Fear and Loathing in Mérida

Barricadas 1

The route of our reader’s walking tour, marked out in red.

While attention centers on the protests in San Cristóbal, few have stopped to notice that other Andean cities have seen similar, if perhaps not quite as extensive, protest movements. Here, longtime reader Reinaldo Chacón sends us his first-hand account of the situation in Mérida, Venezuela’s original Andean college town. 

Just recently, I decided to go see the barricades on Avenida Cardenal Quintero in Mérida, the town I’ve called home for eight years. As I set out, in my mind’s eye I’m picturing a couple of streets shut down, with some obstacles to stop cars and slow down motorcycles. But as I get there, along with two friends, I see my imagination has fallen far short.

What I see, instead, is a chaotic tangle of debris, wires, pipes, wood and old furniture all cobbled into a kind of structure, holding up metal sheets almost two and a quarter meters high with anti-government slogans scrawled across them.

This first big barricade conceals a series of obstacles spaced every twenty or thirty meters. You see bus stops toppled flat on their side to provide some sort of cover. You see partially burned piles of garbage with clouds of flies and maggots crawling all over them. You see metal wire strung across the street to stop motorcyclists, sometimes to deadly effect. You see burnt logs, piles of rubble, a half-buried pay-phone booth. And you see people guarding the entrance to the barricade. I can’t help but wonder if they’ve become anosmic from all the tear gas; the fumes coming the rotting garbage almost are making me gag.

Watching our steps, careful not to step on a forgotten caltrap – a sharp spike driven into the pavement to puncture oncoming tires – I notice most neighbors have boarded up the lower-story windows. The ones that neglected to do this have all had the windows broken.

Every corner is guarded by youngsters. I don’t believe the oldest one is a day over twenty. They look us up and down and decide to talk to us. They seem nervous at first but after a little chit chat they grow confident and we started asking questions: “Why do you built the barricades in the first place?”, “Why don’t you call the authorities?”, “How often have the colectivos been coming?”, “how many of them?”, “at what time?”, “what do you do when that happens?”, “where do you rest?”, “how do you eat?”, “how long do you plan to stay here”?

They tell us armed men on motorbikes come almost every night between midnight and dawn, in groups of five to ten bikes with two guys each, firing pellets and sometimes real bullets. They say it was only when they saw the security forces protecting them, launching tear gas into their communities and breaking down gates, that they started to build these barricades.

They say they try to sleep during day, but it’s hard to rest when you know the colectivos could come back at any time. It’s all so unpredictable. Sometimes they show up four times a day, sometimes five days pass with no sign of them. They don’t attack everywhere at once. One time they went to El Campito four days in a row, then didn’t show up at all for the next five days. Over this last week, the fights during the daytime have become more intense, because the government is trying to clear the blocks. They managed to get rid of one in an area known as Campo Claro.

The community has the catering all worked out, which seems to please them.  I’ve seen them munch “sanguchitos” for breakfast, pasta with tomato sauce for lunch. In El Rodeo one of the middle aged ladies helping organize the barricades told us how they’re set up to deliver breakfast, lunch, dinner and a late night snack. Sometimes the community sets up to make a “sancocho”, a big soup, to give out. Communal soup kitchens in the heart of the anti-chavista heartland? We kept hearing stories with odd chavistoid overtones like this one.

And they say they will stay here as long as it takes.

They describe the road-blocks in purely defensive terms, saying they’re doing it to protect themselves and repel the colectivos any way they can.They say that may mean using slingshots, or molotov cocktails, or throwing rocks. They don’t say anything about guns, but then, just last night, a woman who was apparently trying to undo one of the barricades was shot dead on Avenida Los Próceres.

Our walk continues through several of Mérida’s middle class residential areas, all near downtown: El Campito, Los Sauzáles, El Rodeo, Independencia, Monseñor Chacón. Avenida Las Américas, the main thoroughfare that connects these places, is closed to traffic. In total, we see almost 5 kilometers of roads shut by barricades. They all look the same, everywhere you get that  same nervy, anxious energy.

On Avenida Las Américas the silence is stunning. Imagine a normally bustling 4-lane main artery gone totally silent. We hear the birds, the crackling of glass under our feet, our own voices and almost nothing else.

The communities behind the barricades are busy organizing themselves, adjusting their daily routines to the situation. Some of them have set up schedules for using natural gas, some of them shut the pedestrian traffic at night. They’re watching all the time and they’re also communicating constantly. As we arrive at El Campito we talk to the guy in charge of the barricade. Almost the first thing he says to us is: “bueno, since you were in Cardenal Quintero, we knew you were around and would be coming here…”

Some tell us that almost everybody in the community is in favor of the barricades, that the whole situation has brought the community closer. There are exceptions, of course. The kids relate arguments they’ve had with neighbors who oppose the barricades – some of them pro-government, others anti – discussions that generally end with: “You want us to lift up the barricade? Fine, but if the colectivos come here to smash up your car, shoot at your windows and vandalize the buildings, who are you are going to call. The police? The police come here with them!”

They also tell us that not all of the kids tending the barricades are from these middle class neighborhoods. Some come from poor communities, barrios, where they can’t speak up so easily because any neighbor could be a member of a colectivo. For opposition-minded barrio kids, helping with a guarimba in an urbanización is the only way to protest (relatively) safely.

Speaking of guarimbas, the guys on the front-line despise the word. They don’t like people calling them guarimberos. They say that guarimba is when people put up roadblocks in the middle of the night and leave, which is just annoying. They see their barricades as a defensive tactic, and they aren’t leaving them unmanned: they are showing their faces. This was a point made emphatically, I think, because they see guarimba as a criminal activity that has little in common with what they understand themselves to be doing: exercising a right to self-defense.

By the end of this walking tour, we’re exhausted, physically and psychologically. And it was just one day. I’m a barricade tourist, at best. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live this for ten days, as they’ve been doing. Some of the young men and women guarding the barricades are sleeping outside, on large pieces cardboard. They spend their days just waiting to see what’ll happen next.

What’s strange is the sense that these radically anti-chavista communities are organizing into something that looks oddly like…comunas. They are organized with one or several leaders that make the key decisions, they barter with other communities, they share their foods, their medicines, the masons repair what they can, the welders help shore up the defenses, the doctors tend to the wounded. No money changes hand for any of this.  It’s the apogee of la economía del trueque.

In Mérida, the residents of these communities don’t trust politicians, they trust each other. People told us if Leopoldo López is released from jail and tries to call off the barricades, they won’t listen. The grievances they had that led them into this whole mess are all still there: inflation, shortages, corruption, crime, tanking purchasing power, media censorship, etc.

“We’re sick of it: every time we try to protest, the government sends out the tupamaros“, “We don’t have to ask for permission to exercise our rights”, “The constitution allows us to exercise the right to defend ourselves”, we hear these lines again and again.

Do they like the government? Not one bit. But if there’s one thing I understood on my walking tour of Mérida’s barricades is that, in their mind, this is not a protest. If these barricades annoy the government, good, but that’s not what they’re here for.

They’re a response to the attacks of the colectivos and the total lack of protection from the state. In their mind, if they’re doing what they’re doing it’s because they feel they have no alternative. They are protecting themselves.

With that, I leave with a selection of YouTube videos showing what Mérida’s running battles have come to look like:

First, this video produced by Mérida-based webzine Actualidad y Gente gives a bit more of the look and feel of the barricades:

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This one gives you a sense of what Avenida Las Americas has become:

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This one is from Avenida Los Próceres, which was not on our walking tour:

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Here we see the National Guard in action in El Campito:

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This one is from neighboring Ejido, which is sort of like Mérida’s Guarenas.

60 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing in Mérida

  1. I just did the same with your twitt
    Lo siguiente lo escribo en español: esto está pasando porque la Guardia es compuesta por monos y malandros. Asi de sencillo. Y se equivocan los que quieren tratar de convencer a estos delincuentes “tratando de sumar”. A esta clase de escoria nada le importa, solo mantener su estilo de vida sin importar a quien se llevan por delante.
    Buena suerte a los que predican que hay que convencer a estos malandros

    • Now, when you are talking about “monkeys and thugs”: are you referring to

      1) the Civil Guard and the military and the paramilitary, who, all in all, make up less than 5% of the population,
      2) 1) together with the rest of the hard-core Chavistas and soft chavistas like José Pérez from Calabozo (all these sum up about 36% of the population) or
      3) are you referring to 2) and the +-30% of ninis and the like?

      Are all of they “monkeys and thugs”?

      • I’m referring to number 1; I think it is clear; even though 2 and 3 seem quite happy with Monos y Malandros (I insist, English doesn’t provide an adequate translation) helping themselves with violence.

      • Oh btw, such a thing as “soft chavistas” doesn’t exist: That is a construction from professional politicians to make Venezuelans believe fanatics might someday being enlighten (by a new Chavez but not as bad as the original) and they will one day stop supporting a clearly criminal and oppressive regime who thinks the country is theirs and whoever dear to oppose is less than a human and a criminal

        • Thank you for this olympian pronouncement. I’ll go ahead and ignore years worth of polling and focus group data, as well as personal experience and common sense, and listen to some anonymous commenter in England instead.

          • So polls which say that “moderate” chavistas do exist are FOR REAL?.

            Staggering. I wonder who forged these. There´s no such thing as a “moderate” chavista, venelondoner is right: They´re all waiting for the second coming of their own “ComandanteSupremoesque” Jesus

            • It’s fun to feel your own knee-jerk, I agree.

              But this isn’t about what your gut feels. This is about what research shows:

              There’s a broad section of the Venezuelan electorate that has strong reverence for the figure of Chávez and is at the same time very well aware that the government is a mess. There is a broad section of the Venezuelan electorate that distrusts the institutional opposition, but fears the country is off on the wrong path. There are millions of voters mostly clustered in class D (which accounts for 40% of the population, did you realize that?) that have benefited directly from programs created by chavismo, but realize those programs are bloated, inefficient and corrupt, yet none the less fear losing access to the goods and services they provide.

              That you’ve never met any of these people is your problem, not their problem.

            • My mother-in-law is a “moderate” chavista. She voted, up until 2012,for Chavez; both presidential elections in ’12 and ’13 she voted for Capriles. We discussed it at length prior to the October elections, and the again when she arrived in April of last year. (Sidebar: she was supposed to bring me a tricolor “Capriles” hat, but the vendors disappeared after the Tupamaros began beating people selling them) For her, it was time for change; one man should not be in charge for so long, especially after assuming so much power. Likewise, she could already see the erosion of the country under the policies and felt the country was going in the wrong direction.

              My in-laws consist of all political stripes, from strong to weak oppos, to ChINOs and moderate chavistas such as my MIL, onto the radical chavistas such as my sister-in-law and father-in-law. They all have their reasons. I think it is wrong to assume that Capriles somehow acquired seven million votes organically without some switching from chavistas. Likewise, those who make that switch do so at much higher risk than your standard oppo: opposition folk have already forgone benefits from the government whereas chavistas risk losing what they have or what the hope to have (a la Tascon). That’s a big thing to think about when you have mouths to feed.

              In any event, my mother-in-law nominally supports the students and her community (Urbanizacion Carabobo), which split almost evenly at her voting center for Chavez/Capriles, but which is nominally chavista territory. However, they’ve set up barricades not far from her house blocking access and denying the busetas access and this, understandably, is frustrating to her…she has an infant grandson that she can’t get to and cars that approach the barricades, regardless of whom they belong to, get rocks thrown at them. If you are familiar with Carabobo, it isn’t a main transit point and is by no means a part of the main city, so why bother (its across the Chama away from the city proper) besides making an obnoxious point?

              While I can agree with the guarimbas in general, I think the longer this drags on, the more it will alienate support from people who were swinging in the opposition’s direction. Yes, shortages suck. Yes inflation erodes buying power. Yes, crime is atrocious; mi suegra understands this more than most people posting on this blog. However, making life that much harder than it already is, regardless of the justification, isn’t going to make her love the opposition more. It will simply come down to a choice of selecting between the lesser of two evils.

          • Well, you’ll be surprised, one day when you realize yourself that this guys are following a religion-type association where you believe or not in what they say. I can tell that from personal experience, 75% of my family are chavistas and believe me, all of them are blinded by what they think is the truth. Just like the political analysts and commentators have been deluding themselves believing they will once convince all this people after 15 years of a terrible government, managing to fail in 15 out of 16 elections.

            • Yup, there’s a segment of wackos who are just plain signed up to the Chávez cult. They’re certainly out there, they are not few, and they very likely are beyond our reach.

              That does not change the fact that there’s an even bigger group that identifies with aspects of the Chávez cult while at the same time being keenly aware that the government is FUBAR.

        • My point is that we need to change strategy, what’s been happening last month is unacceptable and opposition leaders don’t seem to understand how bad things are. They are facing this problem as if it were a regular political confrontation… please have a look at the videos: It is clearly something different that will require along with all the “let’s talk, and hug each other because we are sons of the same land” some more firm response.

          • Venelondoner, every time I read the Venezuelan opposition speak (LL, MCM, Pena Esclusa and a couple others being the exception) I understand why and how Venezuela reached the bottom. Those guys simply don’t have a clue about the true nature of the moster they are facing. Quico’s post about El Nacional’s “mistake” is a great example of that.

              • Hey Quico, I was actually amazed at how well, how mild-mannered you had behaved up until now. In fact I thought that they were all simply trolling you, just feeding you until you snapped. You must be having a very good day, or maybe you took some Prozac, because you’ve been eerily clam all throughout this exchange.

                All in all, just as there are chavistas that are wackos and are beyond the reach of reason, you have to face the fact that we have our bunch too. Too bad our wackos seem to be the ones designing our agenda.

              • Según maduro el componente principal de las barricadas son cadáveres, después de todo, el loco salió diciendo que hay más de 50 muertos por cada barricada en todo el país, a diferencia del muñeco de cera, a ese bolsa nadie le secunda las mentiras de ese calibre.

            • Part of the problem is that Venezuelans refuse to believe that plain communism is being imposed in Venezuela following “Foro de Sao Paulo” agenda. I still remember my uni days at the UCAB (96-97) , when my friends back then considered me a lunatic because I kept telling them that Chavez plan was to take over the country and destroy the state institutional apparatus to build a bespoke system to serve him and his allies in the ultimate goal of expanding this so called revolution through all Latin-American and the Caribbean. Of course, like myself, all my buddies have now left the country. I’m so vocal about it because my family has been destroyed by this crazy ideology: although my parents did very well professionally, our family comes (and remains mostly) from very humble origins. Dad and mom met at El 23 and myself lived in Lidice my early years of life (98% of you wouldn’t know where is that).

              Before chavismo, I had many aunts and uncles, dozens of cousins, many family friends and acquaintances… Now I got nothing of that, even my dad supports this tragedy that is happening in Venezuela! I wish it was as easy as convince them that we are not following the right path, but I’m not optimistic. They have brainwashed a good part of their supporters to make them believe we are less that scum. Always remember that when you try to “convince” to a chavista

              • sorry to hear about the break up of your family, venelondoner. and I understand where you’re coming from. I believe there are too many comeflores on this board who think they can reason with the bulk of (non-radical) chavistas, ditto negotiate with the government.

                Clearly a third way is needed, and for that, Henrique Capriles offers the most hope among the more visible oppo leaders, today — even though he no longer is mi santo de devoción. (Hacía falta prender la mecha.)

                Btw, I do know where Lídice is — Catia. As my family members are Venezuelan hybrids with 4th – 5th generation Germanic extraction, there was some interest in WW2 history, including the heartbreaking atrocity in Lidice in the Czech Republic.

              • “When my friends back then considered me a lunatic because I kept telling them that Chavez plan was to take over the country and destroy the state institutional apparatus to build a bespoke system to serve him and his allies in the ultimate goal of expanding this so called revolution through all Latin-American and the Caribbean. Of course, like myself, all my buddies have now left the country.”

                Well said.

                I wonder if you feel any sort of resentment toward those incredibly naive people. And I also would like to hear from you if you think that the mass self-exile of well-educated and influent Venezuelans is part of the reason why the Chavistas are still in power after so many unsound political and economical policies throughout the years (more than 250,000 Venezuelans moved to the US since 1999). Some say that Fidel Castro could only remain in power for so long because the ones who had the means to depose him and could do it were in… Miami, not in Cuba.

              • “I had many aunts and uncles, dozens of cousins, many family friends and acquaintances… Now I got nothing of that, even my dad supports this tragedy that is happening in Venezuela!”

                What? did you disown them? I’m pretty sure they are still your aunts, uncles and cousins.
                Listen, I understand your situation because I have lived it myself. My mother and father (RIP) both ardent chavistas, even my girlfriend at the time voted for Chavez. But you should not let that stand between you and your family. I don’t talk politics with my mother, period, it is a tacit agreement.

                Having so many people close to you in the chavista camp should give you a special insight into why they think that way. I mean, you know them well, you won’t fall into the common preconceptions or stereotypes . You can even ask them (maybe). You must have thought about it and probably you have a pretty good idea of why they supported Chavez and they continue to support Maduro.

              • @amieres Well, I was disowned by them… whoever doesn’t support their ideas is ignored/isolated until you are no longer part of the “family”
                I’m not sure if this is a process that only happened in my family, but my mother, brother and I were put aside. With dad, I don’t talk politics: a bit difficult when the guy has 3 weeks trapped at home or when he realises that her granddaughter is going to be born away from them and that he will be lucky if he get to meet her twice a year. As you say: being so close to chavistas gave me an special insight into their thinking and the reason they supported Chavez and his acolytes now (this isn’t a Maduro’s government): is a combination of resent and religious type ideologization. Most of these guys were part of the liberation theology movement, hence the incredible support among some groups and the lack of understanding from many sectors of the society of what is realy happening.
                And against that it is really difficult to argue, it is like a continental religion. They say yes to everything that comes from chavismo without questioning. It is part of their thinking process. That is why I argue that the soft chavismo is a delusion created by pollsters to justify their lack of results. But as one said: that’s my anonymous opinion… from the British islands.

              • @Marc Do I feel resentful? Of course I feel resentful: it is unacceptable for the middle classes (like all my university friends were) not having realized of the threat even though it was very clear from the beginning what was coming. In every country, middle classes should be the driven force of development and prosperity. Do we really believe that a government of any sign can lead the entire society to the right path in each and every aspect of life? I don’t think so; that guidance should come from us, the people who is supposed to be prepared to do things and to apply knowledge in our daily activities to do it right (shoemakers, accountants, teachers, doctors, everyone). We clearly failed doing that…
                I do think the mass self-exile of educated Venezuelans has played a role on why the revolution has lasted so long, but I would be incredible arrogant to think that’s the main reason. For me, the main reason is that politicians and what lefties call “Fuerzas Vivas” (unions, company owners, professional bodies) have fail to grasp the basics of what’s happening in Venezuela: The continental far left finally got their golden goose and they won’t let it go without a good fight. No matter what, we will never win a presidential election and neither will change the current system without significant turmoil. People have to understand that this is not a conspiracy theory. How many years do they need to understand it?

              • “People have to understand that this is not a conspiracy theory. How many years do they need to understand it?”

                Venelondoner, you attacked the root of the problem in your sensible post. I thought that the opposition in my country was naive and stupid, but the opposition in Venezuela is a lot more naive and stupid than ours.

                Many STILL can’t understand the nazi-fascist nature of this regime, many think that this is a “normal” kind of regime, many think that the political debatee in Venezuela is the same as other people have in Chile, Mexico or Spain. I guess Vargas Llosa is the only intelectual openly calling the things by their proper names. See some here in complete denial that the paramilitary fascist troops in Venezuela use the same modus operandi as Hitler’s or Mussolini’s paramilitary forces, they just don’t kill as many people just YET.

                I’ve even read an oppositionist saying that the police in Europe or the US would have reacted in the same way as the colectivos or the GNB. Those guys simply don’t have a clue of how f… up is Venezuela right now. Those people are in Fascist Italy and they can’t see it. I just pray to God that there are more people like in Venezuela right now, otherwise Venezuela is just doomed.

  2. Thank you, Reinaldo Chacon for on-the-ground coverage of a battleground in gocho heartland. Your writing brings this conflict to life, much needed.

  3. I simply loved these parts:

    “They seem nervous at first but after a little chit chat they grow confident and we started asking questions: “Why don’t you call the authorities?”

    HAHA! Call the authorities? Really? Who is the goddamn authorities? The LAPD? The NYPD? SWAT? FBI?Surreal question. The author sounds like those rich Venezuelans in exile who are totally detached to what’s going on the ground and think that this is a fight between Tea Party and the Democrats> Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly vs Jon Stewart and Obama! I can’t believe that the guy asked those youngsters why they are not calling the authorities. Simply unbelievable.

    This part now is truly hilarious!

    “Sometimes the community sets up to make a “sancocho”, a big soup, to give out. Communal soup kitchens in the heart of the anti-chavista heartland?”

    I guess he thinks that the US Army barracks’ and US Navy’s dining-halls inside aircraft carriers are big scary “communist soup dinning-halls” too! “We need to resurrect John Mccarthy because I SEE COMMUNISTS EVERYWHERE!”, I can imagine he screaming.

    Now the last one:

    “What’s strange is the sense that these radically anti-chavista communities are organizing into something that looks oddly like…comunas. They are organized with one or several leaders that make the key decisions, they barter with other communities, they share their foods, their medicines, the masons repair what they can, the welders help shore up the defenses, the doctors tend to the wounded. No money changes hand for any of this. It’s the apogee of la economía del trueque”

    Oh, the horror! When a catastrophe happened near my city due to an epic storm a couple years ago we all helped each other, the injured and the ones who lost everything by sending them medicine and food, the local priests organized everything (they were the leaders). I’m afraid we have all become communists in those days too. Chávez would have been proud of us too. lol.

    • sigh. Why is it that US citizens are incapable of seeing issues in other countries, other than through their own Amurrican (patriotic or media) filter? Qué fastidio.
      Marc: ever heard of reportage and asking questions, even the obvious, for a quote that would help knucklehead readers better understand?

      • I’m not American, i’m using American examples because most of the people here is in exile in, well, America.

        So you said that I should ask more questions. Alright. Let me ask a question for you then: why did Reinaldo Chacón asked those youngsters why haven’t they called the authorities yest? Was he trying to make a joke? Was he trying to be funny? Seriously, because it’s such a nonsense question that I wonder if the Venezuelan opposition is still sober. If the opposition in my country – a country that is ruled by a Foro de Sao Paulo party not very different in nature from PSUV, I must say – was like the Venezuelan one, we certainly would be living under a dictatorship by now similar to what they have in Venezuela.

        • You make some wild assumptions, Marc, when you say that ‘most of the people here (meaning on CC) is in exile in, well, America (meaning the USA).’ You’d be surprised.
          If I were you, I’d give Chacón a break. Unless you showed yourself as intrepid as he did, rather than banging on your keyboard from the safety and comfort of your home, presumably in Brazil.

        • “alright. Let me ask a question for you then: why did Reinaldo Chacón asked those youngsters why haven’t they called the authorities yest? Was he trying to make a joke?”

          Maybe he was just trying to see what their reaction was to mention of ‘calling the authorities’? Or what they had to say about local police vs collectivos and national guard? (I have heard of cases where local police have helped, at least at first, protect neighborhoods from colectivos).

          Do you really think Sr. Chacon just dropped in from 1995 and has no idea what’s going on? Take it easy.

          • Yes, maybe… Ok.

            And what about the part where he says that neighbours helping each other and sharing soup during harsh times is something “communist”? Was he trying to be funny or there’s some sense behind it?

            • Hi Marc. I don’t know how familiar you are with Merida. Its university has 56,000 students and an important proportion of their students are not from the city. In essence, Merida is a college town. Students from other cities have traditionally rented rooms in the apartments located in the two main areas Reinaldo walked. These two areas have had students demonstrations in the past and the community in general has not intervened.This time, the collectives’ attacks to the buildings galvanized the community around their students and they are seeing students as their “protectors” against the collectives, Therefore, the sharing soup is just a demonstration of the community support and approval of their actions, a way to thank them and have them at their post ready to defend the neighborhood from the collectives.

            • Hi Marc. Yes, in fact I asked those questions to see their reactions, and I had to ask anyway. And the second. That was the feeling I got, but I’m open to other point of view. I invite you to come here to see for yourself and tell us what feeling you get. Please do come.

      • “Why is it that US citizens are incapable of seeing issues in other countries,”

        Syd, you are exactly correct. Unless one has strong ties with a mixed populace of another country, they fail to understand that country’s needs. Most US citizens, unfortunately, see foreign crises through the Gringo prism; only how that country can be helpful to our safety or economy is important to us.

        President Biden, though made some enlightening comments regarding the condition in Venezuela. Hopefully he will follow it up in Chile when he meets Dilma and the rest of UNASUR. We shall see.

  4. Thanks Quico and Reinaldo Chacón for the update in Merida. My dad and my aunts live in the northern part of Merida and the news coming from the area are worrisome. They live in a housing project for university professors built in the 60s so most of the people living there are now retired ULA professors. Everyone there is just too old to organize any barricades and the few youngsters in the area have joined protesters in other parts of Merida. However, the fact that there are no barricades in the area didn’t prevent the collectives to paid a visit to the area last Thursday night. They tried to break the two electric gates installed a few years ago when crime start to increase in the area. Luckily they were not able to go in and didn’t attack the houses like they have been doing in the neighborhoods visited by Reinaldo. However, they signaled their intentions and now the neighborhood is organizing itself against an attack.
    The news coming everyday of the attack by the collectives are sounding like stories from the middle ages and people defending their houses and buildings against the barbarians. The only different is that the attackers are using modern weapons and motorcycles.

    • I also visited some friends in this places and they fell threatened too. If they try to hmmm, “cacerolear? “poting?”, colectivos start roaming the zone.

  5. Just a comment for CC readers who are not familiar with Merida. Merida is a college town and its University has 56,000 students (2006 numbers). This significant student population is what is sustaining the protest in the city. The two areas mentioned in Quico’s post (Av. Cardenal Quintero and El Campito) are to some extent university dorms. Apartment owners in those areas have been renting rooms to student for years. That is the reason why demonstrations have been strong and why the GN and collectives have been fighting them hard. I have a distant relative that lives in the area and she has been telling my dad about how they have been organizing themselves (just the things mentioned in this post). The only additional information is that the whole community is also participating in the preparation of the defensive weapons used by the students

  6. Great reporting. For once I hear that it is actually much more serious that is being published.

    The point you make in the article signals a BIG change on the people’s attitude to the protests.

    It’s not about blocking the street to protest, it is about defending their family from thugs and criminals.

  7. It’s sad that the “comunication hegemony”, the monstrous propaganda hydra of chavismo, has done so well all these years to demonize every single thing the regime deems as dangerous.
    One example is the guarimbas, that are exactly building barricades to lock every street in order to stop the regime’s death squads, not that rubbish of “just drpping garbage and leaving”, that’s just being an asshole.

  8. What we are seeing is the response of the government to the guarimbas. They are defaulting on their duty to preserve law and order. Letting their dogs loose to bring chaos. That is why we get that medieval feeling. It is their way of saying we can also play the “guarimba” game. Two can play at this game. The best part for the government is that they can just blame the opposition: “ellos están guarimbeando”.

    This is just a battle of attrition with only one side suffering the attrition. For the colectivos this is just good thuggery practice and the barricades are convenient stationary training camps. Mini sieges, with no real purpose of conquest, that keep the fight in the opposition neighborhoods, away from where it could matter.

    • But that might be a dangerous strategy for Maduro… Because although the strategy might be medieval, the people are modern and millions might rise up to such attitudes. Maduro is pouring moregasoline on the fire, and this fire might go after him later.

      • True, violence has a way of escalating and going out of control. Those dogs that he is letting loose cannot be pulled back so easily. But for now Maduro is enjoying the situation.

        • The government also forgets that the preys of the dogs can get desperate enough to actually start fighting back said dogs.

  9. I live in Mérida. Why didn’t the report mention the situation of the Seguridad Social hospital, which is blocked off from road access by the barricades, creating serious problems for hospitalized patients and increasing pressure on the city’s two other hospitals because one is now unaccesible? Why did the post not mention that many suspected chavistas have had to move out of their apartments in areas affected by the barricades, because attacks and intimidation by those manning the barricades made these people fear for their lives and property? Although we can recognize and condemn any pro-government motorizados operating in Mérida, does it not seem strange that despite reports of supposed daily attacks with free-shooting motorizados for over a month, not one (thankfully) person has been killed by motoriados in Mérida? And in fact, is it not worth mentioning that the only two deaths that have occured in Mérida have been caused by the barricades and those “defending” them (one por guaya, and the other mentioned in the post)? Why did the post not mention that many barricades charge a toll to pass, and attack those who refuse (including opposition suppoerters) to pay? Was this information omitted because it would get in the way of romanticizing the barricades, and would highlight the effect they are having on the city and people’s lives, including many opposition supporters who are being made to suffer?

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