I have been the victim of a robbery. I am physically fine but morally deeply wounded. Not from the material loss, although my wedding band was stolen as my partner faces deadly cancer, which by itself is enough to send me to a dark place.
What truly did me in was the way it happened.
I was driving, exiting the Carcas main highway at the El Recreo level. To avoid a pot hole as I slowed down I swerved somewhat and I scared a motorbike that was passing me at full speed on the left. The guy honked pissed off and I had the misfortune to raise my hand (no flip) in a "what have you me do?" gesture. That was too much for him. He blocked me and forced me to pull on the side in an area which unfortunately has no pedestrian traffic.
He acted very much like a police officer and I thought that I was going to get a fine, or would have to bribe him. But something was different. The guy was dressed all in black, including gloves, kevlar like coat, with the thickness that bullet proof gives you. A helmet that looked particularly sturdy. And no badges on him nor plates on his bike. So the thought that this was something else crept fast.
He made me open the passengers window and the conversation that followed was all about terror. I just cannot remember exactly such was the impression but this is the content.
First he said that he was "un funcionario" which in the context means that he was some kind of guy working in state security. Then he said that he could shoot me if he wanted and asked me if I knew that, if I was truly aware of that..........
Three times during the conversation, for lack of a better word, he would remind me that he could shoot me at will, implying clearly that this would not affect him in anyway.
He tried to figure out who I was and what I did but I choked on words so afraid that he could kidnap me of threaten my loved ones.
Then he said, "you know what, give me your ring". All always with a monotone cool voice, with a good choice of words. The guy had some education, he was not just a "malandro" or a "colectivo". In fact, as I thought later, part of his terror tactic was actually to speak to me with respect as he threatened me.
He could have asked for my cell phone, a major source of robbery these days. Or taken the three packs of dearly bought powder milk that I had on the seat and was taking to my SO. Or he could have called a pal to steal my car.
No, he was thinking about a way to hurt me and when he asked for my ring he knew he had me as IMMEDIATELY I thought about my SO. I tried to mumble something, to negotiate something else as instinctively I realized that this was not about robbery. He just became sterner, more icy cold. I had to hand him the ring and then he extended his hand forcing me to shake it as if we were good friends.
Then he left. And my car would not start... Finally it did, I made my way to the SO place where the nervous breakdown took place as you may expect. Me first apologizing in tears about losing the ring, until I realized that was exactly what that criminal wanted me to do, to feel guilty. Which made me recover fast.
Now, this was what we can call a clear fascist act, of the most abject totalitarian nature. A brutal show of force, for the sake of it, through crafted psychological torture. I use deliberately fascist over communist because if in the end the terror and the pain are the same, in a commie torture there is always a hint of legality, a hint of speaking in the name of someone else. For example when the guy started to talk he could have said that I should be more careful about annoying a Representative of "el pueblo" and then do the same threats and steal the ring. Or add a plain "you do not deserve that ring, you escualido". No, this was just a "I am pissed at you and I could do things to you just because I can and nothing will happen to me even if you were to be able to report me. You are mine, kneel. And be thankful that I will only do this to you today".
I will go one step further. Since Hannah Arendt the concept of totalitarianism has somewhat evolved in an era of mass communication which makes psychological manipulation easier. What I saw was how communism has morphed into a special type of fascism, perhaps the truest form of totalitarianism. This comes from the Cuban training, I have no doubt. This is what happens in Cuba for those that are willing to see it as it is, a fascist country where terror is the glue. It is also what happens in Burma, or in some African states through a dose of tribalism. This, I am willing to bet, is not how things were managed in Chile or Argentina. Again, the end result is the same, the victim is fucked up. My point I guess is that more than killing, the real terror is in the idea of the possibility of killing at will and no one will care.
Having people like me walk around, or luminaries like Yoani Sanchez able to talk a little bit only reinforces the point: we are there at their suffering.