemorate 19 people killed six years ago in the run-up to a coup that briefly toppled President Hugo Chavez.
Several hundred Chavez backers joined ruling party lawmakers for a special congressional session at Llaguno Bridge -- the epicenter of the April 11, 2002, killings that prompted dissident generals to rebel the following day.
Fighter jets roared across the Caracas skyline as activist Serapio Damas warned government foes could again attempt to unseat the socialist president.
"Be alert and organize the people, because the danger remains," Damas said. Massive street protests were instrumental in helping Chavez return to power just two days after the putsch, with the aid of loyal generals.
Both allies and adversaries of Chavez were among the 19 victims killed six years ago as an opposition march led by police approached a pro-Chavez demonstration in downtown Caracas.
Government foes blame the violence on National Guard troops and "Chavistas" who were filmed shooting from a bridge. Chavez backers say the police were responsible.
Across town on Friday, about 50 opposition sympathizers accused the government of pressuring prosecutors to keep behind bars 11 police officers accused of spearheading the coup.
"Venezuelans shouldn't be celebrating today, they should remember the injustices the state has been committing," said Yajaira Forero, the wife of jailed police commissioner Lazaro Forero.
Groups also held small anti-Chavez demonstrations outside Venezuela, including in Mexico City, the Colombian capital of Bogota and in Florida, which has seen increasing immigration from Venezuela in recent years.
In Miami, protester Maria Luisa Vicentini recalled marching toward the presidential palace that day in 2002 and blamed pro-Chavez forces for the violence.
"There were buildings on each side and a bridge in front of us, and these sharpshooters started shooting at us," Vicentini said. "Some were shooting in the air to scare people. Others were targeting the people. It was terrifying."