Friday, March 07, 2014

Post it notes from the front lines

7 stars.......
I did come back to Caracas last Saturday but had to deal with private issues that stopped me to join any of the large scale protests of these past days. Which did not stop from taking a few notes that may interest you guys.

I suppose that I should start with the "guarimba", our tropicalized, venezuelanized, version of your old barricade.  I have mixed feelings about the use of guarimbas. I mean, if you are going to go for overthrowing the regime and decided to block, say, the Miranda, or Fajardo, or Libertador and push your way up to the Baralt or Bolivar avenues, I see their use. But what I saw in El Cafetal area is way more of a cathartic nature than any harm it may do against the regime.

Water tanks to mattresses
This post is illustrated with some of the guarimbas that I saw, when it was easy for me to take the picture without having to get out of the car. Not for any real fear, just out of boredom. Notes in the legend. Click to enlarge and enjoy the details on how the garbage is piled up to form a barricade.

The thing about these barricades in El Cafetal is that they are often left alone. Folks came, dumped their trash and left.  The bigger ones in the main drags may have had a dozen or two people loitering.

An abandoned one in El Cafetal
On Wednesday it was another story as people were particularly excited about the visit of Raul Castro for the Chavez memorial This time the main drags were closed in more than one place and simply put, you could not go around. Even if you carried a sick person with you in the car as it was my case. Fortunately it was for scheduled tests so we could postpone it for today, but the point is had my friend being puking his lungs out we probably could not have passed unless with an ambulance forcing its way though the barricade.

But if barricades in El Cafetal were/are ridiculous (and some people I talked to were demanding me what I was doing for the fight against Chavez when I suggested meekly that there might be other options, to which of course I did not bother to reply) those in Chacao in the middle of the day do betray the real feel of combat zone the area gets when night falls.

A big one in Bello Monte, but in a side street
and also without anyone around...
Another one of my tasks this week has been to deal with the carpenter that is doing stuff at my place in Caracas. The guy lives in Western Caracas, San Martin area. And I know from way before that he is not chavista. I confess that I would not have hired him if I knew he was, even as he came recommended to me. but chavismo has cost me too much money already to go ahead and pretend to have a blind eye on the matter. Never mind that I am a victim of the Tascon List. But I digress.

Let's call him Jose. Jose does not have time to go an protest. He has a lot of work and a lot of people depending on him. In fact it is a problem for me because he abuses that I spend such long stretch of time in San Felipe to finish other jobs rather than pay attention to the contract we have. But I do not pick up a fight with him because he is trustworthy, he is not conning me and after all the work he is doing is not a matter of life and death to me...

Saturday P.M. Chacao. Only one lane open.
So I am talking with Jose. He tells me that even if he had time to protest he would not do in his area. Where he lives there is a "colectivo" lair and they are always going back and forth in the street. Even though he reckons that now at least half have left the regime, they cannot do much to express it.

But the best story is that Jose has a friend of many years that lives in the in/famous 23 de Enero and who belongs to a "colectivo". So he told me how the system works to support them. His friend is attached to the payroll of some ministry and he has actually a job. But this job consists on being the guard in a school, ONE DAY a week. that is right, he only works one day a week and for that he cashes minimum MONTHLY wage and all the other benefits of the ministry as if he were working 5/7. Of course he is required to so "social work" attend "education" meetings and participate in "revolutionary" activities. But that leaves him with enough time to do odd jobs to supplement his income, having his heath insurance assured by his ministry job. Never mind that the activities where he participates also on occasion are a source of graft...

Even a left turn lane may be blocked on its own.
With garbage and crosses.....
So Jose who has a large family and who as a self employee has no insurance thought he would join anyway. After all, living in San Martin he knows how to speak to put up a convincing act. He would have the basics taken care off for those weeks when business is down. But his friend told him to desist, admitting that he was doing things he could not talk about, that Jose was not fit to do and that he simply did not want Jose to compromise himself. That after all he was used to such things living in 23 de Enero so it did not matter to him.So there you have it.

On other matters I am surprised that food is not scarcer. That the barricades are lifted often enough has allowed for a steady supply. Oh! you will be missing stuff when you go to the store, if it is open because sometimes they don't, when employees cannot make it in. I was even able to go Tuesday to Francas who does the best coffee cakes in Caracas, even if way over priced. But I know that we live on reserves because in the little business I was able to do the same story came over and over again: the regime is not paying debts, the regime is not allowing for imports of raw materials. At least not in the amounts and variety required to keep the economy flowing at minimal rate. So, that Franca cake, I better enjoy it because who knows how long I will keep getting them.


I forgot another post it story.

I had to take my guest to the emergency room one night. Nothing major but it needed to be checked out. We went at 10 PM and the streets were empty, ghostly. The ER was empty but we still spent almost 4 hours there, 1 hour of bureaucratic paper work, one hour and a half waiting for analysis. So at 2 AM we were driving back. that is when we got blocked!  At 2 AM in the middle of Boulevard EL Cafetal there was a gang of not even 12 folks, all masked, setting the guarimba for the next day!

My sickly guest was kind of scared and asked me to drive away that we would get shot but I laughed! Those were actors in a bad play and I watched for a few minutes while they forced another car to go back. We had to make it home though back roads, which were dark and empty and, shall I say, sinister.  I have a friend in Valencia who lives in a particularly riotous area who tells me that when she goes to walk the dog at 8 PM she leaves all at home, even her phone because night crime has increased now that streets are deserted and not even police goes around. Not that it went much before , but you get my point.


  1. The dystopian revolution...

  2. Anonymous6:00 PM

    I am afraid the opposition is going to wear out and everything will get back to "normal". The Cuban dissident in Germany was right!: "a Venezuela no la salva nadie!"

    I hope no-one lets this happen! one person dead in this fight is too many!! and one person in prison for disagreeing with the government is too many as well!


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