The Maduro government has declared three days of mourning following Fidel Castro’s death on Friday night in order to “honour the memory and legacy” of the deceased leader, according to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The press release eulogized Castro in the following way:
[Castro was] a historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, and founding father of the new Latin American and Caribbean history (…) the most important American [as in, a person born in the continent of America] in the history of the 20th century and an example for generations throughout time.
Maduro thanked Fidel for his personal support and teachings throughout the years at a memorial in the Cuartel de la Montaña, a mausoleum and museum in Caracas that hold Chavez’s remains. Maduro said:
I should thank Fidel for his contributions to dignity and independence when it comes to achieving socialism [sic]. I should also thank our big brother Raul Castro, and we send him our promise to be strong during this time.
Eight Soldiers Arrested for Alleged Massacre in Miranda
El Pais reports today that eight National Bolivarian Armed Forces soldiers have been arrested in connected with the alleged massacre of 11 people in a rural area of Miranda state. The arrests were announced by Minister of the Interior Ernesto Reverol during a televised speech last night.
According to El Pais, the eleven victims were reported missing on October 16 after they disappeared following an Operacion Liberacion del Pueblo [Operation People’s Liberation] (OLP) raid in the Acevedo municipality. The OLP is an ongoing and highly controversial security directive in Venezuela which involves military raids on suspected high-crime areas, which often result in high death-tolls.
The victim’s bodies were found by authorities on Friday and Saturday, and the arrest of the suspects followed soon after.
Maduro: Venezuela, Country of Abundance
Maduro spoke at an event today in Maracay to commemorate the 96th anniversary of the establishment of the Venezuelan Air Force.
During his speech, Maduro turned to the economic conditions in the country, and resorted to rhetoric more commonly associated with totalitarian dictatorships like the one governing North Korea. Maduro assured the crowd that Venezuela was a country of abundance, saying:
Our children are not lacking in a single book or un alimento [literally, “a food”, but this could also be understood as “one meal”]. We’ve also not failed to invest in the great misiones [government initiatives], and we haven’t failed to take care of salaries, food stamps, or pensions. We’ve made a superhuman effort.
Venezuela is currently living through its worst economic crisis in living memory. Such is the severity of the crisis that the phenomenon that is seeing hungry people eating out of garbage bags in the country’s streets has become relatively commonplace over the last year.
November 27 Marks 24th Anniversary of Coup Attempt
On November 27, 1992, forces loyal to the then-imprisoned Hugo Chavez launched a coup attempt against the democratically elected government of Carlos Andres Perez, the second such attempt that year. The first attempt took place on February 4 under the direct leadership of Hugo Chavez, but ended in failure and Chavez’s arrest.
While opposition figures and supporters remember the event as a bloody coup on democracy, the PSUV and its supporters remember it as an important part in the birth of the chavista movement, and refuse to call it a coup.
The November 27 attempt is most vividly remembered by Venezuelans due to the use of aircraft by the pro-Chavez forces to bomb Caracas. Below, a video showing several pro-Chavez aircraft bombing a target in Caracas on that day:
Perhaps the most iconic scenes of the event involve the crash of a Bronco airplane into the runway at the La Carlota airport in Caracas. Below, a video from the state-run VTV network showing the images from that day and glorifying the event:
Narrator: There is no doubt that this is the most remembered image from November 27, 1992. The images show a Bronco airplane hit by an anti-aircraft battery and crash out-of-control in La Carlota in a desperate attempt by its pilot to land the aircraft to avoid crashing into one of the many buildings of the city of Caracas. Perhaps what many do not know is that this airplane was piloted by Colonel Luis Magallanes, who was able to eject and miraculously save his life seconds before crashing.
Col. Luis Magallanes: I consider November 27 to be my birthday because I was lucky enough to not die and be re-born. [November 27] represents a very important event for us aviators. It was the moment when the air force said “we are here to change the destiny of the country”.
Narrator: Even though Colonel Magallanes was able to eject from the airplane, this did not mean that he was saved. Once he landed, the vehicle that came to his rescue came under a shower of fire from the forces of Carlos Andres Perez who were surrounding the airport. However, the rescue was successful. The man who drove that vehicle was Colonel Nicolas Seijas Arrieta.
Man with Microphone: Did any of these bullets hit your car?
Col. Seijas: Yes, many. I felt many. We picked up Magallanes who was hit really hard [by the landing]. I think he was unconscious, but thank God that it was just for a few seconds — the shots never [unintelligible]. In the air, on the floor — well, he got on and we went into the closest hangar where we took cover.
Narrator: 18 years later, Col. Seijas is still in the army, and works with the Mision Barrio Adentro [a healthcare initiative that targets slums], while his friend Col. Magallanes is a fighter pilot with the Sukhoi Group. Both are united by a deep friendship and a promise to continue to fight for a revolution they have promised to defend.
While the day’s exact death toll is not known, traditional estimates place the number of deaths at 142 civilians – many of whom died in the bombing operations in dense urban areas by pro-Chavez forces in Caracas and elsewhere – and 29 soldiers.
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