few weeks before Hugo Chávez investiture ceremony, a group of soldiers
approached a lodge of freemasons in area of Altamira, in Caracas. It was a small
group headed by Hernán Grüber Odremán, emissary of the president elect and
maximum leader of the second coup d'état against Carlos Andrés Pérez, on
November 27, 1992. Grüber Odremán had made an appointment with the "venerable
master" Fermín Vale, the spiritual leader of the lodge, to transmit a verbal
request. "Hugo Chávez wants to start in Freemasonry and has chosen this lodge to
carry it out."
a cousin of Chávez's former vice president and confidant, José Vicente Rangel,
was "a master of early masonry" and had preserved the rules and rituals of the
independence heroes. They were the first American leaders who had entered the
spiritual paths to ask for help in their earthly wars. Hugo wanted to start in
Freemasonry as similar as possible to how the liberators did it -according to
that oral traditional story.
the members of the lodge discuss the convenience or not of accepting a new
member. But because of the investiture of the character, in that case there was
little to discuss. The entrance was immediately accepted, says one of the former
members of the lodge who prefers to remain anonymous.
the group had strict rules to accept the applicant. And, among the conditions
communicated to Grüber Odremán, was the isolation for a few hours of the
president-elect from the military house guard who guarded him day and night. The
rear admiral communicated the condition of the lodge but it was rejected by
those who watched over the security of the future president. The surveillance
ring was not willing to leave Hugo Chavez alone in the hands of four strangers.
The lodge refused to allow the ritual to be witnessed by the military, so Chávez
sought another option for initiation. The veteran masons are convinced that the
chosen lodge was Sol de América, in the center of Caracas, to which the former
mayor of Caracas and leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV,
Freddy Bernal belongs.
ex-policeman and for many years a strong man of chavism, has left the
front line of politics. Introverted, usually wears casual clothing: flannel and
jeans. His body built shows that he participates in some sport or uses weight
machines in gyms. He carries two cell phones attached to the belt and repeatedly
checks for new messages or calls. Bernal's diction is peculiar. He pronounces
the “s” in a similar way as the “c” and “z” is pronounced in Spain, which can
confer him an innocent image that has little to do with the reality.
is a tough man, who shouldered the responsibility of organizing the Bolivarian
circles during the years of greatest political tension in Venezuela, at the
beginning of the last decade. Those groups were attributed the street handling
of weapons, the intimidation of the opposition.
approached Bernal in an act of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, created
as a support platform for Hugo Chávez. He accepted the questions. He does not
place barriers, although he listens and observes with a cautious, almost of
distrustful gesture. He does not deny his membership in the Mason group but does
not confirm that Hugo Chávez requested an initiation ritual. Apart from the
important decisions of the party, he avoids giving more information than
cannot assure or deny it. I do not know if he went there or not. I am a member
of that lodge and what I can confirm is that we do not deal with political or
religious matters, only philosophical issues -Bernal
Hugo Chávez came into power in 1999, relations between Venezuela and Cuba began
to strengthen. The military frequently travels to Havana to be trained and
qualified, and trade and passenger numbers grow. The defunct Venezuelan airline
Aeropostal had inaugurated two weekly flights to Havana on those days, Tuesdays
and Thursdays. And since then, the airline management began receiving requests
from high-ranking military.
wanted to travel to Havana for free. All received some type of training course:
military intelligence and internal security, among many others. They asked me
for free passages every time. And to avoid having problems with the government,
we had to give them - explains Ramón Barrios, former vice president of
Aeropostal , who accompanied Hugo Chávez during his first trips to
respectful and even fearful of Santeria's reach, Barrios knew very well
the operation of the air terminal and the government itself. He had also been
one of the observers of Hugo Chávez's first party, Movimiento Quinta República
(Fifth Republic Movement), MVR, in the 1998 presidential elections.