The following is one of the entries from my list of the 100 greatest films (through 2006) from Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
Hugo Chávez was elected Venezuela’s president in 1998, his support largely coming from the poor—80% of the population. In 2002, a coup very briefly deposed him. At the time, Irish filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain were in Caracas, shooting a documentary about Chávez for British television. Their film deconstructs the coup and its aftermath—and electrifyingly records history unfolding on-the-spot, outside and inside the presidential palace.
Chávez aimed to free Venezuela from free-market policies imposed on it by the U.S. He did not, however, nationalize Venezuela’s oil. This industry already was state-owned, but run for private benefit by executives Chávez would replace. The poor had gotten nothing by Venezuela’s being the world’s fourth largest oil supplier.
Six private TV stations opposed the state-run one, questioning Chávez’s motives, sanity, sexual orientation. Once in power, “re-establishing democracy,” the opposition silenced the state-run station and dissolved the National Electoral Board, Supreme Court, National Assembly. With his presidential return following the coup’s collapse, Chávez addressed opponents: “Oppose me: fine! But you must not oppose the Constitution.”
Moneyed interests, backed by military elite (at least encouraged by the U.S.), organized a citizens’ march on the presidential palace to effect the coup. Snipers shot at Chávez supporters, but private media edited footage so it appeared that return fire was aimed at the opposition march that in fact had been safely diverted. Police went on a shooting rampage against Chávez supporters, further bloodying the streets.
Chávez, held captive, refused to resign; but the media/government lied, saying he had resigned. Chávez cabinet members communicated the truth to the international community, which got the message back to Venezuela by cable TV. The people rose up, pressuring the return of the president they had elected, whom only a referendum could constitutionally replace.