HAVANA TIMES — These words are spoken by an old man in a subway car, selling Mongol-brand pencils, 3 for 100 Bolivars. “Don’t let this deal pass, they’re selling them at 80 Bolivars the piece at stores.” Then comes the phrase about the buns and the flour.
I step off the subway and, next to the National Assembly building, I see a truck fitted with loudspeakers and a stand where they are taking signatures against the Amnesty Law [approved by the legislature but being fought by the executive]. There are several people standing around the stand and a man with a microphone screaming, accusing the opposition representatives [who have a large majority in the Assembly] of being perverts and saying theirs is a peaceful, but armed, revolution.
The situation in Caracas is very peaceful. People, tired of being left unprotected against crime by the police, the National Guard and the government in general, has decided to take justice into their own hands. This has been happening since last year and, every day, more and more videos showing blood, screaming and of course beatings are changing hands.
Generally, we see a mugger who’s unarmed, ambushed by a group of people who hit him, kick him, spit on him and take revenge for so many years of robberies and murders that have gone unpunished.
Let us not deceive ourselves, however. “People’s justice” isn’t always so just and, commonly, swerves off into paths as dangerous as the lack of official control over delinquency.
When I get to work, I connect to the Internet (luckily, the connection isn’t down today and, every day I do manage to get online seems more and more like a miracle) and find out that, at El Valle, there’s been another attack on a police station, where a number of officers were killed and others wounded. At least seven inmates escaped from the station.
I wouldn’t want to be a cop in this country today.
I’ve never managed to identify with the police, but, this time, I almost did.
Months ago, a couple I knew met a terrible death. They and their daughters were kidnapped. When they found out the man had been a police officer, they killed him in front of his daughters. They killed his wife too. Then, they burned their bodies.
In Tachira, two police officers were deliberately run over by students from a university driving a bus.
Two women who were traveling to another state were raped by robbers when they discovered they were cops.
It is said that the head of one of the largest armed bands in Caracas pays dollars for every police officer or member of the National Guard killed.
Speaking of armed bands, I think that, the way we’re going, they’re going to be the next rulers of the country, if they aren’t already.
It is known that many of these groups have better armaments than the police.
In recent months, confrontations between these bands have become more regular. During Holy Week, we read news of 10 people killed in El Valle. All were the members of a criminal band that had refused to join two others (which were obviously stronger). Next to this sector is Fuerte Tiuna, Venzuela’s largest military complex. For several hours, the locals endured the horror of this confrontation between criminal groups and not one member of the military set foot in the neighborhood.
All the while, I am transported back in time to those wonderful years in Cuba, when they had the bright idea of taking agriculture to the city, or people in the capital to the countryside, or both.
In the midst of this dreadful draught, threatening to bring about an energy crisis because of water shortages at the Guri dam, Maduro is advancing an Urban Agriculture Plan to fight chronic food shortages.
Oh, and they’ve started handing out food packages in different neighborhoods, after taking names down on a list (they’ve already come around my place with the mysterious list), where personal, work-related and political information is included.
The line-ups of people at stores are now three times as long as before.
I hope I’ll have electricity over the coming months, to be able to continue writing.