Monday, March 07, 2016

I faced fascism

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.

No one.

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.


  1. Lo siento tanto, Daniel. It is strange to read of your suffering and that of other bloggers. Venezuela and Cuba might as well be far away planets. The world ignores an atmosphere not suitable for human habitation.

    1. And the foreign press does not report on such things. Nor uses the right adjectives to describe the regime so afraid they are to lose any meager access they may have. They do not care unless the headline is too good to pass on.

  2. Anonymous2:04 AM

    The ring was gold I presume. Worth more than a bulky bunch of Bolivres. I regret this happened to you.

    1. Yes, it was gold with a stone. We did not want the conventional style. And I never carried it on finger if I walked in the streets. I was going from my place to the SO place to bring him the black market of the week as he cannot do it. Without any stop in between I felt safe carrying it.

      Also if I am stuck in traffic I remove it. Well, removed it.....

  3. what a sad and terrible world in Venezuela... Yes, these things can happen anywhere- Miami, Madrid- you name it. But USUALLY in other countries, it is a simple violation and robbery, they do NOT propose to be "part of the government as a funcionario " ..So sorry- I know you no fel violated in the worst way. Let us all hope that somehow Venezuela can turn around for the better- soon!

  4. Anonymous5:48 AM

    lo siento Daniel. Venezuela is messed up big time and nothing will change in the next 100 years, this is a plague that will last for generations! that is right... this is a form of terrorism well thought by the Castro regime and well accepted by the Chavistas. really sorry it happen to you, but I know you are stronger than the millions who suffer this everyday. Don't let this discourage you posting the truth of Venezuela!

  5. Anonymous5:50 AM

    You live, you survived. That's all that counts.

  6. This is from a post i wrote in my blog a while back :

    "When I lived in Caracas I used every trick and maneuver I could think of to avoid getting robbed. For example, I carried two wallets, one cheap watch, and two phones. The idea was to give a wallet with expired credit cards, fake documents, and some cash plus phone and watch to robbers.

    Other survival measures involved tricks such as never holding to a routine, never walking at the same pace, and dressing down (so so hair cut and dirty shoes are a must).

    I had two additional weapons which helped me navigate through the city: I can speak with a wonderful Cuban accent, plus my driver/bodyguard was extremely well trained, and very large. We made a wonderful pair, on one occasion we were walking down Bolivar Avenue (that's downtown) and we ran into Freddie Bernal, the then Chavista mayor of Libertador District. Believe it or not, between my buddy's Chavista bullshit and my Cuban accent, we talked Freddie into ordering HIS bodyguards into stopping traffic so we could cross a six lane artery. "

    I realize you may not feel as much of a target as I was, but you do need to raise your game. Next time they try to stop you, hit the guy enough to put him out of action, and take your car to a paint shop without stopping anywhere.

    I never carried a weapon, I'm not a fast draw. The better idea is to let them think messing with you isn't worth it. But if you do make a move you have to make sure they can't get up for a while. Given the lack of police and the anarchy, and my tendency to be a peace loving person, I decided to leave. I simply didn't want to face the decision to harm somebody, even in self defense. But you do have to learn to survive. A Cuban accent and a fake Cuban Doctor ID will help.

  7. Lo siento mucho Daniel, pero las estadísticas no fallan y era de esperar. Yo creo que el Venezolano tiene una disonancia cognitiva en muchos aspectos, como en el tema del crímen. Saben que el crimen es implacable, pero no se protegen lo suficiente. Si la gente realmente asumiera como está la situación, muchas personas que pueden irse, lo harían. Menos mal que no te secuestraron o mataron. Cuidate. Un saludo.

    1. Marta.


      Hay dos cosas. 1) hay que protejerse lo mas que se pueda. 2) hay que evitar volverse paranoico para poder seguir viviendo. ¿Como se concilian los dos?

    2. You just don't, so are the rules of survival. You either adopt a state of mind where you won't even thrust your own shadow or, well, you become a victim, a part of statistics.

      You need to understand that by all means you live in a war zone. Just as an old friend used to say way back in 2005. "We are at war and it comes from everyone with a gun in hand against all those who don't, against everyone who's decency has not vanished".

      The bigger lesson that you need to take from all this is that 1) You are lucky, you did not got shot in the face right away (Just as it happens to so many)
      2) either a stupid decision or just bad luck. A chain of events lead you to this result, stop for a second think of what leqd you to this and be sure not to make the same mistake again.

      finaly, and i am sorry for dragging this for so long. stay strong, don't let things like this take away the best of you. Specially while living in the place we live, don't, Just don't give them the pleasure.

      A random reader

  8. Daniel,
    I am very far from justifying behaviour of this person; death threats are death threats, robbery is robbery; loosing a thing of a great emotional value is not nice, either.
    As a motorcycle rider, however, I have a bit different perception of other road users For me people using mobile phones while driving, opening the doors of their cars without checking for the oncoming traffic or indeed, 'swearing somewhat' without first checking if that is safe for other road users are criminals. You see, an error that normally would cost one just a scratched paint or a dent in their car for a motorcycle rider may have much more serious consequences - more than once I was bruised (and I was happy that bruised only) due to other road used 'minor' mistake....
    That naturally does not justify what has happened to you. He could be pissed, he could have told you off. Anything more .... after all, I am glad you are O.K.

    1. Have you ever driven in Caracas?

    2. Daniel, your post was mostly about a sense of impunity of some and your experience of being humiliated by a thug. I will stop here. I am sorry for your experience, and I AM GLAD you are O.K.
      As for the road etiquette, you can write about your experiences of driving in Caracas (I might visit family of my partner once the situation stabilizes somewhat). I used to ride/drive in Poland, Germany, UK, I am passing through France and Belgium each time I am driving to Poland.

    3. We can see you never drove in Caracas. Think of it as a tropical Mad Max land. I notice many Europeans and Americans, used to living in a sheltered society, can't really absorb what a place like Venezuela is like. And nothing you write will really help you connect.

      Also, I can't suggest you travel to Caracas and see what it's like. You wouldn't survive 72 hours.

  9. Anonymous2:52 PM

    Almost one year ago today I was walking through Campo Alegre to the Lido Center when a moto tried to rob me. He stopped a few feet in front of me and fortunately only drew a knife and demanded my wedding ring. I was lucky, it was just an attempted crime of opportunity by an idiot and I spent over five years in the Canadian Airborne Regiment which trained me very well to deal with these situations. I had a large umbrella with me that had a well sharpened point that I was able to jab well into his stomach and knock him down off his bike giving me time to run. I left Venezuela that afternoon with my wife and we haven't been back since. If he had had a gun there was a good chance I would have been another statistic at Bello Monte. Wasn't even worth reporting to the "police" as it could very well have been one of their own and as a gringo I have no rights whatsoever in Chaviland.
    I don't know what to say to you or to advise you to do. Can only hope for your wellbeing and safety.
    Caracas Canadian

    1. What I can't fathom is why any of you ever wore any jewelry at all, or why you walked through Campo Alegre to the Lido. The key isn't to use any training to get in a fight, the better option is to avoid them.

  10. I think you handled yourself exactly as you should have. Let them have their power trip for the moment. ...and don't give the satisfaction of letting this be a lingering, bitter memory. You've documented it. Done. Now how can we help you replace that ring?

  11. So sorry to see what happened to you. Sorry you lost your wedding ring. I would feel exactly as you if I lost my wedding ring. It would be difficult to tell my SO also.

  12. So sorry for what happened to you. You obviously handled yourself better, than you think, during that horrific circumstance.

    Your description, between fascist and communist methods; incredibly enlightening.

  13. Boludo Tejano5:25 PM

    What a shame.

  14. I guess these new-age Malandros Bolivarianos Rebolusionarios crave a sense of Power almost as much as money.

    That's another main reason the Chavistas don't want to give up their positions, perhaps 7 MILLION "funcionarios" in various circumstances of anarchy, special advantages, Theft - of course, and power. Total impunity, for starters, for every "camarada". It's like a Mafia, it's not just about extorting money or stealing it, or dealing drugs, it's about escalating positions for the glory, the ego, to feel superior and part of some 'brotherhood'. They are empowered by crime, the "untouchables"..

    Secondly, I suspect that the social dichotomies in Kleptozuela also play a role in these attacks. I suspect Daniel was driving a nice car, and he probably looks foreign, with some French accent.. So the Choro from Caricuao or Petare hated on him immediately, the Sifrino Burguesito con Billete Pelucon... The deep resentments between class groups is alive and well.. That's how Chavismo got the power in the first place: by instigating even more hatred between different social groups, the haves and have nots. You bet this was another element in this crime. If Daniel drove a regular car, and looked like the average Wilmel Eloy Rodriguez, morenito perhaps, average clothes, none of that happens.

  15. Sorry to hear you got robbed, I always enjoy browsing through your blog.

    It's weird to give my opinion on events like this, on one hand these things should definitely not happen, or even worse, be common in any mediumly civilized country... On the other, while I don't mean to kick you while your're down, I can't help to think that in a way you were "conejeando" (that is slang for being less than careless).

    I've lived in Caracas practically all my life, one thing I've learned and that you must always be paranoid, on the lookout for danger, that is what I tell my foreign friends when they visit.

  16. Pran nation. Period.

  17. Daniel it is brave of you to tell your story as you have. Once pulled over you handled yourself the smart way. I have driven in Caracas and coming from a nation where there are many road laws, it amazes me these bikers are not killed the way they drive. In no developed nation would a biker be allowed to drive between lanes. Is just stupid. Ilol
    May I ask if this event happened again to you how would you handle it different? Would you refuse to stop and if need be drive through this thug?
    Best wishes be strong and remember this thug already forgot the event so don't you carry any ill thoughts that make you miserable.

  18. Anonymous10:23 PM

    At least he did not break into your home and steal it at gun point like what happened to me and the wife. Glad not to be living in that situation anymore. Sympathies for those of you who still do.


  19. Arturo Mendoza5:23 AM

    I don't think you "faced fascism" as you state in your headline. To face is to confront, you didn't confront. You came face to face with a fascist, you experienced fascism, but you didn't face the fascist.
    You give yourself too much credit in that headline. You probably peed your pants in the process.

    1. You only know how you will react
      When it happens
      When I was carjacked I refused to beg and that's the best
      I didn't shake
      My voice was calm
      Even when the mob were shaking And jeering outside
      Not sure about you though haha

    2. Arturo

      You may want to review the difference between face and confront.

      As for wetting my pants, this type of ridiculous, unhelpful, comment tells us where you write from. Enough said.

  20. Oh Daniel sorry
    The worst one I got was being kidnapped by 4 gunmen
    They were good like a swat team
    In Barcelona
    It hurt when he hit me with the but of the gun in the back of the car when I explained haha I was not american I was English
    It was my first and only streek
    They dumped me in a barrio
    After They had used my atm
    Taken my watch laptop and a one week old
    Corolla - never seen again
    And neither was I - we packed and left soon after
    It was really the straw that broke the camels back
    I thank mr Chavez for kicking us out
    My life has been very full

  21. Anonymous5:29 PM

    two individuals tried to rob my truck, one of them made a big mistake an put his gun down on the sit next to me. I took the gun and point the gun at them, they freaked out and froze right in front of me. Until now I regret not having shot at them right there, in the eyes. instead, I let them run, but I still remember their eyes full of tears and panic before I let them ran away. they might be dead by now anyways. I am glad I don't have to deal with that kind of incidents anymore. as a good Cuban friend told me once, "a Venezuela no la salva nadie"


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