TODAY VENEZUELA – Closing streets, paralyzing the subway system, burning urban transport units, attacking public institutions, even some private ones, the looting of shops, schools and hospitals, terrorizing popular neighborhoods with hired gangs, mercenary style.
In eastern areas of Caracas, a minority sector goes to the opposition demonstrations where all of this takes place and daily life is a chaos in the middle of battles where this privileged little world rebelled against the poor. Wearing all sort of gas masks, journalists, photographers, camera people with helmets and bullet-proof vests, opposition leaders, members of the national assembly, mayors and governors of the counterrevolution stand there giving orders, Molotov cocktails keep coming and going, sometimes they collide with tear gas canisters in the air, youths wearing balaclavas and with shields that look like they are from the crusaders, using gloves to throw tear gas canisters back, barricades, cut down trees, fires, a constant battle against Bolivarian police and the national guards who are forbidden from using firearms and violence.
The cameras try to capture a picture showing that the country is at war.
This same scenario is repeated in specific places in different states of the country. But despite this theatrical set, something is not working for the terrorist agenda of the opposition. Thousands of neighborhoods, hills and low income areas throughout the entire country continue about their daily lives attentive to what happens in that upper-middle class, Hollywood type world and their declassed playing at absolute war that has already taken some 40 lives and wounded hundreds of other in the entire country. Here the murdered and wounded are not extras. They are real.
In the neighborhood of 23 de Enero, west of Caracas, about 200,000 inhabitants wake up everyday in the middle of that fascinating entanglement of popular sectors. There are no incendiary bombs or tear gas bombs here. Children go to school, kindergartens, youngsters in blue flannels and beige (school uniforms) take the streets to get to their high schools. Subway cars travel at full capacity as far as violence from the other side of the city allows them to get to. Small and medium size businesses start to open their doors. Queues begin to form in the hundreds of popular medical practices where people get free basic health care attention. A group of women from the communal councils fix on the walls handwritten posters announcing the nightly meeting to organize the community food delivery, which also posts the amount to be paid and an account number to deposit the payment.
Motorcycle riders go to work. Fruit and vegetable trucks offer their fresh merchandise through their speakers. Empanadas, arepas and juices, garages, hairdressers and local mom-and-pop stores, taxi cooperatives and trucks filled with workers, teachers, civil servants, students and others lead their way to the differents demonstrations of today, mothers with their children, or simply workers of all kind. Most are commenting on the drama of the day: in the east where the rich live, they are playing with shit.
The neighborhood is active
The same situation repeats in other working class communities nearby: La Pastora, Catia, Lídice. And beyond downtown in San Agustín, Mamera, Petare, El Cementerio and in the other hundred and something boroughs and densely populated municipalities. About 6 million people in Caracas alone. This is what is not giving working in the opposition plans and their focused terrorist escalation. Millions of inhabitants of these neighborhoods are not singing along with their tune.
The same happens throughout the country. Instead of this in various sectors, people go out onto the streets to protect and defend their places as in this story of what happened in a neighborhood in the state of Barinas: “Here they will not come to loot, no way, here they will not come to make the disasters they did to the bakeries and hardware stores and pharmacies of La Cardenera.” The woman from Barinas, with a machete in hand, led a few hundred neighbors who were armed with sticks, tubes, machetes, bats, went out to confront the opposition ‘guarimberos’ (rioters) who had wiped out most of the neighborhood business in the past few weeks. The alarms had been going at night all around the neighborhood through pot-banging, text messages and calls of “here come the guarimberos.” Now they came for all the equipment of the public sports court, built by the Revolution to the Francisco de Miranda neighborhood and inaugurated by Chavez himself.
Things get tense. The ‘guarimberos’, mostly upper-middle-class kids mixed with some from poorer areas and some thugs came in groups of 30 to lock streets and to loot and to set fire to the neighborhood’s sports court, begin to retreat. It is not easy for them because the people are in the streets, ready to fight to defend this sport facility that Chavez gave them. “You better get the fuck out, you’ll ’cause no trouble here,” “out, out, out, out.” Machetes, bats, sticks, pipes, spikes, move menacingly as my people scream at them – what a beatiful scene. The guarimberos retreat: “We are going to look for reinforcements to the Corozitos, no joke, we are gonna burn all this shit, you damn chavistas.” “Come, you squalid jerks, terrorists, here we wait, out, out, out, out with you.”
“That night no one slept. But they never came back,” says the old lady.
The only ones who have both the number and fury, balls and ovaries to set fire to this country are working, organizing, discussing the call to a Constituent Assembly. And defending in the street when necessary. A show of strength that goes unnoticed by the minds of those who want a great civilian confrontation, a war: to stay calm, not to come to interfere even knowing that the counterrevolution that is in the streets on the other side of the city but could not withstand the irruption of these neighborhoods at ther most violent. This is a titanic display of strength.
While the country’s wealthy opposition sectors are running their “I Want Freedom” drama, those with the true power are active. The barrio is active.