Explaining what has happened in Venezuela in the last decade can sometimes be quite a task. People talk about the “opposition” as if it were a homogeneous group with a common ideology. Besides the social-democrats, social christians and socialists, people always stare at me when I describe Bandera Roja, a Marxist/socialist organization that is part of Venezuela’s opposition and a member of the Mesa de Unidad (MUD) which fielded unified candidates in Sunday’s election.
Bandera Roja began as a Maoist guerrilla group. They were in fact, the last guerrilla group to abandon the armed fight and become a political party in 1992, to become the extreme far left in Venezuela. Despite this, Bandera Roja never backed Hugo Chavez, arguing he was no socialist or marxist, but an opportunist whose only project is his own self-promotion.
In 1982, what was then the Alejandro Silva front of Bandera Roja (picture above), held a meeting in a farm in Cantaura, inviting students that were simpathetic to the movement, many of whom were unarmed. The military somehow found out about it and started a military operation which began by bombing from airplanes in order to disperse those on the ground. As they dispersed, they were met by military ground forces which proceeded to capture many of those present. Reportedly, most were originally captured alive, but were later found dead.
The case was revived during the last few years, as Venezuela’s General Prosecutor’s office exhumed the bodies and began an investigation of the massacre in which a total of 23 people died.
In early September, Human Rights organization Provea, denounced the fact that one of those being investigated, was retired General Roger Cordero Lara, one of the leaders of the massacre, who piloted one of the Broncos that led the attack. Provea asked Chavez’ party PSUV to withdraw the candidacy in order to stop the impunity on these cases.
Last Sunday, Roger Cordero Lara was elected as a Deputy for Circuit 2 of Guarico State under the PSUV party and now has immunity from Prosecution, unless the National Assembly and the Venezuelan Supreme Court removes it. This led Proeva to send this letter to Hugo Chavez and his party, noting the incoherence of backing Cordero Lara, as well as the precedent of impunity that this constitutes. Chavista groups have also raised their voices to protest, to no avail.
In the case of the Cantaura massacre, much like in other similar cases, military courts exonerated those involved, including General Cordero Lara in the Cantaura case, but the General Prosecutor has reopened the cases with the Cantaura case, being opened at the request of Hugo Chavez, but has yet to rule on any of them, which Provea suggests is due to the fact that many of those exonerated are pro-Chavez retired high ranking military like Cordero Lara. So much for the caring revolution!
But given that Chavez and PSUV did nothing when they could remove him as a candidate, it is highly unlikely that they would go through the complicated process of removing Cordero Lara’s immunity and impunity on the case will continue to prevail.
So much for the revolution…