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The rumor mill on overdrive…

Well, Ana and Pedro, if you read this from Rome, I hate to alarm you but Caracas was spooky today. The rumor mill is on overdrive. We heard all kinds of crazy things…the old stand-bys like the State of Exception and the coups and such, but also relatively new ones like a definite deployment of the Batallon Bolivar, which is a heavy tank batallion (not tanquetas) in downtown Caracas. The ongoing little soap opera in Cotiza between the chavista PM officers and the “Peñista” PM officers continued and worsened: at some point someboy pulled out a baseball bat and started swinging and some officers were hurt. Tear gas, too. It’s an ugly scene and there’s a torrent of speculation about an imminent intervention of the Metropolitan Police. But if the government takes over the PM, who’ll guard the march on Thursday? People see it as a ploy to depress march turnout…

Of course, the new rumors might not seem so credible if it wasn’t for the new stuff that’s not a rumor. Those 18 year old soldiers with giant machine guns standing at every metro stop are certainly not a rumor: everyone saw them. The light tanks outside the GN headquarters are not a rumor. The reports of a large number of soldiers being sent out to Mecedores, where the radio and TV broadcasting towers for Caracas sit, well, those are kind of in a gray area between fact and rumor, but apparently are fact. And it’s also a fact that Stratfor cites inside sources saying a coup is hours away – I know, I know, Stratfor’s gotten things like these before, but I talked to Jack and he insists he has people on the inside who know what’s what.

As though all of that wasn’t enough, an email is making the rounds claiming that the big, evil, chavista plan to sabotage the opposition march on Thursday is to infiltrate it with undercover street hawkers, who’ll sell the marchers water and ice cream that’s been spiked with laxatives, giving 800,000 opposition marchers the runs all at the same time and thereby clearing out the streets…it’s crazy, but everyone I know has gotten it, and people are paranoid enough to actually believe it, or if they don’t quite totally believe it, to be wary enough that they won’t buy from buhoneros at the march. Poor guys, I feel bad for them…they rely on march-days for little spikes in business, and this won’t do them any good at all.

So, there it is. A very very jittery city. Very jittery.

Stay tuned, more to come.

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Known to friend and foe alike as Quico, Francisco Toro is Executive Editor at Caracas Chronicles.

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