Caracas protagónica / Jesús Sanoja Hernández

Protagonistic Caracas

Protagonistic in 1908, in 1919, in 1928, in 1936, in 1945, in 1948, in 1958, in 1992, in 2002 and possibly in 2004, with the appearance of the days of the month dedicated to the emperor Augustus and its enigmatic signs. That emperor that Seignobos described after receiving power as having "ruled another 40 years and he had time to completely organize the new regime. His powers were those of an absolute king."

Why 1908? Because on December 19 Juan Vicente Gómez, from the balcony of the Casa Amarilla, pronounced those sadly famous words that would maintain a Caesar-like peace for 27 years: "Aha, the people are quiet." Even though this hadn't been the case in the preceding days, with meetings and street protests that allowed, precisely, his ascent to power.

Why 1919? Because the conspiracy that was supposed to erupt on December 31, 1918 was discovered and in January the soldiers and civilians who were involved in that attempt to defeat the tyrant were detained. The prisoners were subjected to tortures as horrible as being hung by their testicles and, so that it be known, there was not a daily, weekly or magazine that would dare mention such events. The dead were "good and dead" and the press survived under censorship.

Why 1928? Because a decade after the frustrated plot, civilians (primarily students) and soldiers rebelled, embarking on the adventure, at Miraflores and at San Carlos, just as impossible as at other times, to take Gómez out of power. Once again the tortures and once again the prisons while Caracas, the scene of the drama, entered the second decade of dictatorship along with the rest of Venezuela. There was no press to reflect that challenge, since freedom of speech had ceased to exist from the time Gómez assumed power. Or there was, but it was used by the dictatorship to justify repression.

The notice from minister Arcaya served as the obligatory newspaper headline: "Failure of an absurd movement with communist tendencies." Imagine: communists in April of the year 1928! Something like "Chavistas" before February 1992 or Gomecistas in the XIX century.

Why 1936? Because in February of that dawning year the city was shaken by the imposing demonstration demanding an open democracy and not a democracy with Gomecista legacies. That time the press, unwilling to be censored, supported these popular actions and López Contreras's government had to retreat temporarily.

The excellent columnist, Enrique Bernardo Núñez, exclaimed: "We are facing a revolution (...) The revolution is moving and it will not be contained by words. The structure in which the country lived until yesterday is now breaking." This was true but not completely, since twelve years later it tried to rearm itself with the militaristic decade, a parenthetical period, as anyone attempting to impose himself at the beginning of this XXI century would become.

Why 1945? Because the revolution that the author of La ciudad de los techos rojos spoke of reappeared with new signs. This time, the "civilian-military unity" that had failed in 1918-1919 and 1928 succeeded. Its highest leader, Betancourt, would affirm that October: "The fervorous support the people have given to the revolution legitimates it." Sadly for him, for Acción Democrática and for the country, his military allies at the time (Pérez Jiménez, Delgado Chalbaud et alter) did not believe the same thing and they launched a countercoup in 1948. Within three years, Caracas was wave and counterwave.

Why 1992? Because Chávez, a rifle shot away from Miraflores, was not able to consecrate himself as the hero of the Museo Militar. Rarely has Caracas passed from surprise to stupor as it did on February 4 and 5. The coup plotters did not die, as Morales Bellos demanded in a fire-quenching speech. The coup plotters survived and were able to triumph, 1999, in an unrepeatable civic act.

Why 2002? Because on April 11 a gigantic demonstration that left from Chuao toward Miraflores ended in a strange marriage between "the vacuum of power" and "the coup d'état." The so-called Bolivarian revolution survived that new "civilian-military" experiment, creating the possibility, albeit with many stumbles, of opening the road toward the revocatory referendum.

And 2004 arrived and August approaches with Caracas papered over with the Sí! and with the No! and amidst polemics of diverse signs. Two of these are the voting machines and the famous (ahead of time) fingerprint machines. Season of storms that could become hurricanes. The blessed or damned voting machines are on their way to making history.

Do you remember those they had reserved for the 1973 process? Those belonging to AVM that inflamed passions at the National Congress? And by any chance, do you remember those promised for the 28, 28, 28, transferred by art of magic from one day in May to another day in July 2000?

{ Jesús Sanoja Hernández, El Nacional, 23 July 2004 }

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