Day of protest #15

0010700912From the wee hours, the National Guard blocked all access to Municipio Libertador, barring any chance that the march could reach the Ministry of Justice.

Heavy riot police and military contained the rally to Francisco de Miranda Avenue at El Rosal. Under the metallic noon-day sun of Caracas, blocks filled up with thousands of expectant protesters in white.

We had people – a lot of people – but there was no sound system, no tarima, none of the normal paraphernalia of a major oppo event. A tense calm dominated. Everyone wondered what was next: violence? confrontation?

Leopoldo showed up unannounced, on a motorcycle. He walked several blocks among the throng of people, sweating, pushing, cheering.

I was told he stood on top of a statue, gave a speech into a megaphone, hugged his wife, and gave himself up to the military personnel. 95% of the people at the rally couldn’t hear him. Most people had no idea what was going on, including me: I was several blocks back, away from this scene.

Then he was gone.

It was over almost as soon as it started. And then…vertigo.

Are we supposed to go home now? March to Miraflores? File down to the Guaire and jump in? Nobody had a plan.

People shuffled up and down the avenue, like zombies.

Antonio Ledezma was around. I walked up and asked him what came next. Got a shrug. Then I saw Juan Requesens and asked him. He didn’t know. I thought Juan Guaidó must be clued in. Blank stare.

No cel reception. No twitter. No news. No leader.

Even those close to López had little clue of what the next move was. Which struck me as bizarre, since Leopoldo is a tactician above all things. Surely, something was cooking, surely his three days in hiding were spent hashing out a master plan. We just had to wait and find out.

Then the rumors started: Diosdado negotiated López’s surrender with his family, in response to threats on his life. The Minister of Justice denied that Leopoldo had been summoned for arrest, so questions spread as to whether or not he was even wanted to begin with, or whether this was all a stunt. Maduro claimed hired assassins had a bounty on López’s life. Carlos Vecchio went MIA. No one from Voluntad Popular had a counternarrative to offer.

By nightfall, Venezuela was once again mired in chaos: wounded protesters in Valencia, students shot by collectivos, violent repression in San Cristóbal, fires and guarimbas scattered around small towns and big cities, all set to the background of conspiracy theories and inertia.

I wish I could tell you what this all means. I just don’t know. Too many questions, very few answers, and a weird, anxious feeling that something is not right.

The only thing I do know: tomorrow we will all wake up and take the streets again.

63 thoughts on “Day of protest #15

  1. I am right now,at 12:18am extremely outraged by the events in Carabobo. Ameliac needs to die, he’s the one who should be getting arrested. 9 wounded,1 dead. That miss tourism (yes, tourism) girl got shot in the head, by this time she’s at the ICU fighting for her life, she has lost her sight. Her life is not over, just ruined forever.

    I am extremely mad right now, and i’m sick of fucking blogs and everyone telling us to go home and wait for fucking something. God damn it I am mad as hell. what the fuck is going on in this country? I wanna go out and shoot somebody just to fuck someone up who deserves it.

  2. It sounds to me like you are describing the feeling of being in the midst of a struggle to overthrow a dictatorship. Thank you.

  3. Unfortunately this movement lacks a lot of substance, Capriles was right, they need more guidance. People are randomly closing streets, no list of demands, no one has control of the masses, everyone has a different reason to protest and none of the leaders clearly state what their ultimate goal is, so everyone is making up their own.

    • Follow Requesens and the different student unions (USB, UCV; UNIMET; UMA; LUZ; ULA) and you will find that these protest do have guidance. They are closing streets to be heard, and to protect themselves against the national guard and colectivos. Activities go from closing streets to protest against insecurity to giving out pamphlets in the Palo Verde subway station.

      Requesens was interviewed in Globovision about 2-3 hours ago, you should look for that interview.

      These protests are happening, and Capriles is not acting accordingly, if you mean that we are lacking leadership from him, then I would agree.

      There are two alternatives (as I see it) put enough pressure on the government until it cracks (For better or worse) or go with Capriles ‘casa por casa’ plan and maybe, just maybe in a few years we will have something to fight for. Both strategies are risky, both can go horribly wrong. But the fact is that RIGHT NOW people are pissed, right now the economy and security of the country is a joke, right now LL was put in jail, right now students are imprisoned and tortured. WE HAVE to do something… right now.

      We can’t just sit idly while students are getting assault rifle cannons shoved up their asses. Imagine if that poor guy was someone you knew, what would you do?

      Protests have to happen given the situation of the country, and protesting against insecurity is as valid as protesting against lack of nail products. When protesters are asked what they are waiting for, anything works. Even if the stupid slogan “laSalida” is all they say. (not all people say the stupid slogan, most can be objective)

    • Capriles was right, yeah, like all of you, smart guys and gals.
      Pray tell me, why is it that The New York Times (as you all know, a third-rate broadsheet) shows this headline today: “Venezuelan Opposition Chief Surrenders, but Not Without a Rally”?
      Chief? Leopoldo López, “Opposition Chief”?
      Poor clueless William Neuman. Obviously, he hasn’t been reading CC these days…

      • In gringoese, “chief” can refer to either a single leader of a group or, as is likely here, to one member of a group of leaders. Mr. Neuman has a reasonably good grasp of how things are in Venezuela, and, given that Leopoldo Lopez heads VP, I think its a reasonable usage in English to refer to him as an opposition chief.

        By referring to him as an “opposition chief”, they are indicating that he is a leader, rather than the leader via “chief of the opposition coalition”.

  4. @metodex: please know that you are not alone in your outrage and anger. Even though there are so many who are NOT there in body, know that there are so very many who are there in spirit. That might not be any consolation to you. Please stay safe.

    • Not only that, but we’re also feeling angst, anxiety, angriness, frustrated… We also don’t know what to do to help and finally be able to rescue our country of these demoniac hands.

  5. On day 27th food shortages will really kick in and looting will begin. And then is when things will really become creepy

  6. What is going on in this country you ask? Well, you will get all worked up about this, but this is what’s happening: “gave to some of them red caps, and glass beads to put round their necks, and many other things of little value, which gave them great pleasure, and made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to see.” This line applies now as it did 520 years ago. Until we don’t change our way of thinking we will be doing this for a long time to come.

  7. I hear you regarding the lack of info. At one point it got so bizarre that i was relaying info via twitter to people in the protest from what I heard live on Colombian radio, all while freezing my butt off in Canada.

    And I have to say I’m totally baffled by the Diosdado affair.

    • “And I have to say I’m totally baffled by the Diosdado affair.”

      I noticed that. Yo me caí de culo. I had to post about that and I had to do it in German and send tweets about that to several German journos. It really looks like a bad film about a banana republic dictatorship…but it is not a film, it’s my country.

      • Yes, something decidedly stinks there. It looked to me like he was taking LL as a trophy: he brokered the rumored deal and was bringing in his man for the reward on some Old West wanted poster.

        • Diosdado is being made into a poster boy for the regime , increasingly given greater and greater public exposure , he handles the attack on smuggling on the colombian border , is given his own tv program , he picks up LL on becoming imprisoned and takes him here and there . These things have nothing to do with his official job as head of the national assembly . There is something going on inside Chavismos leadership that wants him outfront , playing the role of grand leader !! the testimony of a former and repentant member of the military intelligence dept names him as the actual behind the scenes master of Chavista high govt decisions . Wonder if as things get worse there wont be a manouver whereby Maduro is retired and presumably more resolute and efficient Diosdado takes charge .??

    • Both the Diosdado affair and the “rogue” group inside SEBIN are, very likely, product of the same internal plot. Maduro is weak and lacks consistent support from inside Chavismo. I believe that Maduro has much more to fear from his friends than from his adversaries. Something is cooking behind doors. As someone once said, it is kind of unpolite to disturb/interrupt your adversaries when they are busy destroying themselves. As Quico pointed out, they will hit the floor sooner than expected, more because of their internal dissent, total incompetence and greed for power/money than of external, meaning popular pressure, factors.

  8. Yo espero que este plan de Ma Corina y Leopoldo funcione. El gobierno estaba en su punto mas bajo. La vaina iba a reventar por donde de verdad les duele y en cambio ahora parece que retrocedimos al 11A. Me parece que esto es lo mejor que le podia pasar a maduro. De ahora en mas, su unico trabajo es “defender la revolucion”, y el pais que se termine de caer a pedazos!

    • Entonces el colapso y autodestrucción chavista vendrá después, pase lo que pase con estas protestas. Venezuela está en un estado insostenible, y estas protestas aunque por un tiempo puedan dar excusa al gobierno para reprimir, no van a quitar los problemas que ya existen. Y al finalizar las protestas, los problemas seguirán y se pondrán mas invibibles. Y seguiremos teniendo a Capriles ahí si llegamos al punto que LL nunca sale de la cárcel o simplemente desaparece. Estas protestas pueden funcionar ahora y generar algún tipo de cambio (para bien o para mal) o eventualmente se calmarán, en cuyo caso, como dije antes, el país se autodestruirá y seguiremos teniendo a HCR para rescatarnos.

    • Nadie cree a Maduro y combo capaz de rechazar a sus propias bases? Les metio amenaza cuando votaron contra el el 14A y el sabe que (asi sean pocos) hay chavista arrecho en la calle ya mismo.

      Que tanta popularidad tienen hoy en dia para distinguir contra quien estan arremetiendo? Chavista o no chavista la represion va a ser igual, los carajos tienen mucho miedo de soltar…

  9. I read somebody saying that aside of stealing the leading role to the students, the LL ‘s affair of today didn’t achieve anything.

    I still think we’ll have to wait and see.

    • LL just called Maduro’s bluff. Is a good way to shut him up with the bogus accusations against him and Machado. I don’t think anything dramatic is going to come out of this. The government does not want to hold that hot potato in their hands for too long. They will probably let him go with a presentation regime, and that will be that.

      As for the protests they need to be channeled into other future actions but spread in time, not all at once to avoid fatigue. The message that there is a big and growing popular discontent has been successfully delivered. New actions should keep hammering and spreading the message with focused protests and other demonstrations. The purpose is to let the popular discontent grow even more until it reaches a critical mass.

      After that, the next steps should aim to demonstrate that a leader – or a leadership – can muster that discontent and direct it and use it for other non violent actions. That will be time to flex the opposition muscle and make the government feel it. With strikes, non-cooperation actions, demonstrations in government places, etc.

    • There was too much apathy and self defeatism on the oppo ranks , something was need to restore the oppos spirit of resistence , specially after what was percived to be another defeat on the polls last december, Capriles however wise and careful in the exercise of his leadership was failing to keep the morale of oppo forces up. The oppo was in a funk .
      One effect of the whole street protest exercise led by LL MCM and Ledezma and the students energetic spirit of resistance has been to galvanize the oppo , make it more militant , mistakes have been made in not focusing on clearly sharply defined goals or messages , but in a way it has profited the opposition , made the gangster like behaviour of the regime more poignant and visible for all the world to see.
      Economist think that the protests are contributing to make the already critical financial situation of the regime even worse , so all in all I dont think that the regime has come out strenghtened out of this confrontation . and yet …there are risks in what has been done , ultimately its a gamble involving both gains and potential losses . Things are going to get worse , the regime will become more desperate leading to more desperate measures which will hurt all !! We still dont know what the results will be .
      I for one suspect that there was a group of people , mainly the students who were ready to burst with the regimes aggravated situation and more radical actions . At the same time Capriles judicious reticense in no joining the street protest line whole heartedly makes the govt careful about trying not to attack him too much because they realize the alternative of handing the leadership to a more assertive leadership may make it worse for them . No easy answers , no ready made judgements , its a gamble , one which might bear good fruit and also some bad results !! Anyway its done !! Well just have to see how it works out.!!
      As always time will tell.!!

      • Right on Bill, this has cost the regime dearly.

        Now up on its agenda: February 27.

        This will be the 25 years anniversary of the 1989 riots aka Caracazo, a crucial day in the mythology of Chavismo, but what have they got to show for it? Scarcity and inflation, this on the heels of this monstrous display of repression. I’m thinking PR disaster, and Oppo boon.

        Shortly the Chaverment has to pick their deadly poison. Either they raise gas and drop some subsidies and impoverish the people instantly or they settle for hyperinflation fueled by the government deficit and thus impoverish the people quickly.

        So, if I were a mid to lower rank chavista I would feel very insecure. If I were a high level chavista, I’d make sure exile abode is ready.

  10. To me, it looks like we might have fertile ground for a civil disobedience campaign, now that people are channeling their frustations. The seeds were planted with all this government incompetence, and now people are fed up with queues, crime, inflation, crumbling infrastructure, etc.

    It’s a shame there’s such drought of substance, of message.

    We don’t need hours of blabbing on radio or TV -not that we have the option any more- and we don’t need to publish books full of charts and properly quoted sources. We need a simple message, that people can relate to.

    Violeta Chamorro beat sandinismo with the platform: ‘Tenemos hambre, queremos amnistía, tortillas más baratas, fuera el servicio militar’, roughly translated as “We’re hungry, we want amnesty, cheaper tortillas, end conscription”. That was before twitter, it was before these generation of students was even born.

    I think we need a theme along the lines of: “Queremos seguridad, no más colas, abajo la inflación”. Again, roughly translated as “We want security, no more queuing, down with inflation”. Something we can chant, we can tweet, we can send by sms, and deliver to anyone we come to know.

    Once we have a theme, leaders can go into more depth using rallies, speeches, op-eds, interviews, pamphlets.

    But neither the theme nor message can be “Fuera Maduro”. Changing governments is not an end in itself, policy changes and solving problems ARE the goals. Changing the government is just a means to achieve those goals. People are more likely to close ranks around “Queremos seguridad, no más colas, abajo la inflación” (just an example), than behind “La Salida” or “Hay que salir de este gobierno” or “Maduro, renuncia” or any other thing that isn’t itself a day-to-day problem.

    • True civil disobedience happens spontaneously; it is not “planted”. And it was starting to happen thanks to maduro’s incompetence… But Ma Corina had other plans. We are in serious danger of losing a lot of what we had achieved last year. #LaSalida could be the worst strategic blunder made by the opposition. Let’s pray it is not.

      • True civil disobedience?

        You’re going to have to explain that a bit better, because my main references for successful civil disobedience campaigns are Ghandi and MLK, both of which had a powerful leadership, training of the sympathizers to avoid resorting to violence, and many symbolic protests (like the Salt March and the Bus Boycott, off the top of my head).

        What examples of spontaneous “true civil disobedience” do you have in mind?

        • What I mean is that this wave of protests is very localized within a clear social segment. I am waiting to see if Ma Corina’s plan of “planting” a generalized spirit of protest across social class boundaries works out. If the protest remains mostly middle class phenomenon, then, not only will we not advance in achieving change, but we will also move backwards and lose the sympathy of the significant number of chavistas that votes for HCR last year. All this could really be a catastrophic mistake. I hope Ma Corina is right; she forced us through this path, and now we need this to work!

          • I’m not on the “LL, MCM and AL forced this situation” bandwagon, I’m starting to think it was brewing, and they jumped on that wagon before it left the station without anyone from the oppostion on it. To quote an underreported Ledezma interview, full of great quotes, from January 27:

            “Si alguna tarea debemos cumplir en los próximos días es levantar la empalizada a los venezolanos que han creído en nosotros, que la tienen en el suelo. Si nosotros no partimos de ese hecho vamos a pelar bola. La desmoralización hay que evitarla, y no se trata de ser focos de perturbación o de convertirnos en agitadores de calle. No se trata tampoco de marchas y contramarchas. Hay gente que busca evadir responsabilidades diciendo: “es que el líder es usted mismo”. ¡No, esa vaina no es así! Un pueblo movilizado sin un rumbo definido no llega a ninguna parte. ¡Aquí la dirigencia está para dirigir! O dirigimos o alguien nos va a sustituir en el camino”

            Which, I’d liberally translate as:

            “If there’s anything we need to accomplish in next days is raising the morale of the Venezuelans who believe in us, that is currently very low. If we don’t start there, we’re going to be screwed. We have to avoid demoralization, and that’s not about becoming a source of disturbance or agitators. It’s not about demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. There’s people out there ducking their responsibility and saying: ‘You ave to be your own leader’. That ain’t right! A mobilized people without goals achieves nothing. Leadership is meant to lead! Either we lead, or someone is going to eat our lunch”

            Starting in January, there had been several student protests in Táchira, UAH, USM, ISUM, UNIMET, UCAB, UC, UCV, LUZ, etc. Those mostly revolved around crime on college campus and crime in general. It wasn’t until the government decided to make an example out of the students from Tachira, transporting them to the prison in Coro that the protests began to grow, in the lead up to 12F, the date set by LL, MCM and AL.

            Had the government and the paramilitary groups not killed any students on 12F, nor caused any major scandal, and then had released jailed students. This might have died down, their bullshit proposal of “sent ministers to colleges to find solutions for the crime problem”, would have been nice enough words to get students to think they achieved something, and that would be all. Mission accomplished.

            But no. This government is run by inepts, bigots and thugs. They had to crack down on students on 12F, and here we are.

            • Of course the government would not calm things down! What did you expect? This is perfect for them! It provides them the chance to regroup and direct attention away from the issues. But Ma Corina y su combo should have anticipated this, as HCR clearly warned. To use a chess metaphor, we were in the endgame phase of the game: The time to turn the strengths we had acquired all through the previous year into an inescapable check mate! A Time for patience and skillful maneuvering. To the extent that the oppo’s strategic goal should be to mobilize people in barrios to express their discontent with the government incompetence, #LaSalida is not helping. It AGAIN turns the struggle into a fight for abstract concepts like freedom and democracy, instead of more mundane demands like finding basic staples and having electricity…

              • agree completely. it’s the same mistake, over and over again. the need to express ourselves rather than persuade others.

              • I agree we need to shift from “a fight for abstract concepts like freedom and democracy, instead of more mundane demands like finding basic staples and having electricity”

                I just don’t think #LaSalida is responsible for the current situation. Students were already protesting, and already scalating. LL, MCM and AL simply jumped in.

                HCR, PJ, Copei and other MUD politicians critical of #LaSalida were doing anything either. Ni lavan ni prestan la batea. I didn’t see them acknowledging, guiding or calming down all those student protests before 4F in Tachira. Where were they?

                Noew they’ve had to swallow all that bitching and the underhanded attacks against LL and MCM (but not AL for some reason), and now they ended up joining the students anyway, but too late to have ascendency and autoritas to guide the movement, like LL and MCM do have; and too late to take back the MUD division THEY brought to the spotlight, by going passive agressive on LL and MCM, instead of lavar los trapitos sucios en casa. #LaSalida didn’t attack oppo politicians in any of the press declarations I’ve read, but those oppo politicians did attack #LaSalida.

              • I agree that people wanted to go out in the streets since before #LaSalida. I agree with AL that it was important to avoid demoralization and give people a sense of moving toward an objective. But I fault MCM, LL and AL for acting outside the MUD and fracturing the unity we had achieved. it was their responsibility to present a proposal for action, ACCEPT and INCORPORATE differing opinions, reach a consensus, and act on that plan as ONE BLOCK!

              • Let go back to your chess metaphor. We were playing a timed match, and time was running out. A good move is great, a decent move is ok, a bad move is costly, but losing because you took your entire time thinking and made no move? That’s pathetic

                The decision making process in MUD is close to broken. Who knows how much they waited to reach a consensus on Cadakazo, only to have it overwhelm the opposition, and cost us the Municipal election?

                If they had waited, until HCR was absolutely convinced that MUD should assume leadership, there wouldn’t be any MUD politicians with enough legitimacy to guide a movement so late in the game.

              • Let’s go back to your chess metaphor. We were playing a timed match, and time was running out. A good move is great, a decent move is ok, a bad move is costly, but losing because you took your entire time thinking and made no move? That’s pathetic

                The decision making process in MUD is close to broken. Who knows how much they waited to reach a consensus on Cadakazo, only to have it overwhelm the opposition, and cost us the Municipal election?

                If they had waited, until HCR was absolutely convinced that MUD should assume leadership, there wouldn’t be any MUD politicians with enough legitimacy to guide a movement so late in the game.

              • Good point. And besides a dysfunctional MUD, there are other important constraints to defining a successful strategy, like the disappearance of independent media and the strangulation of the private economy. I just hope they have a real strategy; and that that strategy not be just “remain in the streets until maduro quits!”

              • I hope so too. I hope so too.

                Dwelling on “Maduro vete ya” would be a terrible move. MUD needs to step up their game and put some content out there tackling real issues (queues, inflation, crime), through any channel they get.

  11. This is a dirty war. Lopez could easily “disappear”, or be dead soon. Then Marduro can use that to justify rounding up other opposition leaders and charging them with that murder.

  12. I calmed down after 5 cigarettes and reading your answers. Moral support is much needed. Thank you all, and thanks to all bloggers. Good night everyone

  13. People feel disoriented and the leaders and all they get is “go home. we’ll keep in touch. bye”.

    I’m not asking for a good ol’ “torch and pitchfork” rally, but we need something better than what we got.

    So far, the best thing I’ve read was written by Naky:

    “Mucha calma y más cordura.
    Creo en el camino de la política. No somos el enemigo. El chavista promedio tampoco. Tenemos la capacidad de incorporarlos, de construir los puentes que necesitamos. Es imprescindible que lo entendamos, que la emoción de la vindicación no le gane a racionalidad.”

    The whole post is worth reading: http://zaperoqueando.blogspot.com/2014/02/la-noche-del-17.html

    This is the sort of things our leaders should be saying…

  14. well officially the protests are over, the cops and national guard are acting as efficient as ever (i’m impressed). We’re now into full oppresion mode here in Maracaibo, all protests have been bombed, and many have been jailed.

    YOU CAN’T PROTEST.

  15. In the mean time Viktor Yanukovych finally agreed to talk. Why? because the protests made it count. Yes, 24 people lost their lives, but the world noticed and Viktor blinked. In the mean time we keep trying these peaceful protests. I’m not saying people should destroy the capital like they did in Ukraine but whatever we’re doing is not working.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/19/279429708/kiev-is-a-war-zone-as-chaos-continues-in-ukraine

  16. Terrible, at this moment the police and armed thugs currently at Plaza Altamira (9:51 pm local time), are storming buildings and robbing motorcycles at gunpoint, follow @milmanrique @fmonroy

  17. Am I the only one wondering what has happened to this site? The country is in meltdown and the only update of the day is a musician passing away?

  18. Video de la guardia nacional cuando asesina a un manifestante en la candelaria caracas
    Video of national guard officers killing a protester in La Candelaria, Caracas, minutes ago:

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