On April 13, Venezuela celebrated eight years since a popular uprising defeated a US backed coup against President Hugo Chavez in April 2002 with a swearing in ceremony of 35,000 new militia members in Caracas. The day was named "Day of the Bolivarian Militias, the Armed People and the April Revolution".
On April 11, 2002, the right-wing opposition, backed by the US and private media, organised a military coup that briefly removed Chavez from office.
The head of the Chamber of Commerce (Fedecamaras) Pedro Carmona was declared president and a decree was issued dissolving the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the National Assembly and fired the Ombudsman and the Attorney General.
Hundreds of Chavez supporters were rounded up and imprisoned and state and community media outlets were shut down. More than 60 pro-Chavez protesters were killed by police.
Masses of poor Venezuelans came out onto the streets in protest and loyal sections of the armed forces retook the presidential palace and the Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas.
Chavez was restored as president within 48 hours.
Chavez said at the April 13 commemoration that the Venezuelan oligarchy had conspired with US imperialism to disrespect the will of the Venezuelan people.
"The entire oligarchy, political parties, the media and political and economic elites were allied against the Venezuelan people."
Chavez said the "fascist coup unleashed the power contained within the people and the Armed Forces".
"The oligarchy and imperialism had predicted that if the people went out to the streets ... they thought they could count on the guns of our soldiers to curb the popular rebellion.
"But they had a big surprise because, despite more than 100 traitorous generals and admirals caving- in to the bourgeoisie, the soldiers not only refused to commit a massacre but placed themselves and their guns on the side of the people."
Now, with the formation of the Bolivarian Militia, involving workers, students, peasants, the urban poor and other sectors of society, he said: "The militia is the people and the people are the militia, the armed people and the armed forces are one."
At the event, Chavez swore in the 35,000 new militia members from combat corps, student, worker and peasant battalions.
Chavez stressed the large numbers of women in the militias and said: "I'm proud to know that there are many women among them in the ranks, giving greater strength, vigour and passion to the task of the struggle for sovereignty and independence of the country."
Chavez raised the continued threat of US intervention in Venezuela, pointing to the increased US militarisation of the region. He said the US, the Venezuelan opposition and neighbouring Colombia were plotting to destabilise and attack Venezuela.
In 2009, the US signed a deal to install seven new military bases in Colombia (including on the Venezuelan border), four new military bases in Panama, and is pursuing military discussions with the Peruvian and Brazilian governments.
Outlining some of the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution over the past decade, including the halving of poverty, the eradication of illiteracy and the provision of free universal healthcare, Chavez reaffirmed that the revolution's goal is socialism.
"The only way for us to have a homeland is by building socialism of the 21st century here in Venezuela", he said, adding that it is not an easy task.
In this context, increased political consciousness and unity are necessary "to defeat imperialism and the local bourgeoisie", Chavez stressed.
He urged the Venezuelan people to support candidates from his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the September national assembly elections, in order "to accelerate the transformation in the country and consolidate the revolution."
A pro-revolution majority in the September elections will prevent the elite from gaining space to destabilise the country and from "using the legislature to achieve their nefarious purposes", said.
As part of a series of events commemorating the coup, 100 young community media activists were also sworn in as "communicational guerrillas" on April 11 to raise awareness about "media lies" and combat the anti-revolution campaign of the opposition-controlled private media.
Rosa Martinez, a 60-year-old Chavez supporter from the working-class neighbourhood of Petare in Caracas, who attend the swearing in of the militias, told Venezuelanalysis.com: "There is a big international media campaign against Venezuela, against our president, against our people, but the reality is quite different to what the media says."
[Abridged from Venezuelanalysis.com.]