Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200
The Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario 200 or MBR-200) was the political and social movement that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez founded in 1982. It eventually planned and executed the February 4, 1992 attempted coup. The movement later evolved into the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), set up in July 1997 to support Hugo Chávez' candidacy in the Venezuelan presidential election, 1998. The move to electoral politics took several years of intense internal debate, as many felt that the elections might be fixed to prevent an MBR-200 candidate winning. It took a nationwide survey conducted by the movement to show that it might gain enough electoral support to make victory hard to deny.
The movement's first members were Chávez and his fellow military officers Felipe Acosta Carles and Jesús Urdaneta Hernández. On 17 December 1982, as Chávez biographer Richard Gott reports, the three
revolutionary officers swore an oath underneath the great tree at Samán de Güere, near Maracay, repeating the words of the pledge that Simón Bolívar had made in Rome in 1805, when he swore to devote his life to the liberation of Venezuela from Spanish yoke: "I swear before you, and I swear before the God of my fathers, that I will not allow my arm to relax, nor my soul to rest, until I have broken the chains that oppress us..."
The movement began "more as a political study circle than as a subversive conspiracy," but soon its members "began thinking in terms of some kind of coup d'état." Chávez and his friends soon recruited more members, including Francisco Arias Cárdenas, in March 1985.
As Hugo Chávez himself explained in a speech at the University of Havana in Cuba on December 14, 1994;
"Nosotros tuvimos la osadía de fundar un movimiento dentro de las filas del ejército nacional de Venezuela, hastiados de tanta corrupción, y nos juramos dedicarle la vida a la construcción de un movimiento revolucionario y a la lucha revolucionaria en Venezuela, ahora, en el ámbito latinoamericano. Eso comenzamos a hacerlo el año bicentenario del nacimiento de Bolívar."
"We had the audacity to found a movement within the ranks of the Army of Venezuela. We were tired of the corruption, and we swore to dedicate our lives to the creation of a revolutionary movement and to the revolutionary struggle in Venezuela, straight away, within Latin America. We started doing this the year of the bicentenary of the birth of Bolívar".
February 1992 coup attempt
Chávez' participation in the 1998 election
For a number of years after his 1994 release from prison, Chávez maintained a position against participation in elections, believing them a fixed game which merely legitimated the established order. This led to a split with his colleague Francisco Arias Cárdenas, who left the MBR-200. In the early years after his release, Chávez considered the possibility of another coup attempt, but with the prospects appearing slim, some advisers, notably Luis Miquilena, urged him to reconsider his scepticism of the elections, arguing that Chávez could potentially win so convincingly that the establishment would not be able to deny him victory. To find out whether this was the case, Chávez set up teams of psychologists, sociologists, university professors and students to carry out a survey. With their support, grassroots members of the Bolivarian movement polled tens of thousands of people across the country. The results showed that 70% of respondents supported Chávez running for the presidency - and 57% said they would vote for him. Support for the electoral route was strengthened when Arias Cárdenas, as a candidate for Radical Cause, won the Governorship of Zulia State in the December 1995 regional elections. Despite this, the MBR-200 remained divided over electoral participation, and spent a year debating the issue in local, regional and national assemblies. A national congress on 19 April 1997 took from 9 am until 2 am the next day to reach a conclusion, ultimately deciding to launch Chávez' candidacy for the Venezuelan presidential election, 1998. Some members of the movement resigned in protest, holding too much at stake. In July 1997 Chávez registered the new Fifth Republic Movement with the National Electoral Council (the name had to be changed as Venezuelan law did not permit parties to use Simon Bolivar's name). The international media took little interest, citing opinion polls showing 8% support for Chávez.
- Gott, Richard (2000), In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chávez and the Transformation of Venezuela, London: Verso, ISBN 978-1-85984-775-6.
- Zago, Angela, La Rebelión de los Angeles. Fuentes 1992. ISBN 978-980-6297-12-8