A few years ago, I posted my memories of the day Chavez attempted his failed coup.
20 years ago, I was awakened by the phone ringing. We were told to cancel our trip to Maracaibo as there was a military coup underway. We spent the morning listening to the news. The footage of the dead soldiers tore at my mother's heart. They were boys. Most had been deceived and told that they were defending the constitution, it wasn't until there that they realized THEY were the coupsters.
We heard a loud sonic boom and ran outside! And then another! It was the military jets chasing Broncos. They bombed the airport. You could feel the earth shake. A friend of ours called . He had served in Vietnam and was here visiting family. He said, "I know what that was! They are using carpet bombing. I remember how it felt in Vietnam."
We saw shadows, then heard the jets. Somehow, it felt safer outside. We took our 3 small children at the time and sat out in the yard. We saw a Bronco hit, and the pilot parachute out.
Joshua was a little boy at the time. I remember the male excitement in his eyes and voice as he said, "Mommy, one day can I do that?"My heart stopped in my throat...he didn't know what was happening it just looked and sounded exciting, but I knew my boy would one day be a man. Would he need to fight for his country?
I remember it all so well because it was the day before my birthday and we couldn't celebrate but had to stay home. I remember thinking what cowards they were to have attacked the residency where the president's grandchildren were at the time. I remember the face of the Lt. Col. as he was taken prisoner.
Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias.
I remember him saying,"We have failed. Por Ahora.( For now)"
The thing which impacted me most that day was the awareness of the fragile nature of liberty. One generation may fight and die to provide liberty and freedom for the next, but if that next generation is not diligent to keep their freedom, it can disappear almost before your very eyes.
My husband recalls,
I was called by another missionary. He knew I had to go to Maracaibo that day, which was the only city where the coup had been successful. I needed to take some medical supplies to the pastor I was training, he had just come out of a kidney transplant surgery and the kidney was rejected and had died. He needed some of the supplies he had in his home, because the state hospital was out. He would die if he didn't get them.
I asked the missionary how the heck he knew there was a coup and then an F-16 flew over our house chasing one of the rebels who had bombed the airport.
I spent the morning and afternoon listening to the news, I couldn't travel until we heard they had surrendered in Maracaibo. I left first thing the next morning. They were checking papers like crazy all along the road and inspecting vehicles for extra riders. Having the Dialysis medical supplies raised a few eyebrows but they let me pass and I arrived without major incident. That trip was also before cell phones so Rita wasn't too happy about the trip either.
(The following is a collection of memories some of my friends wrote three years ago.)
Februray4, 1992. A few of my commenters were also in Venezuela at the time and left their own memories in the comments of that post. I thought that I would post their memories here on the 17th anniversary of that fateful day.
My friend Liz, in Caracas remembers this:
I awoke before sunrise to make breakfast and go to work. The first thing I did was to turn on the TV and realize that we were in the middle of a coup. I alerted my husband... but the silence in our neighborhood was amazing! He wanted to go to work anyway (he's one of those souls that went to work during 'el Caracazo', drove his car in the middle of bullets shooting; we used to joke saying that maybe the country would come to a complete halt if he didn't go to work).
The 3 of us spent the day watching the news, receiving and making phone calls. My friend's parents called from Italy, very nervous! She was too!! she thought that maybe she couldn't emigrate some days later.
My memories are a bit fuzzy, (like Julia, I get confused between Feb. 4 and Nov. 27). I just recall the next days... We had to work and return home very early, there was a military curfew and we had a tank parked in our street! The soldiers -each night- used their fire arms and made us turn off our lights. They shouted orders all the time to intimidate us (a dormir! apaguen la luz!). I was very happy that my apartment was facing the back of the building!
The interesting part of this is that the coup had failed (chavez and company were imprisoned). These soldiers were the 'good ones'! My neighbors in the front of the building saw them drinking while making the rounds around the block.
To this day I despise anything military... and today chavez is celebrating his failure!! Because 17 years ago he was captured under a desk at the 'Museo Militar'. There was NO victory that day, just dead soldiers and civilians
Another friend, Firepig, who now lives in the states shared this:
JM, i lived in Caurimare, right on top of the hill looking out on the military airport of La Carlota.I first heard constant sirens for about an hour.Then canon fire.My children were asleep so I ran quickly to the guard station at the entrance of our neighborhood, and as I approached, I heard( coming from the guard's radio):
"they are taking Miraflores"
I will never forget the terror.Later our neighborhood featured nightly searches, and sometimes when I looked out my bedroom window, there was an army tank rolling down the street, often with the cannon pointing our way.
In a private note from another Venezuelan now living in the US, I received this along with his permission to post it. From Jose Roman Duque:
pues si, yo estaba ahi. en la madrugada mi amigo Vicente llamo a casa para decir, prende tu TV, golpe de estado...
y vi las acciones de los soldados y cuando el tanque trato de entrar al palacio blanco en frente de miraflores..
llore, y me dio rabia...
hate thinking about it....
you want to hear something bad?
one of the coupsters was my mom's cousin..
Hernan Gruber Odreman, a Colonel, ...needless to say, my mom and him dont' talk anymore..
I wish I could write better memories than yours, but I cringe at the thought of seeing my country the way it has become.
I think of my granpa, a typical Merideno, very dry and more dry but a great man, he was Jose Roman Duque Sanchez, and my dad perhaps you've seen him on tv many times during the time you were still in Venezuela, always speaking against Chavez. Roman J. Duque Corredor
feel free to use their names..it will show your English readers that we have great minds who love freedom, and respects the lessons that can be learn from the USA.
Rita, I wish we could have met in Venezuela, despite our religious differences :-) your love for Venezuela is breathtaking
isnt' it true, that Venezuela is the strangest place on earth?...I miss the colors and my family. feel free to browse over my photos.... I'm proud of my family , and I miss them dearly, but I know I could never go back to live there...
got used to a functional and stable country such as the States.
hate thinking about it....
this all hurts me big time, my My family was involved in the building of the democracy in venezuela, starting with my grandfather, who was close friends with Romulo gallegos, Betancourt, Caldera, he became the Governor of Merida after Perez-Jimenez, then went to practice law privately with Shell corporation until he went into de Supreme Court, and so my dad, he was a judge, and became a supreme court justice..
I'm just a poor musician and want nothing with politics or public office...but I had a understanding of what is at stake and what have been lost in Venezuela....people like my dad and granpa...simply dont' exist anymore
adds her memories.
JM has requested me to write my memories on February 4th, 1992. On that day, our actual president: Chavez, leaded an army coup against the democratically elected government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. Not exactly the nicest government my country can think of, but still I’m not sure if it justifies an army rebellion. The coup failed. Chavez appeared on TV for like 5 minutes admitting the defeat and went straight to jail. Before February 4th Chavez was no one, and he instantly became a sort of leader for many that very same night when he admits the defeat on TV. Quite shameful, I know. The events that followed that day and of whom now we are suffering the consequences are hard to explain and even harder to understand. I may give a space on this blog to think about them, but for now, I will just do my task: to remember what happen on that exact day: February 4th, 1992.
I was eight years old. I don’t want to put my age as another dramatic ingredient of my story, I’m just telling you my age because since I was so little, my memories are a little bit blurry and they often confuse with another coup attempt that happen that very same year, on November.
We lived in a neighbourhood called “La Floresta”. The neighbourhood is separated by a highway of the military airport called “La Carlota” so this could explain why we felt all the events so close.
I woke up at dawn hearing planes and random gunshots (first time I heard those). In Venezuela every kid is used to hear explosions: on Christmas eve and New Years are simply non- stop. But these explosions sounded drier, I knew they were no fireworks but I wasn’t sure of what it was until my mom screamed “¡Tiros!” (Gun shots). Still half awaked in our pyjamas, we all went to my parent’s bed to watch the news on TV. I asked if we were going to go to school and the whole family give me this ironic look back “Yeah… sure…” Then we heard more airplanes and the gunshots seemed to be closer. My mom screamed all of the sudden: “¡Al suelo!” (“To the floor!”) and we all lay down immediately, I think my sister made me lay down but I’m not sure.
My parents made us go to a small room that connected all the bedrooms and closed the bedroom doors. The “Al suelo!” screams became more frequent, and the explosions and planes simply didn’t stop and were quite annoying.
I think it was near noon when my parents decided that that room where we were laying, on the top floor, was not safe anymore and the only safe place remaining in a house filled of doors and windows was a small bathroom we used for the visit, located right under the stairs. I think the six of us (my brothers and my parents) somehow ended inside that bathroom and when they decided that it was safe to go out, I didn’t want to. My moms made me pasta and try to give it to me but I refused, I was sort of shaking.
At some point of the day I saw my mom argument with someone outside from the balcony of her room “They can’t be here!” – She said. My dad made her go back inside. Apparently they were a few soldiers hiding in our garden or near by.
The rest of the day was nothing different: non stop explosions, stories here and there, and airplanes all the time.
The next day my mom was afraid of sending us to school so we spend the day in the garden, looking for bullets. We find a lot and I think they are still saved somewhere.
It is odd but right now, as I write this, I’m hearing airplanes. They are probably practicing for the celebrations Chavez is going to held because of that day. And that sound is probably the sound that better reminds me of that day. It’s like going back 17 years, and to see myself covering my ears with my hands and asking my mom if she could make it stop.
It’s the very same airplanes but 17 years later. Sometimes I think that I’m still covering my ears and lying in the ground, since no one has still been able to make it stop.
Also check out these two blogs written by two young Venezuelans:
I just wanted to share the human story. The fact that families and lives have been harmed and changed by the actions of this man. If any other of my readers were in Venezuela on that day, would you please share your memories with us as well?