Algeria, Sudan and April 13
Undoubtedly, three political events or dramas of different characteristics, different ideological symbols, geographical spaces, history and time, but with one element in common: the Armed Force together with the People.
On 2 April, we were surprised by the news of the resignation of the president of the Arab Republic of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, after being in power for 20 years. Bouteflika is one of the most important political leaders in his country; at 19 he joined the National Liberation Army during the war of independence; he was a member of President Ahmed Ben Bella’s government; he held high level posts at the service of the State; and he has been a prominent leader of the National Liberation Front of that neighbouring sister country. After the death of President Houari Boumedienne, in the midst of internal struggles in the FLN, he was banished from power, suffered exile and persecution and was accused of alleged acts of corruption. He returned to his homeland and was elected president in 1999, where his mandate was characterised by a fight, which he won, against corruption and for the modernisation of his country, devastated by a bloody internal war against the Islamic Front.
Taking a firm stand against colonialism, in favor of the Saharawi cause, Palestine and against “Apartheid”, he has undoubtedly been a prominent leader of the third world countries, of the non-aligned countries, of OPEC, of the African and Arab world. However, President Bouteflika, a man of these credentials and political career, resigned his post, after mass demonstrations of his people against the announcement of his nomination, for a fifth term of office. The mass demonstrations, which took place without violence, were supported by the National Liberation Front itself, the ruling party, and by the Algerian Army. That is, the mechanisms that give legitimacy to the country were activated. This action and sense of responsibility of the factors of power, the Army and the Party, alongside the people, have surely delivered their country from episodes of violence or destabilisation and pave the way to seek a political solution to the crisis they are facing, triggering the corresponding constitutional mechanisms.
I had the opportunity to meet President Bouteflika there in 2001, when we attended the first meetings of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum and for the meetings of the Joint Commission between the two sister nations, members of OPEC. The country was just emerging, victorious, from a period marked by the violence and Islamic Front extremism, a terrorist organisation supported by several of the monarchies of the region and which was the prelude to the conflicts that, years later, plunged other neighbouring countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria, into bloodshed.
The beautiful and heroic Algiers, the capital, the “Kasbah” with its Arabic-Mediterranean facade, still experienced the ravages of that bloody confrontation and the security measures were extreme. However, Algeria was gradually resuming normality and the president was leading the country to a sustained period of prosperity. I was always surprised how the party, the FLN and the Algerian Armed Forces, supported the people and directed the political process, guaranteeing stability and the interests of all.
This characteristic has been the strength of a nation that emerged from a bloody war against colonialism; which has suffered from the political upheaval and the siege of a sovereign and advanced country, which has taken sides for the most just causes, faced a war against Islamic extremism supported from abroad and maintains an unwavering position against the colonialism that still persists in Western Sahara, for the interests of Africa, the developing countries and OPEC. A country politically besieged and afflicted with economic problems that, nevertheless, is capable of acting promptly and decisively to avoid destabilisation and violence, the suffering of the people, listening and placing itself at their side.
Then, I had more opportunities to meet President Bouteflika, taking part in meetings with him, along with president Chávez during the OPEC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Riyadh in 2007. I also met him subsequently, in December 2008, along with the Algerian Minister of Energy, Chakib Khelil, at the extraordinary meeting of OPEC in the city of Oran in Algeria when, after the fall in the price of oil in August of that year, from 120 dollars a barrel to 35 dollars a barrel in just 6 months, we decided to make a cut of 4.5 million barrels of oil day; and which meant us cutting 364 mbpd, from 3.4 million bpd to 3,015 million of production, a level we maintained until December 2013, prior to the disaster.
The last time I saw President Bouteflika was in September 2014, when he was chancellor, when in the company of the then Minister of Oil Yousef Yousfi, he received me directly on the outskirts of Algiers. It was an unusual gesture, since his health complicated matters. It was really a gesture for one of President Chávez’ ministers; for a friend of Algeria. I was surprised, despite his condition and age, by the clarity of his thinking and his political acumen. I recognised and respected President Bouteflika and his statesmanlike status, which has allowed him, as now, to always decide in favor of the supreme interests of his people. I hope Algeria will resolve, as I am sure it will, its internal affairs for the benefit of that sister nation.
For its part, Sudan is one of the most complex and troubled countries in Africa. The aftermath of colonialism introduced the seed of ethnic and religious conflict, for water and land, that have kept this neighbouring people devastated by war, division, violence and the commission of crimes against humanity, particularly in the conflict of Darfur. After a protracted litigation and transnational interests around oil, the country was divided; and, in 2011, the Republic of South Sudan was created. The youngest nation of the United Nations that has, however, only suffered war and violence since it was founded.
I remember that, when we were a non-permanent member country, participating in the United Nations Security Council, between 2015–2016, we made all our diplomatic efforts to support a peaceful resolution of the Darfur conflict; to alleviate the system of sanctions imposed by the UN on the country. We constantly monitored the conflict that was tearing these people apart, which was part of the Security Council permanent agenda, where, on the one hand, the interests of the great powers in the struggle to control the country and the region were expressed; and, on the other hand, the position of the African Union, the only organisation that, we felt, had the legitimacy to mediate in the conflict and the peace efforts, having the support of the “affected country”, in this case, the Sudan. We insisted, together with Angola and Chile; and, later, Uruguay and Egypt, in the stance of “African solutions to African problems”.
However, the situation of President Omar al-Bashir, was unsustainable from the point of view of political and ethical principles. As president, Bashir led a cruel war against the other half of his people, which resulted in extreme suffering through the indescribable cruelties that were committed against civilians, women and children, in the development of an absurd conflict, where the positions of power and group interests were unshakeable. He placed himself above the interests of his people and submerged the country in permanent chaos. Of course, we never supported, as in any similar case, these actions of governments or individuals who violate Human Rights and are accused of committing crimes or atrocities against human beings. It’s a matter of principle. For these cruel acts and crimes against humanity, President Bashir has warrant for arrest from the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
After successive mass protests, on 11 April, Sudan’s Minister of Defence announced to the world that the Armed Forces had deposed President Bashir; that he himself was under house arrest and that they would assume the leadership of a transitional government, including all sectors of the country, for two years, and then call elections. They clarify that they do not intend to remain in power and that they will not extradite President Bashir, who will be tried in the country.
Unlike President Bouteflika, President Bashir, with a track record always linked to violence and the authoritarian exercise of power, did not want to step aside, to separate himself from power. However, like in Algeria, the Army sided with the people on the streets. Otherwise, it would not have been possible to remove from power a president who led his own people into an atrocious civil war and who for 30 years has done everything he could to stay close to the circle of power. The Sudanese Army has acted decisively to save the country from a situation that, if a political solution was not reached, would drag its people into more suffering and probably lead to foreign intervention. The Armed Forces shuns a president and his circle clinging to power because it knows that they have a lot to lose due to the human rights violations perpetrated against their people. The Army’s action, directly involved in the fratricidal war, offers a solution to their internal crisis, their conflict, as they have control of the process, preserving their sovereignty and leading the country towards a scenario of greater inclusion, which is essential to reach a situation of stability.
Yesterday, Saturday, marked the anniversary of the extraordinary events of 13 April, when the people, together with the Bolivarian Armed Forces, managed to depose the dictator Carmona and restore the Constitution and power to President Hugo Chávez. Decisive moments for our people who, despite the repression, the fear imposed by fascist violence and the hatred of the political sectors that encouraged the coup, took to the streets, came down from the neighborhoods to reclaim the power they had obtained through the elections, to restore President Chávez, prisoner of the coup leaders. These are also decisive moments also for our officers and soldiers who, inspired by the most beautiful Bolivarian principles, decided to side with the people, the Constitution and reestablish popular sovereignty, rescue the dignity of the Armed Forces by bringing President Chávez to safety in Miraflores, to open up the possibility of developing the process of profound political, economic and social changes that the people overwhelmingly supported. The Bolivarian Revolution through which the people showed their willingness to give their lives, and because of which the enemies of the country would assassinate President Chávez.
This resolute action of the Armed Forces together with the people, allowed the people to play, as never before, the leading role in developing the country’s future and its social demand. It allowed the constitutional order to be restored and started the process that led us to achieve our Full Oil Sovereignty policy, social inclusion, full political liberties and create the conditions to rebuild the Nation, to create a future full of social justice, work and well-being for all Venezuelans.
Algeria, Sudan and 13 April are political lessons for the country, but especially for the people and the Armed Forces. It is in the people that the sovereignty of the country resides whilst it the Bolivarian National Armed Forces that have the authority and strength to enforce the Constitution and the rights of all Venezuelans. We cannot, therefore, allow both fundamental elements for the future of our country, to be subordinated to group interests that claim to maintain or take the country into situations which we may regret for many years.
In decisive moments for the Nation, as I indicated in my message to the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, we have no other option but to support a patriotic alternative alongside the people. Listen and support the people in their struggle to return to the Constitution, to the Plan of the Nation, to sovereignty, to living well. Only your decisive action, for the Constitution, the humble, with a Patriotic Government Junta, that includes all the patriotic sectors of the country, where you are a guarantee of peace and sovereignty; a Patriotic Junta, that creates the conditions to restore the sovereignty of the people, address the economic and social crisis and the humanitarian emergency, will allow the country to get out of this chaos, avoid war or foreign intervention. Free our people from the blackmail and impositions of power groups that betray the nation, that are selling it off today or that promise to do so, that will continue to ruin our future. Long live the civic-military union of 13 April! A Government Patriotic Junta is urgently needed!