Global Marches For and Against Venezuelan President See Mixed Turnout
Posted: Monday, September 7, 2009
By Tamara Pearson
September 7th 2009 - Venezuelanalysis.com
In response to a "global" protest promoted over Facebook.com against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, there were marches and rallies across Venezuela and in various other countries on Friday and Saturday to both support Chavez and to reject the new US run military bases in Colombia.
Participants report that around 50,000 Chavez supporters marched on Saturday in Caracas, beginning at various points around the city and finishing outside the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry.
Chavez spoke to the protest by phone from Iran, where he was visiting as part of a week long diplomatic tour. He said, "I congratulate everyone for continuing to defeat the plot against this country and the revolution...from here, from far away, I send you all my revolutionary heart and my promise that I won't rest [in the struggle] for freedom and the country."
There was also a large rally in Caracas on Friday in the main plaza, and smaller rallies in the main plazas of the other states on both Friday and Saturday. In Merida, an opposition leaning state, there were small concentrations on Friday and Saturday, and no opposition protests.
International Rallies in Support of Chavez and Against US Bases
Latin American alternative TV station TeleSUR reported rallies in front of Venezuelan embassies to protest the US bases in Colombia and in support of Chavez in over 50 countries of South America and Europe, including a "large demonstration" in Ecuador, with speakers calling for the truth to be told about what is happening in Latin America.
In Buenos Aires on Friday there was a protest with the theme of ‘Colombian Yankee military bases out'. Participants read out a statement titled, ‘With Chavez and against the bases' and the Venezuelan ambassador in Argentina, Arvelo Mendez, spoke to the crowd.
TeleSUR reports that in Colombia students, intellectuals and university lecturers rallied in the capital, Bogata, to reject the war policies and rights violations of their government. In El Salvador marchers showed their solidarity with Chavez to the "rhythm of drums".
In Madrid, Spain there was a large participation in a conference against the bases and in solidarity with Chavez, which was called by the Spanish Bolivarian Assembly. In Holland, following a small rally, there was also a public meeting in the Venezuelan embassy there, and Venezuelan legislator Edgar Lucena spoke, as well as ambassadors from Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
The Bolivarian Committee in Switzerland called a meeting in Geneva, in which various left wing party and movement representatives attended. The Venezuelan ambassador to the country also spoke there.
Legislator to the Venezuelan National Assembly, Augusto Montiel, reported that social and political organisations in Belgium mobilised in support of Chavez and against the bases. He also said that united European left parties and environment parties expressed their support for Chavez in the European parliament.
Opposition protests in Venezuela
According to news agency EFE and aerial footage, around 5,000 people marched in the opposition protest in Caracas on Saturday, finishing outside the Attorney General's office. The march was peaceful and there were no incidents.
Opposition spokespeople said they were asking for the "end of persecution against those who think differently" and were rejecting the "threat against marching freely" in reference to the comments by the attorney general that people who disturb the peace "to destabilize the government, or attack the democratic system," will be charged.
Two weeks ago there were also pro- and anti-government protests in Caracas, in which the opposition protest ended with some violence after the opposition broke through police barriers in an effort to defer from their approved route.
International protests against Chavez
Organisers in Colombia used social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to call "No more Chavez" demonstrations for Friday 4 September. Organisers hoped for a large global turn out, but only Venezuela, Colombia and Honduras had sizeable marches.
CNN quoted organisers saying the turnout was lower than expected. "We are not interested in quantity but quality," Marcela Garzon told the El Heraldo newspaper in Honduras, reported CNN.
However, many major international media channels such as ABC and SBS in Australia only covered the anti-Chavez protests, and other channels such as CNN and BBC covered both anti and pro protests, but highlighted the anti-Chavez protests in their headlines and content.
CNN reported, "Critics of Hugo Chavez marched in cities across the globe Friday, calling the Venezuelan president a dictator and violator of human rights." The US cable news network said, "In Colombia... marchers in Bogota blew whistles and held up signs saying ‘Get out of Colombia'" and explained that Colombians accuse Chavez of supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The BBC estimated 5,000 participants in the Bogota protest in Colombia and other agencies report another 3,500 protestors in Cali, Colombia.
There was a sizeable march in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, lead by coup president Roberto Micheletti and organised by the Civic Democratic Union. Protestors were dressed in white and agencies report attendance of between 2-5,000 people to "reject the interventionalism of Chavez". They also report that 200 people rallied in New York City, outside the United Nations headquarters.
Other protests were small or didn't happen. According to Venezuelan daily Diario Vea, in Australia there were less than 20 people, in Madrid there were less than 100, and Paris and Berlin also called protests but with no or little attendance. TeleSUR reports that no one turned up to the advertised rally points in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in Asuncion, Paraguay or in Montevideo, Uruguay and that 12 people rallied in Brussels.
El Universal (Mexico) reported that "dozens" protested against Chavez in Chile and EFE reported around 100 in a protest in Panama. Nevertheless, Venezuelan daily El Universal carried the headline that, "144 cities in the world shouted ‘No more Chavez!'"
Alejandro Gutierrez, one of the main organisers of the protests, told the press, "The world is tired of the tyrannical attitudes of president Hugo Chavez, and his intention to export his crazy revolution."
The Venezuelan ambassador in Colombia, Gustavo Marquez, said the protests against the Venezuelan government are part of a US lead strategy against the Latin American region and its progressive governments.