HAVANA TIMES — I would venture to say that, this past week, Venezuela made the international news more times than it normally does in an entire year, despite the fact the country has been quite unstable over the past few months.
On February 19 – I simply have to mention this – Simon Diaz, one of Venezuela’s symbols, author of Caballo viejo (“Old Horse”) and La vaca mariposa (“The Butterfly Cow”), the renowned storyteller from the plains, the poet of nostalgia and nature, departed from this world.
There’s also been at least 4 earth tremors in the country’s western and eastern regions. No significant damages have been reported following these, but the news is cause for concern.
The leader of Venezuela’s Voluntad Popular (“People’s Will”) party Leopoldo Lopez handed himself over to authorities in Chacaito, to the east of Caracas, after delivering a speech to a crowd that had gathered at Francisco de Miranda Avenue, next to a statue of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.
Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Assembly, personally saw that Lopez was taken into custody, referring to strong suspicions regarding a possible attempt on his life.
The tug-of-war surrounding CNN’s accreditation has, for the time being, ended with the return of the news channel’s credentials.
Finally, there’s the main course, what many people with kind hearts who are immensely bored are waiting for: for a civil war to break out and for Venezuelans to start killing one another.
No, things haven’t reached such extremes yet, though thousands of photos and videos suggesting otherwise flood social networks, news channels and newspapers, showing less-than-reliable, poor quality images (most taken with mobile phones at night) and some false ones, documenting other events (some of which didn’t even take place in Venezuela).
Though the protests have been going on for 12 consecutive days, the protesters haven’t managed to convince the majority of Venezuelans – supportive of the government or not – to join them.
Incidentally, these protests, or guarimbas, as they are popularly known, are far from peaceful. This is the main reason the movement, which calls for the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, is so unpopular.
Several peaceful marches or gatherings have been organized by those who support the government and those who oppose it, at least in Caracas. The problems have come later, when groups of disaffected people who champion more extreme measures to rid Venezuela of its current government are left on the streets, unchecked.
Every night, small groups of people take to the streets to set up barricades and close off streets with waste and burning garbage. This is most common in several districts to the east of Caracas, where the opposition is reportedly the majority.
Things have gradually heated up. A retired general, surnamed Vivas, went on Twitter to give the idea of tightened strands of barbed wire across the city’s avenues to prevent –or defend themselves from- the pro-government motorizados and the National Guard.
Of course, anyone traveling at night at an average speed can be severely injured by these wires. This has actually happened, and two people have been killed by these fences. A number of photos showing the general in his garden, well-armed so as to resist a possible arrest for having suggested the idea, have circulated around the Internet.
Every night, the National Guard and police take to the streets to take down the barricades and clamp down on those who are building them. In these cat-and-mouse games – and other similar campaigns undertaken in other states – several people have been killed owing to the excess force of military officers or protesters. There’s also been hundreds of injured and many arrests.
Some armed groups are also being accused of killing protesters.
Do the protesters have any political platform?
No one has made any pronouncement in this connection to date. People merely say they are protesting against a lack of safety and to get Maduro out of office. Opposition leaders Maria Corina Machado and Henrique Capriles have continued to encourage protests. During the last two days, Capriles has insisted that closing off streets in the neighborhoods where protesters live and simply bothering neighbors is pointless, that things have to be taken to the next level, to the main neighborhoods, such as 23 de enero.
All the while, the government continues to sound like a broken record with its headlines about “fascist hordes.”
It’s true that, behind this chaos, there is no such chaos, but a well-defined aim: Venezuela’s oil and mineral and water reserves. It is also true, however, that the country’s insecurity has damaged society; that people have gradually gotten used to waiting in line to buy things and to the shortage of many basic products. It is also true that the governing party has been plagued by corruption for many years now and that it’s become more and more difficult to run a private business.
The government continues to lay its bets on the country’s division into the patriots who support it and the bourgeois fascists who oppose it. Its discourse has become stagnant, as has that of the opposition leadership.
There appears to be no prospect of dialogue among high level leaders.
All the while, most Venezuelans are growing tired of so much black smoke and barricaded streets, of stray bullets and pellets that hurt or kill someone, of extremist pronouncements and the manipulation of the media.
Most Venezuelans want peace and, if the government is unable to overcome the country’s economic and social crisis, for it to be resolved in a constitutional manner.