Tonight, Venezuela is seeing a spasm of violence that’s unlike anything the country has experienced since 1989. Information is fragmented, since an almost complete media black-out is in place, but you don’t need the media to hear your neighbor’s screams.
Caracas, Valencia, Merida and San Cristobal in particular have become virtual war zones: National Guard units and National Police have been shooting tear gas canisters and buckshot sometimes directly at protesters, sometimes into residential buildings and, raiding any place they think student protesters may be hiding. Alongside them, the government backed colectivos (basically paramilitary gangs on motorbikes, a tropical basij) shoot at people with live ammo.
But of course, this is no war zone: in a war zone you have two sides shooting at each other. Tonight one side is doing all the shooting, the other side is doing all the being shot at.
The videos that are starting to come out are simply shocking. It’s as though the denouement we both sides have either feared or looked forward to for so long is finally coming to a head. See the arrival of the colectivos at Altamira square earlier tonight:
As these videos were being shot, president Maduro was on a live TV and radio cadena broadcast saying “I can give you guarantees that what those colectivos are doing is working, producing.”
Here we see the Tupamaros, perhaps the oldest and best established colectivo, at work in Los Ruices.
It gets worse. In this video, you can see the National Guard murdering a civilian in La Candelaria (at 1:52)
Here, we see National Guard troops shooting a civilian in Av. Panteon – there are conflicting reports about whether he survived:
Some Twitter streams are genuinely scary. JGpunto writes, while hiding from police and collectives in one a residential building in Altamira: “They found us”, his next tweets are mayhem and beatings of the students hiding with him.
Others post a picture of the National Guard beating down a building’s door:
Here is Catia tonight – the one glimmer of hope is that everyone has a camera ready phone these days – there will be plenty of evidence:
Here we see the guy shot at Avenida Panteon, above:
After midnight, a fire was set in an apartment in El Marqués , (Romulo Gallegos Ave.)
The Petare-Santa Lucia Road:
Here we see soldiers shooting into residential buildings in the Caracas neighborhood of Santa Monica:
And this is not Kyiv, not Baghdad…it’s Valencia tonight:
Here’s Barquisimeto earlier today:
And this was San Cristobal yesterday. (We’re hearing reports that the internet has gone down in San Cristobal now.)
Of course it’s not just the big cities. This is Acarigua tonight:
Ramon Muchacho is working with Polichacao to evacuate students from their hidding places. You read that right, the municipal police is scrambling to keep national security forces from killing protesters.
A grave line has been crossed. Real, physical violence is finally catching up with the huge reserve of pent-up rhetorical violence we’ve suffered through since 1999.
We’ve spent 15 years fearing this.
Now we’re living it.