The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Compared by the United States’ media to Hitler, Hugo Chavez is perhaps one of the most controversial political figures in modern times. Credited by the Wall Street Journal as making Venezuela, “Washington’s biggest Latin American headache after the old standby, Cuba,” Chavez’s political policies demand critical attention. Fortunately, through the Culture Jam Film Festival, UVMers found out more about this man who happens to control the world’s forth-largest oil export. “The Revolution Will not be Televised,” documents one of the few living true revolutionaries, whether his policies were for good or for worse. The film also records what was probably history’s shortest-lived coup d’etat, lasting less than 48 hours. Not only is the event documented extraordinarily, the intimacy of the film was remarkable. The two independent filmmakers were inside the presidential palace on April 11, 2002 during the coup, even while the palace was threatened to be bombed. While the movie attempts to be unbiased in portraying Chavez, including interviews from both supporters and those who opposed his agenda, he is painted as the first real father of democracy. Democratically elected in 1998, Chavez has ruled without censoring the media, for perhaps the first time in Venezuelan history. The main goal of his reign was to redistribute the oil wealth to the 80% of Venezuelans who haven’t seen a cent. This of course angered the 20% oligarchy class that has benefited from the privatizing of the oil industry. Taking back state ownership of the oil industry, Chavez became extremely dangerous to not just the rich in Venezuela, but also the United States. Fearing that “Chavez doesn’t have the interest of the United States at heart,” as CIA Director, George Tenet expressed in a press conference, the United States’ became increasingly alarmed during his rule, and openly supported opposition parties. While the documentary does a fair job of not associating the United States with direct involvement in the coup, it does tactfully state the facts. In the days leading up to the coup, Carlos Ortega, and Pedro Carmona did meet at the White House for an undisclosed conversation. Coincidently, a few days later, the coup was lead by Ortega and Carmona. April 11th, 2002 will live in Venezuelan history just as Kennedy’s assassination will live in ours. An opposition march was led to the State Oil Company, while a rally of Chavez supporters was held in front of the Presidential palace. Violence erupted when the opposition march decided to charge the Presidential Palace. As the documentary portrays this clash, an outside force is seen as the catalyst in the warfare. Snipers were set up in positions and shot peaceful protesters, both Chavez supporters and opponents, escalating the violence between the two. This bloodshed was planned and orchestrated by Carmona and Ortega’s opposition party. The private media, strongly linked to Ortega, was also involved, manipulating footage to portray the Chavez supporters as the parties provoking the bloodshed. Furthermore, the opposition took over the state, public media TV station, and cut it off air. The military, left with only the privately owned television stations to follow, surrounded the palace and demanded Chavez’s resignation. Chavez, although not resigning, handed over the palace and was taken prisoner. The next day, April 12th, a new regime was in place with Carmona undemocratically deemed president. Media censorship and police repression immediately began. Venezuela’s once free-speech supportive environment became repressed. Despite this, Chavez’s supporters continued their pursuit and were able to win back the military’s confidence. Taking back the palace in revolutionary style, Chavez was sworn back in as the democratic president, stating, “you can oppose me, but you can’t oppose the constitution.” The United States denies any involvement in the coup, even though it has surfaced that the plane waiting to take the imprisoned Chavez out of the country, was a registered US plane. Yet without any hard evidence, the directors, Kim Bartley, and Donnacha O Brian don’t make any assumptions. Almost 3 years since the film was released, tensions between Venezuela and the United States have only increased. “The Revolution will not be Televised” captures a watershed period for Venezuelans and demonstrates in detail the challenges of democracy. While these filmmakers might have been in the right place at the right time, they craft together the events in a unique impartial way that is not seen in most liberal minded documentaries.