Spoiler Alert


Some time I picked to stop blogging about Venezuela, right? Yeesh! OK, so call this the first of a series of – hopefully rare – Ilan Chester-style guest posts from the other side of retirement.


Maybe exposure to tear gas causes learning difficulties.

There’s a lot of ferment right now, a lot of excitement, as a brand new generation of kids relearning, en cabeza propia all kinds of things that nobody ever learns en cabeza ajena.

Like Juan, I’ve seen this movie before. And so I sort of know how it ends. So – SPOILER ALERT – here are the seven lessons that today’s students are eventually going to figure out, but not before a huge amount of heartache and, well, just plain normal ache:

  1. The one thing chavismo can’t do without is an enemy, preferably one that its followers can feel good about hating, a convincingly menacing yet objectively powerless enemy that helps mobilize grassroots support while presenting no real challenge to the governing elite’s power
  2. You are the perfect enemy Seriously, you tick all the boxes.
  3. They’re not repressing you because they’re scared of you, they’re repressing you because they have a long-term plan to build a fully authoritarian state and society. From their point of view, any event that gives them a pretext to advance that agenda is a feature, not a bug.
  4. Nicolás Maduro can’t believe his luck that you started to guarimbear just when his mismanagement of the economy had gotten so bad it was starting to threaten the cohesion of the chavista coalition.
  5. Anything that makes a protest in Antímano less likely makes the government stronger because the only thing the government really fears, the only thing that actually threatens the governing clique’s control of the state and its rents, is dissent in its natural base of support.
  6. A guarimba in Altamira makes a protest in Antímano less likely, because it reinforces the Us vs. Them, el pueblo vs. la oligarquía framing that’s at the center of chavismo’s ultimate claim to legitimacy.

All of which brings us to the terrible realization people of my generation had towards the end of January, 2003, and which people of your generation are going to have in February or March of 2014:

Middle class protests in middle class areas on middle class themes by middle class people are not a challenge to the chavista power system, they’re part of the chavista power system.

This is really painful, but figuring it out is crucial. Chavismo doesn’t thrive despite this type of protest, it thrives because of it.

It will break your heart. It broke mine. But it’s important to see it clearly because, tragically, some people never do piece it together.

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  1. This is spot on.

    The sad part is that when people die, the need to go out and protest rises even more. But the endless facebooks status stating that “Altamira está que arde” are just heartbraking, for all the reasons you just posted.

    Thanks again for taking the time to write your thoughts on what’s going on, Quico.

  2. It might end as you think Quico, probably it will, but I rather have students yelling and guarimbeando that sitting their asses at home. At least this time, none and I mean none, of my leftwinged friends are defending Maduro when I call him a dictator

    • Pablito, I also think that it’s a good thing that students are again protesting. But if it dilutes away in protesting just for the sake of protesting and there are no clear objectives and demands (I don’t support protesting hasta que caiga el gobierno, that’s not democratic; but in Juan’s Make a List recent post there were several interesting items in the comments that could be demanded), then it just galvanizes chavistas around Maduro; and I say chavistas, not madursistas, because I, like you, see Maduro less and less defended amongst my leftwinged friends.

      Until we find a way to produce clear, concise demands that are democratic and that can be shared by some of that other half of the country that would never set foot in Altamira to protest, there won’t be much change.

    • I’ll echo you, my various (far?) left wing friends no longer respond or offer much defense when I call the Chavernment a dictatorship. I’m not sure what that is worth if that is true on a larger scale, maybe nothing more than i waste less time arguing with them, which I guess is something.

  3. Right on Quico (and somewhat repeating my reply to an earlier post).

    ‘El cerro’ is reaping the seeds of Chavismo with macro-economic chaos with scarcity, inflation… Will they still stand by Chavismo? To my chagrin they did on December 8.

    I will concede that they will win this round because it is they playbook, but still gas subsidies are due. Will that bring ‘el cerro’ to Antimano, Redoma de Petara and Plaza Catia?

  4. And yet, sometimes, authoritarian systems crumble from within. Sometimes, even with middle class leadership, a spark is ignited, and people take to the streets, and the system changes.

    In systems which function through control of the media, like Venezuela, a public protest may be necessary to break the sense of isolation and powerlessness that the regime fosters.

    Tactically, these protests might in fact be too early, before the full blame for the economic disaster has been affixed to Maduro. But spontaneous protest is hard to hold back, and has its own logic. No one can know, today, what its effects will be, even veterans of 2003.

    • The thing, Jeffry, in that most people that are not part of the middle or high class and directly involved in these protests either don’t know about them or only know what the government is telling them. This has been confirmed by the few people who have taken in upon themselves to leave the areas where the protests have taken place and give out leaflets explaining the situation: it turns out that most people, policemen included, didn’t even know there were protests going on.
      Because the only mention of the protests in radio or TV is made by the government, it is being described, basically, as a hissy fit by the high class, further widening the already huge class gap in the country (the us vs. them issue). So, in effect, these protests, which have not even bothered to reach out to lower classes, do in fact end up strengthening support for the government.
      The same thing has happened a few times already during the chavista regime, and every time it has just made things worse for the opposition.

  5. Capriles said something along those lines yesterday.

    He stated earlier that he did not agree with protesting, but if there were going to be protests that there should be a focus for them, not just #VeteYa!

    He also stated that by protesting violently we are playing into the script Maduro et al favor, as well as taking away the attention from the economic problems and other ills that should be what remains in front of everyone.

    However, I also got the impression that now that the protests are continuing, he is going to jump on that wagon

    • Lucia,

      What a comment! Highly unlikely a narcissist would put himself in that kind of danger ….and who are you to say he has no plan??

      Do you actually know that for sure? Do you think all plans have to communicated in public? How ridiculous !

    • I second this… The whole plan of going to the Ministerio Publico this tuesday and having the march go with him to a certain point, then walking on alone… sounds like he wants the perfect photo for his presidental campagin. Or maybe I’m being too cynical?

      • To cynical 🙂

        If he actually walks down the road a la “Good Bad and the Ugly”, this blows out telenovela drama and maybe we get the Beijing photo of the lonely man in front of the tank.

        • That photo-opp would be great! You know, because we know how well Tinanmen square ended, with the toppling of an authoritarian Chinese — uhm, never mind…

        • I don’t think this ends peacefully. Either the opposition can remove the Chavistas or there will be a brutal totalitarian state repessing all dissent with violence for years and years to come.

        • Too cynical.

          If he gets us out of this misery, I think it’s fair that he becomes president, fine by me! At this point Venezuelans are acting only relying on hope, that’s the only thing we have left.

      • Maybe. Ir certainly takes a huge amount of courage to do what he intends. Leaving his family behind and all. It will make a great picture, but an expensive one.

        • I don’t know but I think the G2 and SEBIN will do everything to detain him way before he even approaches the building and get to any good place for a picture…or they will detain him later, when he is about to sleep or go to the toilette.

      • Right! Because nothing is more fun that being taken by the GN and throw to a venezuelan jail right now.
        Ask Simonovis or any of the kids beaten and raped by GN officers last few days

          • well… IMHO it is about having a small victory in a large defeat. If he is going to go to jail and capture, which he would be for sure, then why not do it in front of everyone and walking directly into his fate. Logical, at the same time ballsy.

          • Maybe. But what if the people of the march loose their minds when they see him being taken into custody and try to rush to his aid, and all hell breaks loose? The goverment knows He is coming, they know he is coming with people, how will they react? Everybody is moving their chess pieces, we don’t know with what motive. I think Leopoldo is very smart, and he has considered many options. I wish I could know why he thinks this is the best.

        • You are right, I let my frustations get in the way and failed to look at Leopoldo like a normal human being who is probably terrified at being an opposition leader with an orden de captura by this Goverment (with a flagrant record of human rights abuses). It was petty of me.

      • I think it’s an interesting move.

        If the police tries to arrest him right there, the thousands of people behind him might try to intervene. If they don’t, then it shows the government’s weakness.

        The government’s best move IMO is as Kepler suggested: arrest him before he even has a chance to show up tomorrow.

      • If we want to be cynical, let’s be cynical but in a smart way. If Leopoldo Lopez was turning himself into the GNB just to get “the perfect photo for his presidential campaign” it would actually be a smart move in terms of public relations. However, have you thought about any of the things that might happen to him in hands of these men who have been raping detained students with guns? I hate to bring up this terrifying facts but I think it is very important that we place ourselves in the position of, in this case, one of the few people that are actually devoting their life to this fight that is certainly anything but easy.
        Leopoldo Lopez may have been quite privileged during his life, but he could have done NOTHING with his education for Venezuela. Instead, he has decided to put himself and his family in danger.
        With all the respect, I don’t think this is the moment to get cynical.

        • Yes, I did think it through after I blurted out the comment. I realized I was not taking into account many other things, like he was risking getting jailed prepetualy and becoming another Simonovis. It was a high risk decision and it deserved respect.

    • You are throwing the word narcissist around very loosely. There is healthy narcissism and then there’s the unhealthy pathological in all its flavors and levels. LL does not come across as unhealthy. He seems the product of a very normal and healthy family. I have never heard anything bad about LL and I know one of his mentors.

    • Lucia, unhealthy narcissists (NPD) are easy to spot. For one, they don’t go down with their ship. They are completelty self-centered and they resort to all kinds of rat-cunning. This is exactly what you see in the regime and the opposite of Leopoldo. Narcs don’t do what Leopoldo is doing tomorrow.

    • Mmmm. A man with the means to go to Harvard, and with a degree from Harvard that would open the doors anywhere in the world. I know a lot of people of Venezuela that just took off looking for better oportunities for themselves and their children. I would have done the same. Yet this man chose to stay to fight for his believes and his country, with his family on the line. Narcissist and mad. And a nationalist and a hero as well.
      Maybe part of the reason to turn himself was to protect his family.

  6. I have the impression that this time the protests are not Caracas-centered, there are reports coming from most urban centers. While the barrios are not joining in yet, the regime must be concerned. The economic difficulties are felt by all and amor con hambre no dura. If this continues for a few weeks the results will be unpredictable.

  7. I’m 35….

    I learned this lesson 11 years ago. Quico is right; protesters are doing a favour to all this malandros/ineptos that governs Venezuela.
    This is like hitting the jackpot for them….

  8. Sad but true, all of it. Yet. Would we be better off just accepting the all-around chaos and people just going on with their daily lives as if it all was just fine and dandy? Given the government’s huge and very efficient propaganda machine constantly telling everyone that all of this is somehow the Guerra Economica’s fault, would we be better off? I am not sure.

    Posts like these (and the raw reality they expose) makes the ‘hope is never lost’ mantra seem very fragile and even wrong.

  9. One of the reasons barrios have not joined in is fear of malandros who are mostly Chavistas, but my family tells me most people in the barrios are against the government.

    I think as the protests continues, more people will join in….but remember it is far riskier for those in barrios.

      • I didn’t say that. Nyzolano. I said that I think that if the students keep it up, and I will add if the food situation keep deteriorating, then yes I think the barrios might join in, but of the crime situation in Caracas, I would think the movement might start with poor in the small towns.

        • Firepigette, I agree and I hope they join in, god knows there are enough reasons and I think everybody can relate to the original reasons that students started to protest.
          My concern is that to the extent the protests are associated more closely with a certain political faction or individuals such as LL, MCM or AL, they run the risk of repelling rather than attracting certain sectors of society.

  10. “Nicolás Maduro can’t believe his luck that you started to guarimbear just when his mismanagement of the economy had gotten so bad it was starting to threaten the cohesion of the chavista coalition.” Indeed, what a (non-)sense of timing.

  11. Quico is right.

    What we always seem to lack is patience. Peaceful protests will have a place but it’s too soon.

    We should have waited until economic chaos hit the masses. This would’ve opened the door to dialog and alternatives. This was going to take time because we don’t have mass media. It was going to require time in the barrios, convincing people.

    Then, once critical mass was reached, we could’ve gone to the streets in peaceful protest with clear objectives.

    If what’s going on right now is not properly contained and resolved we are going to lose a lot of momentum, once again, and squandered another tremendous opportunity.

  12. leopoldo is a caudillo, capriles is a pussy, machado has no support,don’t protest, find a leader,you don’t need a leader, go to work, pay taxes,don’t pay taxes,don’t go to work, protest, get angry,calm down, think, don’t think, what’s your objective, this is history repeating itself, this time is for real.

  13. In my book, all those students should have taken used their brains to produce a series of well-written texts about corruption, about how Venezuela is lagging behind, about how Madurismo wants to do brain washing, about the essence of real debates, pluralism and accountability. They should have organised groups so as to distribute in flash mob fashion (without the show, just in the surprise sense) that material in buses across the secondary cities or in poor areas. Example: they should have distributed said flyers in Big Low Centre, at the Avenida Cedeno of Valencia, in Los Guayos’s and Tocuyito’s city centres, in El Cambur.

    And they should have done that at least once every month for the following months…

    But again they just went into a caimanera.

  14. Sadly this is my prediction too. And the worst part is the timing of this: just when the government seems to be loosing control of the economy this diffuses the pressure and creates a huge distraction. Now nobody is talking about devaluation, crime and corruption but instead about La Salida (whatever that means). When will people realize that street protests the face of which are Leopoldo and Maria Corina ARE NOT going to resonate outside a small sector of society. People have this perception that their Facebook newsfeed in any way reflects what the average Venezuelan thinks. Sad part is that I do believe capriles has made headway into gaining support and respect of traditionally non-opposition voters.
    I wish students could go out and protests without some politician trying to channel that into some sort of apocalyptic show down. Wasn’t the initial intent to protest against crime and police abuse?

  15. Quico

    I was just letting myself start to get excited, after holding back and thinking this is was all an exercise in futility that played into the hands of the Chavernment, just starting to get my hopes up a little bit when you had to come with your cool and experienced logic to nip my hopes in the bud.

    Thank you, i guess?

  16. I will attempt a translation of this post and share it on Facebook, at risk of being ostracised by most of my fellow middle class friends and family.

  17. I don’t think it was a matter of waiting for anything. It is a matter of the students being guided by responsible people to help them achieve their main objective, which although has been kind of muddled, was basically “the goverment needs to do something about the insecurity” and “set my companions free”. I feel the Leopoldo and Maria Corina wanted to morph this into something else, to benifit their own agenda, which is highly irresponsible. We are questioning why the “cerros” aren’t coming down?, why aren’t they helping? Maybe it’s because although some may hate Maduro, they may hate us more.
    Some people see this well enough. It has always been about learning to talk to the “other” country again, we are not a majority.

    • Try to review the leaders of non-communist parties since 1958, from Betancourt and Leoni to Carlos Andrés Pérez and Herrera Campins: almost all of them were closer to the average Venezuelan, at least from their backgrounds, than María Corina Machado, Leopoldo López and Henrique Capriles.

      So it is paradoxical that now, when we should counter-attack more effectively the Chavista propaganda, we have as leaders the most elite politicians we have had in living memory.

      • no food and no security might make up a bit for this” error”,

        in the barrios from what I have seen…they are not the problem….crime keeps people fearful of protesting, and securing food keeps them busy.

        When things start revving up among the poor in small towns, then the caracas barrios might start as well…..they may be the last to join.

        • I’m not sure if I agree wholeheartedly. It is very possible that crime in the barrios might keep people at bay when it comes to protests. But how much of the poor feel identified with the opossition or feel represented by them is the question. How many, when seeing the protest at the streets don’t feel compelled to act but instead sneer at the protestor. Más vale malo conocido, que bueno por conocer.

  18. FT, I was musing the very same thing. You leave and the shit hits the fan. I agree with your post. Words of wisdom and experience. The thugs are playing for keeps.

  19. Well, if the pure and untouched people from the cerros truly want to make lines with a supplies booklet like Cuba, then so be it.

    Is not 2008 anymore. There’s a lot of protests on non-Caracas places. I mean, this entire protest started on Táchira. That’s more important than whatever the people around Caracas choose to do.

    • Who they are matters much more than where they are. A middle-class student in San Cristobal has A LOT MORE in common with a Middle Class student in Caracas than either of them have with a campesino in Guarico, or with a guy in either city’s barrios. Sadly, neither of them present the slightest real challenge to the government elite…

  20. To me there are a million reasons to do nothing, and there is something very important and human about resisting totalitarian authority. And what have they achieved so far: they have made this regime show its face, and support for this kind of regime is slipping away. Most of the people the regime counts on to keep itself running are middle class professionals who to date, have turned a blind eye and made rationalizations. So yes, nothing wrong with them waking up on the way to their comfortable jobs and seeing what the regime is all about in their neighbourhoods. There’s plenty of complicity to go around in Altamira and Chacao.

    • Canucklehead,
      The issue is not whether they should do something now or not. It is what they should do.
      There is little they can do but they can definitely is to think out what message to take to the 45-55% of Venezuelans who are on the nini- officialdom side and spend time approaching those people.

      They should have good reasons for a change that they can share with people from cities such as El Tigre or Calabozo. If they cannot talk and listen and get interested in the affairs of those, they are wasting their time. What is worse: they are going to make people get tired of it all.

      • What goes down in Caracas is going to decide what happens in El Tigre and Calabozo, wherever that is. They are all waiting for the news. I guess this time it won’t arrive in the press. Allegiances will shift fast. The message is: this regime has got to go. I saw that message play out in Prague in 1989 (as I am sure I have said ad nauseum here). Havel didn’t wait for the Soviet Union to announce a default. The economy was the shits and going to collapse anyway, but he set his demands on the peoples’ calendar. I understand what you and Quico are saying and I respect the experience you bring to the argument. But people have got to protest in the face of this outrageous and degenerating situation. It is just what people do to hang on to their humanity. Queue the string section…

        • Take the hoary old pollster’s question “Do you think X understand the problems of people like you?” and apply it here. Go to La Vega and ask 100 people at random: “do you think the student protestors understand the problems of people like you?” – how many “yes”es do you think you get? 10? 15 maybe?

          That’s why this isn’t going to be the start of a Czech style defection cascade. It just isn’t. The culture gap between the classes is too wide. People sense it in their bones.

          • Three points. Havel was excoriated by the communist regime for being an effete upper class snob. The guy was an introverted absurdist playwright for chrissake, and he led “the masses” when the time came. But yes, that is Prague, not Barrio Che Guevara, so you can argue people are different. But they are not so different, in my view. At the end of the day, people are interested in the message if their situation is bad.

            Second point. I know a middle class student leader who was approached by a guy to help him get signatures to run for mayor. They and others (mostly middle class students) then put together a campaign that sought support by a broad range of Venezuelans. They succeeded. That guy is now mayor of Barinas. It can be done. People listen.

            Third point. If Mr. X in your example was Fidel Castro, the upper middle class professional son of well to do landowners, and the year was 1959, what was the answer to that pollster’s question? Or Che? Or Raul? None of these guys were or are any less privileged than what the Venezuelan opposition has to offer. It is not ideal, but that is what it is and the gap can be bridged if the commitment is there and the message is sincere. And the message does not have to be some 19th century bearded German theorist to catch on.

        • Canucklehead,
          I think I also had a little bit to do with Czechoslovakia, not from 1989 from since I was a child, since the early 80s. I had lots of friends in that country and we kept very much in touch when 1989 came and afterwards. I would get the trivial accounts of their lives from Brno or Havirov, from Plzen or Prague or Bratislava.

          Man: Czech (and Slovak) society was and is much more homogeneous – ethnically, historically, communicationally, educationally – than what we see in Valencia upon Cabriales. The guy from Bratislava, who spoke Slovak, was closer to the girl from a village around Czech Plzen than many of the guys I know from Northern Valencia to the ones in Miguel Pena, even to some relatives around Guacara. That didn’t have to do even so much with the communism they had from 1949 until 1989. That was so already several decades before. Only some groups like the Gypsies are so distant from the core Czech urbanites than most groups in Venezuela.

          Those differences we have in Venezuela are not insurmountable. But you need to be aware of them to try to reduce them.

          Students should firstly try that.

  21. Quico: estás incurriendo en el mismo error de los académicos que critican a los “callejistas” (término que tiene su carga de desprecio). Desde aquí en Canadá no me atrevo a decirle a la gente qué es lo que tienen que hacer en Venezuela. Es posible que los estudiantes y Leopoldo estén equivocados. Pero el asunto es más complicado, pues hay una parte de la sociedad que ya está harta de tanta humillación. Y ese sentimiento de hartazgo, de arrechera, no puede lanzarse al cesto de la basura con una pirueta analítica, por más articulado que parezca el análisis. Si no tomas ese factor en cuenta, entonces estás “meando fuera del perol”. Y me parece que esta vez te pelaste. Saludos

    • Claro que tomo ese factor en cuenta. No sé ti te fijaste que este artículo sale de un punto de empatía total, al rojo vivo…y no podía ser de otra manera, porque mi identificación con estos chamos es total. “Hartazgo, arrechera, humillación” es lo que me sacaron a mi a tragar gas que jode hace 11 años. Yo los entiendo, intimamente – cómo no los voy a respetar?

      I really wish I could give each of these kids a long, warm hug. Seriously, that’s the overwhelming feeling I get from watching this whole thing unfold. I don’t think I’d even say anything, because it wouldn’t help. I just wish I could hug each of them, individually, and look in their eyes. That’s all.

  22. Quico, Dang, you write well… Always a pleasure to read your work.

    I agree with most of your content, though disagree with one thing and would like to point something else out about it.

    1) I disagree with the implication that little will come out of their current protests. The economic situation that you describe as being close to becoming challenging for the government will continue to worsen as these protests happen. So, even if the protests themselves achieve little, directly, they are causing the government to distract itself from trying to diffuse the time-bomb counting down in the background, indirectly.

    2) If we are going to point out that the student generation has not learned what ours did, let’s also point out that ours has not learned what others did: there has to be an alternative for the Antimano people, otherwise they will continue to support their only current choice: chavismo.

  23. There are huge deferences between the two situations (2002 and 2014), there is no actual Chávez around here, he’s dead and no matter how hard the government try to keep him alive in people’s hearts, real diehard chaviztas are aware of his departure, and, by the way, in the mittle of a economic crisis without precedents. And more important, they just to be a majority, and that situation has changed, and that’s a fact.

  24. Re: …It will break your heart. It broke mine. But it’s important to see it clearly because, tragically, some people never do piece it together. …

    Still… I have a dream.
    Like – “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr.

    go ahead delete me.

  25. Leyendo los comentarios aqui a tan acertado articulo defendiendo a Leopoldo es una tristeza y una realidad de que Venezuela no va a salir del caos en que esta nunca. Hay muy poca gente que de verdad desea el bien para Venezuela y mucha que no, por ignorancia o por que simplemente quiere aprovechar algo.

  26. No se ha aprendido nada en estos 16 años y lo que es peor se ha perdido el tiempo. Luego de que votamos masivamente por capriles por que era nuestro lider ahora le damos la espalda simplemente por que queremos la salida facil, rapida y de un libro de fantasia. Patriotas? I don’t think so

  27. 1.Quibbling about who is the best leader is not the point.

    2.The students DO have the point as long as they keep it up and people start joining in.

    3 Those who criticize are going against the heart of the opposition which is what we have.What we don’t have is not relevant.

    4 Domesday prophecies are not helpful

  28. thank you Quico, you summarized brilliantly the POV that I have been trying to get across since last week…

    I understand that these kids are idealists that believe, like I did 12 years ago when I was in UCV, that all of these guarimbas make a difference… my question is why, just why does it seem like only a few of us grasp that these guarimbas don’t actually get us anywhere? is it that CarChron readers are in some way enlightened, is it that the rest of the antichavismo either has no memory whatsoever or is blinded by frustration, or is it because LL and MCM have done a splendid job riding the students to a newfound public relevance? WHY IS IT THAT PEOPLE CONTINUE TO SABOTAGE THE INEVITABLE MELTDOWN OF CHAVISMO BY GOING OUT ITO THE STREETS TO MAKE FOOLS OF THEMSELVES???

    • I hope not. Instead I rather think of “el famoso uno-dos”.

      This blow is the first one, not meant for the knockout, albeit our street warriors may think otherwise. However, the gas subsidy has to be addressed sooner than later and this, I could see a “el dos”.

  29. Street protests never work…. until they do.
    Protest have a cumulative effect. They do not change governments overnight but they normalize the expression of dissatisfaction and erode confidence in government institutions.

  30. Even if Quico is right (which I think he mostly is), let’s not put the carriage before the horse: let us be reminded that the middle class DID oust Chávez in 2002. It was the wholly incompetent pseudo government that followed that lost all that was won in the streets.

    But those of us who walked the walk in the streets-we won. Against all odds. That is excellent precedent for the girls and boys in the streets today. The gloominess is for the day after-only then would we know if we’ve learned something.

  31. First of all, people are protesting ALL OVER VENEZUELA, not just Altamira. You didn’t se the pictures and videos from El Paraíso, Montalbán, Los Ruices. The people from Caricuao will gather at 4:00 pm. today there. Catia and 23 de Enero have experienced some loud cacerolazos. And that’s just Caracas. Zulia, Lara, Carabobo, Aragua (one of the most chavista’s state in the country, and no, not just in Las Delicias), Barinas (Chavez’s birthplace), Guayana, Nueva Esparta, Anzoátegui, Sucre… THIS GOES WAY BEYOND ALTAMIRA, THIS IS NATIONAL.

    Then sou say: “Nicolás Maduro can’t believe his luck that you started to guarimbear just when his mismanagement of the economy had gotten so bad it was starting to threaten the cohesion of the chavista coalition.” I don’t fully understand your point. The economy is going to be equally fucked up and the pueblo just can’t escape from that, even if they close their eyes, no matter if there are guarimbas or not, people won’t be able to find the products they’re looking for either way and will have to pay more for them when they reappear. The actual crisis here are not doing any well to the Maduro government in any way.

  32. I agree that the protests won’t probably overthrow Maduro and can actually make him stronger, but at the same time, I think that saying let’s try to do something now with all odds against us is less disingenuous than saying, oh just wait until 2019.

    I have a lot of issues with the timing of this and lack of leadership and clear message, pero siento que no tengo moral para decirle nada a estos muchachos.

    • Given than by 2019 those stuck in here will have NO FUTURE WHATSOEVER, rather try now, even if it looks helpless. People aren’t going out to inhale tear gas because they want to, is because they have no other choice.

      • I think that the failure of the “it’s not time yet” has been the lack of clarity of message, what is exactly Capriles proposing as an alternative? Recall referendum? Elections in 2018?
        About the panacea of the legislative elections, with both the Constitutional rule giving 3 deputies to each state regardless of its size and the gerrymandering, its pretty much impossible for the opposition to win the majority of seats because of the distribution of its votes in fewer more populated states.
        About a recall referendum, I think they will just find a TSJ rubber stamped way of not holding it.
        I think there is a self delusion of wishful thinking in this analysis, something about the majority being a certain irreversible thing that the opposition must accomplish as a penance before being deserving of ruling the country. I liked Alejandro Tarre´s take on the matter.

        • I like the take from Tarre, he basically asks:

          “The opposition is a minority according to who, the CNE?”. Also, I would add what me and several others have pointed: Where are the protests in Caracas is not an actual measure of who is the minority.

  33. So now we know , there is an unbreachable cultural divide between the middle class and its values and those of the marginal class and their values which makes the latter hate the guts of the former and remain emotionally identified with the regime and its leaders ( for good or ill : ‘our guys’) so that for the middle class to stage protests really helps the regime three ways : 1) it allows it to rally the hatred of its marginal followers agaisnt their favourite enemies , the sifrino children of the middle class now once again joined in a nefarious conspiracy with the Oligarchs and Imperialists to subvert the revolution,2) distracting the masses from paying attention to the many glaring failures in the regimes performance. and 3) giving it an excuse to further restrict peoples access to information.
    Where where these comments during the last two weeks when the street approach was being heatedly discussed in oppo circles …great timing fellows !!
    So the hated middle class now knows that whatever it does is not only futile but that anything it does but stoically sit quietly with their asses firm to the ground is liable to help the regime it its survival !!
    Not for us the release of the pent up rage and indignation at the insults and mistreatments heaped upon us , let us learn the difficult pleasures of masochism .!!

    • Thank you Mr. Bass.

      The veterans of 2002 seem to forget that these kids have been in the streets for many years now, that they are organised, savvy and disciplined. They certainly do not need paternalistic commiseration. They need our support. Most of them know for a fact that they have no future in their country and are fighting to the death to get it back. I think it is incredibly arrogant to compare yourselves to them.

    • “let us learn the difficult pleasures of masochism”. Bill Bass I will think of you next time I am standing in line waiting for some absurd bureaucratic procedure performed by an idiot to take place on which my fate or the fate of others may depend.

    • I generally disagree with the idea that protests staged by the opposition are good for the regime and bad for the opposition. Protests are a demonstration of power, of size, of a presence and existence of a determined group fed up with the situation. If the 12F protests would have come and go that could have been called a great success, because they were big protests covering the most important cities and with wide participation of several sectors of the population. It also featured a media black out but good coverage from international media and the internet.

      What is bad is to pretend that protests will become a way to topple the government, Arab-Spring like. Making it and all or nothing tactic. Like a showdown, an arm-wrestle match between the opposition and the government. Let’s see who is stronger. That is a losing proposition. The objective of the protest is not to defeat the opponent, is to gain support for your cause, to swell up your participation. It’s not about the government, it’s about the opposition. As such they shouldn’t have specific objectives or list of demands, the objective is to show everyone that people are discontent with the situation.

      Protests then must be followed with other types of actions, like strikes, local political activism, focused/localized protests, pamphlets, meetings, other types of demonstrations. Like a good diet it should be balanced and not just one item in the menu: protest, protest. People get tired of protests, specially those that participate in them and those that are affected by them, but also the spectators.

  34. For some strange reason your post brought to mind the old adage “the medium is in the message”:


    Beyond the philosophical hocus pocus is a simple point: the kids on the street are pissed in a way nobody was back in 2002, and the medium, the outpouring of anger, renders the details of the message of second importance. In 2002 it was about stopping Chavez from transforming PdVSA and assuming even more power. That’s long past. Now it’s about stopping the government from destroying what’s left of the country. In that regard the list of reasons to demonstrate is soooo loooooong it almost seems unimportant. If you don’t see the reason behind the demonstrations you haven’t been around. The demonstrations break the suffocating cycle of accepting oppression without blinking and raises the bar on the accepted code of conduct for the government. It might just change the rules on the playing field.

    Last but not least I think the people in the barrios would also love to demonstrate, but they don’t really know why – you need a target after all. It’s a matter of convincing them that the right target is the government, not the opposition, as you rightly put it.

    • And yet only a few days ago I would write that the message of the demonstrations should be clear, focused and appeal to all. That is still valid.

  35. At least there haven’t been counter protests yet by the chavista population. Here in Valencia the protests are going to the south (chavista stronghold part in the city) and people are joining, so that’s a good sign.

  36. This post is incredibly damaging.

    What do you recommend Quico???

    If the middle class just waits till the barrio people are ready to protest against Maduro, there will be nothing to protest for.

    Nothing is right for you guys…..and this is the boon of the opposition technocrats.

    We have been waiting for the ideal oppo leader since Chavez came to power and the students and the middle class have been tolerating the intolerable FOR YEARS.

    Maybe they should just wait till they are driven to extinction, or no wait….they should pick the leader of Quico’s choice.Right ? LOL

    Or let’s just wait a little longer and the middle class will disappear,creating ‘Zero problem’ and
    at which point the lower classes will be comfortable demonstrating.

    • This comment is incredible damaging… and a direct attack on the writer writer of the post, which takes us directly to the point where, or you are with us or shut the fuck up. Very democratic I see. After many years we have not learn nothing at all. Recommendations? well if the opposition has spent years behind a voting for a leader and just now decided that he is not the guy or the ways the opposition want, go again and choose first instead of a jumping to the streets to “Derrocar” Maduro.

      • A direct attack on writer of this blog pales to the direct attack he made on the people protesting and on LL who is risking his life.What is Quico risking here?

        Oh and It bothers you that Maduro might step down? No wonder you support the defeatists.

  37. While sympathising with the students, I agree with Quico that this will only bring heartache in the short term. But I also think there is a certain inevitability to the way these things play out. The protests will enable the further radicalization of the government, emboldened by the us-vs-them logic. And so Venezuela will become more and more repressed and chavismo will become more and more the dictatorship many claim it is now. I sometimes think that things will only start improving when we become what Egypt was two years ago, not before. I hope I’m wrong.

  38. The economic problem wont disappear because we are protesting, it is still there AND it WILL get even worst than it is right now.

    In fact protests are only making even more difficult for the government to control the economic debacle coming, because they are fighting in more than one front.

    Also protests are happening lower middle class areas like Los Ruices, El Paraiso, Montalban, Curumo etc. Why there arent any protests in Catia, Caricuao? Simply because ppl know how groups like Tupamaros, La piedrita etc will react and they are scared, paramilitary groups can act with total impunity in zones like Catia or Caricuao.

    Heck, if i lived in catia i know i wouldnt even protest next to my house door.

    • If you lived in Catia you would not protest because you would have benefited from government missions.

      Your assertion that the Tuparmaros or La Piedrita terrorize such communities is bullshit.

      You also asume that most people are aginst the government in your comment. I suggest that you look at the alst four elections and the 19 held since 1999 – chavismo only lost one. These results prove your analysis to be completely wrong and full of wishful thinking.

      • There hasn’t been a fair election in almost a decade. Outspending the opposition 20-1 (all with the country’s money, not the PSUVs), control of most (and now all) of the airwaves, no debates, shutting down subways systems and local TV feeds when there is a big oppo rally in a particular city, massive deficit spending to give handouts to their supporters, threatening public employees to vote for the government, people being told there will be no new housing or loss of benefits if their neighborhood votes against Chavez, head of the Army saying they won’t accept anything but Chavez win, etc etc etc, What a joke.

        Arturo, I hope you are being paid for your work. The alternative is too foul.

      • Oh, my…the troll once again rears its ugly head…Arturo, go and crawl back under the rock that your governmen.t missions supplied you with

  39. What makes you think that today’s students haven’t learn from lessons from the passt? I know my generation did and it was because we learned from your failures that we succeeded in stopping the constitutional reform in 2007.

    Maybe this third iteration is bringing something in its hands…

  40. Specially this: ¨Nicolás Maduro can’t believe his luck that you started to guarimbear just when his mismanagement of the economy had gotten so bad it was starting to threaten the cohesion of the chavista coalition.¨

  41. Something I don’t understand — Leopoldo says he is not asking anyone to take a risk. As if the risk only begins when he walks the final however many meters? Huh? Do, um, the armed thugs on motorcycles know about the safe-passage-until-that-moment rule, too?

    Leopoldo is protected — at least somewhat — by his fame. The people who will march with with/for him, not so much. Can the government lock him up? Sure. Can they do unspeakable things? Maybe. But there would be at least some political costs to the regime, once those things become known, both domestically and internationally. That cost-benefit analysis doesn’t protect regular people.

    The taunting of Maduro, calling him a coward, personalizing the march….these are short-term applause-seeking tactics. As Juan wrote, #LaSalida is a hashtag, not a strategy.

  42. And as someone in my TL said: the “barrilogos” criticising the protest for being mostly middle class are actually mostly middle class. How can we be so sure about the way the rest of the Venezuelan people is looking at the events?

  43. And…can’t help it…must comment on the efforts to compare crowd sizes. That’s awfully familiar, too — echoes of years past. How many times have you read about the use of buses or the compelling of public sector employees? And then Chavismo shows up to vote in fairly massive numbers.

    The sizes of crowds don’t mean zero…but as a metric for support, should be used very cautiously.

  44. Quico, spot on on how this new round fits in the picture. Please, please, if no one has offered to do it, (my connection is so bad that I just could not read all the comments), translate it.

    • Wow… “Caurimare Blond Religious Family”.

      Nice racial explanation on past failures, now tell me: how do we call their next-to-be-opened ghetto?. Should we expel them?, gas them?.

      This country still oozes resentment by the pores. Chavismo thrives by it and will survive a thousand years.

  45. This may very well be right but going by your point 4. It’s equally wishful thinking to think that economic collapse alone will make a dent to the government.

  46. Mr. Toro. There is one thing you omitted… 10 years ago Chavez handled the unrest a “punta de plata” with the Misiones goodies in all their forms for both middle and low income groups. This time all the giveaways and misiones are shrinking. Back then, guarimberos were a nuisance on our way to work, paros were unpopular because people had to work to make money. Now, there is less work as the economy slows down significantly and commerce goes idle. More and more people are working half a day because there is nothing to do. Many business are closing early because theres not enough merchandise to sell .. Fast food restaurants sometimes aren’t serving because they have no plastic cutlery. Places from expensive Tolon to Parque Caracas in centro are becoming ghosts malls with a huge reduction in commercial activity… Come on, closing down Av. Casanova and F. Miranda on a weekday.? That is now done without much fuss or complain!!

      • I never discounted any popularity that the President had at the time. But to claim its peaks had nothing to do with the oil bonanza that started those years is disingenuous. Subsidies and handouts have always been key elements to sustain popular support in this society. Isn’t it what you guys in the Latin-American magical left always run on: paying the “deuda social” or “give me my piece of the pie too”?

    • South Palito – your memory is short and INCORRECT. When the “strike” ended on Fenruary 2nd 2003 there were no Misiones. The fist Misión was Mercal in May 2003 – so you analysis is completely wrong. The “paro” burned itself out……..as will these protests.

      Obviously if you work in a store on Av. Francisco de Miranda then you may be working less due to the violence. But unemployment is under 6% – back in March 2003 it reached over 20% and people still supported Chavez.

      There are many protests all over Venezuela but that is excellent as people can democratically and consitutionally express their discontent. However, when “students” start acting like TERRORISTS throwing Molotovs, stoning buses with passengers inside, burning CDI’s and even a Simoncito, this is not going to overthrow the government but will simply lead to arrests, deaths and imprisonment.

      By all means support the protests if tehy are peaceful but not if they are violent since, if you are unlucky, someone you know or even a family member could end upo in the morgue.

      Quico is right. Middle class kids, protesting about middle class isues in upper and middle class áreas is going nowhere fast. If these tough kids wanted to overthrow the government they would be in the barrios recruiting the masses – not lighting fires on the as´halt of Plaza Francis or in Nagunagua.

      Finally using Twitter to make propaganda is pathetic. Everyone knows it is just “un antro de chsimnes y mentiras” which suits Vewezuelans completely.

      I look forward to your comments when this student movement burns itself out.

  47. The question of whether an absence of grand strategy is counterproductive is immaterial. Simple grassroots countering of authoritarian hegemony has merit. That Venezuela is failing in such basic ways to structure its society usefully for its population is not news. What will be new and newsworthy is what comes next: a deepening militarization and repressive cubanization of the political space (one expects) versus (one hopes) a new Opposition assertiveness that delivers its list of democratic demands and plans for a Venezuelan society based on respect for the rule of law. Asymmetric warfare capacity building was a Chavez preoccupation. Asymmetric democratic opposition will be the counterweight.

  48. Francisco, great post! and if we had a central planned opposition, this marches wouldn’t of happened. The facts are that they did happen… We now have lemons and we need to turn them into lemonade

    In my mind, the overall objective has to be to erode share from the Chavistas. Although the extremes tend to polarize with these events, I’m not sure how to read the impact that injustice against the students will have among the people less “blessed economically” (the poor) that are not in the extreme. Will it be A) sadistic/envy: “finally those sifrinitos are suffering and I like it, therefore I support the government” or B) Empathy/Justice: “They are right to protest for insecurity, inflation, scarcity, etc and the government is treating them unjustly” of C) they just don’t care….

    I have been out of Venezuela for a long time… But I tend to think that the more this continues and the harder the government is on the students the “not polarized” chavistas will be won by the students and the government will be seen as totalitarian… Will this result in “la baja de los cerros” I don’t know, but our side can win market share and improve its standing in the eyes of the not hard core chavistas.

    my 2 cts…

  49. BTW, to choose #Lasalida as a slogan that is so close to La Salida Final (so close to nazi final solution) is a infantile thing to do. There isn’t a “Salida”. There is a long road ahead of reconstruction if the society by a miracle decide to give Venezuela a chance (Sorry Lennon I had to use it). And no more egotistic personality.

  50. We will never begin our way out of this mess until we first understand and accept this reality. Protest we must, but we can’t expect this to be the “salida”.

    HCR gets it, and I think he’s intent in building a credible alternative for people to fall in love with. Thing is, in this context, what you build with reason, the government destroys with $$$ – not even with ideology.

    Dios nos guarde!

  51. Interesting interview with ex-SEBIN escaping to Panama:




    All electoral results have been manipulated by the regime starting with the recall referendum. In every election SEBIN knew all electoral pre-determined results by 4PM.

    Cubans are everywhere including the SEBIN.

    Diosdado Cabello is the master of Venezuela, not Maduro.

    Chavez died between 26-8 of December 2012 not in March 2013. The body was transferred to Venezuela to the Hospital Militar shortly after. The body in the Museo de la Revolucion is not Chavez. Kirchner and Chavez’s daughters knew the body in the wake was fake. They were not happy about it. Diosdado arranged everything.

    There is no middle class in Venezuela, the middle class is finished–presumably, it exists only in exile. Capriles cannot convince the Chavista base that remains. He has no way to succeed.

  52. I wanted to medidate a little, before commenting on this post. Not for the post in itself, but the attitude behind it.

    Short recap:

    There were protests in January at USM after an entire classroom was mugged, and a couple of days later when a bus full of students was also mugged.

    Later in January, Students at ISUM also protested when an entire classroom was mugged,

    On February 4th, college students in Tachira began to protest against crime in their campus, the day after one of their classmates was almost raped.

    On Feruary 8th, it was announced that three of the students from Tachira, who had been arrested were going to be transferred to Coro with common criminals.

    Student solidarity sparked, and protests began to erupt in Tachira, Merida, Zulia, Caracas y Coro. By now, these protests were already dealing with issues other than crime on campus, and jailed students, such as scarcity, inflation, crime in general, etc.

    LL, MCM and AL had been promoting #LaSalida since late January, and became the only opposition politicians to get involved with these protests. And jumped on that wagon.

    On February 12 two students were killed in the aftermath of the protest, when police forces and paramilitary groups began the crackdown.

    In Valencia there are reports of detained students being tortured, held for ransom, robbed of their belongings and sexually abused.

    And you (Quico) come up with: “Nicolás Maduro can’t believe his luck that you started to guarimbear just when his mismanagement of the economy had gotten so bad it was starting to threaten the cohesion of the chavista coalition.”

    How untimely of these students to protest about beign mugged, shot and raped while going to college! How unconvinient of them to protest in order to get those unjustly imprisoned, released! How unwise of them to protest after police forces and paramilitiry groups killed two students! How unstrategic of them to remain in places with friendly municipal police forces instead of going someplace where they can put themselves in even more danger!

    I’m not saying there’s no room for criticism. I think there’s room to incorporate more content into these protests. Some commenters, have suggested alternative courses of protest like flashmobs. JC suggested to structure a list of demands to call their negotiation bluff. It’s a way of trying to toss around some ideas, maybe a few might get picked up.

    But dismissing all their effort as rookie mistake? What was THEIR alternative? Continue taking one for the team?

    Your Ivory Tower is looking too high in this post.

    • THIS. Sometimes we overthink so much that we forget we must just do the right thing. Doing nothing in the face of human rights abuse in our own backyard is being part of the problem. I was in my 20s in Panamá During the Noriega crisis, and I marched carrying white handkerchiefs, burned my parent’s car horn in the streets, and my mother was threatened with a rifle to the chest at our home front door while hitting kitchenware every day at 6 pm. Not much, but that was the little we could do to say we were NOT part of it. I’ll be at noon today in a human chain for SOS Venezuela for the better lives and rights of the Venezuelan people. Prohibido olvidar.

  53. While I agree with some points of the article, I still disagree with your thesis. Having also been part of the 2002 and 2008 protests, this time around things are different. When I say “different” I do not mean they will have a different result (I do remain skeptic about the possible reach of these protests), nonetheless, the situation cannot be compared with past occasions, and I’ll mention just a few reasons why:

    1. Chavez is dead. If the student movement lacks a set of objectives, so does the government. The inner power circle of Chavismo is clearly fragmented. Do not underestimate the power struggle within Chavismo. Under a situation of social pressure (like the current situation), a lack of decision making power could have unpredictable consequences.

    2. The economic agony the country is going through right now is much worse than in any other period of the Chavismo rule. Chavez had charisma and money; this government has none.

    3. The military has changed. While the 11 de abril was perfect for Chavez to get rid of all military dissent with the rank and influence to tumble his government, that was 11 years ago. The heads of the military might be escogidos a dedo, but a new generation of middle-upper rank admirals and generals are now in power positions to move influences within the military. I think it is an error to underestimate the frustration caused by the the arbitrary appointments and the injerencia cubana.

    4. The protests are not Caracas focused. Caracas was actually the last city to start protesting. Merida and Tachira started one week earlier. Valencia, Maracaibo, and several other cities have also taken to the streets. So far, including 2 students today in San Juan de los Morros, the number of dead students reported so far is 9.

    5. No media to report. This could end up being a double edge sword for the government. When there is no way to disseminate trustworthy information, las bolas empiezan a correr. In the midst of nation wide protests, being misinformed leads to speculation which could generate social chaos.

    6. Much more colectivos chavistas are armed and organized.I have lived in China for the past 5 years, but I come back home every 4-5 months and stay for at least one month every time. One of the things I like doing when I’m back in Caracas is to walk down the entire Avenida Baralt and stop at panaderias and empanada spots to talk to people. It is my thermometer to measure the social environment of Caracas. This time around I did notice a difference with past occasions: instead of just being disappointed and giving me the typical answer “todo esta jodido, pero que vamos a hacer? igual tengo que salir a trabajar y darle de comer a mis chamos,” people displayed anger at the situation. The thing is, when I brought up the question “so why don’t you go out and protest?,” the answer was “sera para que me peguen un plomazo esos colectivos.” This was not an isolated answer, most people responded in the same way.

    7. Lack of support. The Chavismo approval ratings are lower than ever. I attended both the protests on february 12 as well as the Chavismo protests in Avenida Bolivar on the 14th. In regards to the opposition march, 2 things were different: 1. there was no police or GN to safeguard the marcha all the way from Plaza Venezuela to the Fiscalia (this could have multiple interpretations), not one in sight, I am not exaggerating, and 2. people did not pay any attention to the few political leaders that attended, which is actually another important point, only MC, LL and Capriles attended and for a short period of time; they were barely visible nor did political parties play an important role. This demonstrates the middle class support of the student protests, and not to any political party.

    As for the Chavismo concentration, there was literally no one there, 1000 people tops, even with the help of buses (1001 if you count me :P).

    Those are just some of the points. I do believe objectives have to be set and the once Chavismo social power base has to join the protests in order for them to reach a preset goal. But what is now a continuous week of protests, could turn out to be the spark to light nationwide social disorder.

    • I concur with your observations… I also “me infiltré” in those concentrations…. turnout was extremely low in the chavista gatherings. I saw some people around plaza candelaria around 3 pm removing their red tshirts and going back to their reality as if nothing had happened.. And in the opposition gathering there was never any focus on a political “leader” or “caudillo” telling people what to do, in fact i don’t remember any vivid or prominent mention of the infamous “#LaSalida” that I remember by MCM, she simply sided with the student movement and stepped down.

  54. Tengo que escribir en ingles? :S
    Me gustan mucho las conclusiones a las que has llegado. Pero quiero ser un poco optimista y creer que te equivocas y que esta vez, algo bueno resultará.

  55. Kico, agradezco tu alerta. La necesidad, el derecho y el deber de protestar no deben desperdiciarse en servir en bandeja de plata un revolcón político de dolorosas y prolongadas consecuencias.

  56. Quedarnos callados, cada uno en su casa esperando a que nos terminen de quitar el país, sin duda que no es la solución. Hay millones de razones para protestar en estos momentos. A los opinadores y críticos, los invito a que propongan mejores alternativas desde la comodidad de sus casas.

  57. CC quien los entiende? Cuando henrique capriles hablaba de los tiempos de Dios ustedes lo criticaban por comeflor. Ahora que un sector de la oposicion busca acciones de calle entonces ustedes se acuerdan que la confrontacion solo le conviene al gobierno. Parece que lo suyo es criticar por criticar…

  58. Ah, y si te parece que no va a servirbde nada y que es mejor quedarnos callados, entonces repiyo, NO ESCRIBAS MÁS SOBRE VENEZUELA, porque no estás ayudando

  59. First, I must say that It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantastic intelligent display of different opinions regarding this huge and difficult time and recent events in our country with the upmost civility. I know I shouldn’t be in aw. But after all these years watching, and listening how the “way” to debate is to insult or diminish differences…well, you all know what I’m referring to.
    I do agree with most of you, and with the uncertainty of the results. Do I think that Maduro will fall? Do I think that he will leave or resign due to his absolutely mediocre “labor”? Hell no.
    Do I think that maybe, just maybe around Maduro’s circle of trusted officials something is not right? That those “trusted” are not so?? Perhaps. Maybe his fall will come within? Who knows.
    But I do think and believe that this time it’s different, that the students are the force at this moment. That they are the ones carrying the so called leadership for those of us that are completely tired and hungry for reaction. And I said: reaction, to an unsustainable situation that will continue to (and pardon my French) fuck us all….even more.
    Every “class” is being bitten by the whole social-economic and political debacle. So yes, I support those protests and I don’t think that this time is only the so called middle class kids and they are not only held in Caracas, they are in every city in the country with people from different backgrounds. And I totally agree with J. Navarro’s explanation on how these last week came to be.
    I agree with Capriles, I admire Machado and I believe Lopez is fighting toward something.
    Do I have answers? No.
    Do I have any solutions? mmmm Nope.
    What to do, what to do? Support and join those who are doing something. It’s a lot better than doing nothing, or nag and complain.
    I’m 41 years old, and somehow I do sympathized with this generation of students, they will never know the Venezuela that I grew up in, and even thou they don’t know, they want better. They know better.
    So whatever the outcome is, Venezuela and this government is on the map again…for better or for worse.

  60. Well, I just gotta say, if it is as polarized as you say it is, how do you explain protests are beginning to arise in places like: Caricuao, La Vega, El Paraiso, Petare, Catia la Mar, Santa Monica, San Bernardino, and so forth.

    On another topic, the economic disaster is arriving at full force and it only will get worse. The Venezuelan State nowdays is not the same one of the 2002 uprising, they lost their charismatic tyrant, and they are practically broke. Therefore they dont have the resources to satisfy the venezuelans’ tendency towards consumerism, something that practically has been the ground on which the whole “Revolutionary” Government has sat upon.

    And on a more idealistic mood, many great changes in the world have started with just students speaking out with their voice and their actions against what they consider wrong. This isnt an “11 de Abril”, it didnt even start in Caracas, it started in Tachira and Merida. This isnt some plot developed by a previous status quo trying to recover what was theirs (Fedecamaras, Carmona Estanga, etc), it is a social outburst from a certain part of the venezuelan population that has awoken more than one mind along the way, and has made the world to look upon us once more. I may be a dreamer, but I do hope this movement is just the start of a much broader one, that will express the venezuelans’ will to live, to thrive, and to change all the things that today is ruining their country.

  61. One difference between 2003 and 2014 is that back then the protests were about the increasing authoritarism of Chavismo, about its political bankrupcy and intolerance to dissenters (i.e. sabotage of referendum efforts). The 2014 protests, on the other hand, are about the absolute septification of the country: Absurd levels of crime, formidable economic chaos, asphyxiating inflation, pulverized institutions, shortages of everything, from toilet paper to jobs. In summary, today’s protests are less conceptual and more visceral. People are really tired and worried, and pissed off.

  62. I don’t check CC one day and I find myself with 161 comments on Quico’s post. So sorry if I just repeat from the above – I didn’t read the comments yet!- but I just had to comment.

    I was also there like Quico during all of 2002 on the streets of Caracas up until January 2003. I understand exactly what he’s saying. But I’d rather have the kids in the streets protesting and showing that they’re sick and tired of the shithole that has become Venezuela, than just taking it quietly. For one thing is for sure, venezuela today is in a lot worse shape than it was in 2002. That is what should make this time different, let’s hope it is so!

    Ps- I saw Antimano was also protesting, so may be this time IS different….

  63. A friend of mine has just sent me this video of @juliococo. It gave me the chills, what if this guy is right about the colectivos?

  64. Exactly my thoughts, however the best way to support their government is by doing nothing. And it seems that this country is (finally) tired of doing nothing. My generation realized every point you state here, and many of us got involved in our daily lives, trying to survive, and forgot that we had to do something more direct about this government. I really hope that this new generation, the one that grew up knowing nothing else than chavismo vs oposición, keep pushing.

    Yes, chavismo fears discontent in their own lines. But there’s something they fear even more and it is people they can’t control. And they can’t control students, plain and simple (hence, the violence we have seen these days). And we can’t forget that, despite all the power chavismo has, they’re still human beings, and they get tired eventually. Students? Not so much.

    This will end sooner than later and hopefully, in our favor.

  65. another commenter that thinks that Quico is spot on. although not denying how sad and cynical the situation has become. bah.

  66. I don’t understand why people attribute some sort of different genetics to poor people.

    Like they were different animals, different species.

    We all are suffering from the same shit. Be insecurity, inflation and a long putrid etc. If any, the poor people get hit harder.

    Their nature of their fear IS what is different. Whereas in the Este people fear for their whisky and the price of the dollar in the Oeste is about more basic things. I’m not even talking about insecurity as seeing a dead corpse on the road eventually wears off. And they have seen one too many. I’m talking about lack of food and medications. That is what ultimately is going to take these “different species” out to protest as I’m gladly watching it.

    Economic is not quite a science but it works under the principle of cause and effect. There isn’t simply enough dollars to sustain the fiscal deficit. Period. And I don’t think any country with cuatro dedos de frente will lend to Venezuela. The inflation is not going to subdue; it’s going to get worse in fact. Not in terms of nominal prices but in terms of scarcity.

    You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the stomachs all the time.

  67. Guys, I’m the only one that finds indifference comfortable in all this situation?, Indifference isn’t always to give power to the oppressors nor to ignore the oppositions, but to extract their power by refined methods from both extremes, I tried to suicide myself 4 years ago, and I was inside two psychiatric clinics, both here in Zulia, I just didn’t want to know more about politics, in fact I spent all my time in those days reading poems, existential philosophy, art, etc, I didn’t want to be involved on extremist points of views, I refuse to give power to politicians.

    How do I remain in peace?, ignoring all the social boundaries, I spent my time reading, or going to lonely places to think, to read philosophy, maybe I’m a fatalist, I will welcome death any day, I just don’t care anymore, I just want to make art or read, I think that if I ought to stand on a position is to kill people no matter what political views, but to suppress all the people whose mind aren’t incompatible with arts & science, we need a more artistic and scientific Venezuela.

  68. I think Leopoldo is not reading right the venezuelan social movements, or he is just thinking of his own epic leadership story, but the country needs spekesman for the hjundreds of protests all across the country and this guy makes the play the government wants: to get the focus on leopoldo instead of corruption, that way popular zones will NOT join the protests

  69. I don’t agree with the post. Protests do matter in this context, and can have a tangible result. While is obvious that middle class protests in middle class locations are not going to produce anything by themselves, with the proper message and direction they can spark something in the “base”. It seems that this is already happening; there are plenty of reports of protest in the west of Caracas. Besides, other readers have already commented the fact that the protests are all over the country, so it would be a mistake to just take into account the protests in Altamira.
    And people seem to forget that students in 2007 helped defeat the constitutional reform. Luis Vicente Leon would argue that it was scarcity of milk and other products, but under that explanation how would it make sense the defeat in the last regional. Protest have mattered before, and I think (and Hope!) that they will matter in our days too.

  70. About two weeks ago the editor of Caracas Chronicles, Quico Toro, told the readers of this excellent site that he was leaving the blog and interrupting his analysis of the Venezuelan situation in order to go to South Sudan to help in developing that country. Dozens of readers, including me, wished Quico the best of luck in his new tasks.
    But he is back, at least as a guest contributor, see:
    https://www.caracaschronicles.com/2014/02/17/34988/ . The Krakatoa-like political eruption in Venezuela took him (and many others) by surprise and he could not resist the urge to comment. However, his message was not supportive of the protests, not because he does not consider them justified but because, in his opinion, they will eventually amount to nothing. As Juan Nagel would say, the money quote is:
    “Middle class protests in middle class areas on middle class themes by middle class people are not a challenge to the chavista power system, they’re part of the chavista power system.
    And he adds: “This is really painful, but figuring it out is crucial. Chavismo doesn’t thrive despite this type of protest, it thrives because of it. It will break your heart. It broke mine. But it’s important to see it clearly because, tragically, some people never do piece it together”. A reference to Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the protests.
    In other words, Quico believes the protests are bound to fail because they only represent a sector of the population, the middle class, and are not supported by the poor, who live in the barrios. The protests would be an elitist exercise, without real popular support. His advice to the protesters would seem to be: go home and keep quiet. Do not risk your lives unnecessarily. I have seen this type of effort fail before.
    I do not agree with this advice, although it represents a sincere attempt at safeguarding the lives of our youth. But I think the advice is based on wrong assumptions and, even if these assumptions were right, protests would still be justified since the alternatives to submission are unthinkable.
    I believe Quico’s assumption that the protests are strictly a middle class affair is wrong. Students cut across social strata, from the rich to the poor, all equally indignant about the Venezuelan tragedy. And the parents of poor students are also poor and live in the areas of Caracas where Quico says nothing much is taking place. I would say that the protests are taking place in many cities, in middle class and poor sections of those cities. One thing is apparent: there are no popular protests in favor of the regime.
    But even if Quico was right about the social identification of the protests as strictly middle class, to speak at this moment in such a pessimistic manner is probably not the best thing to do, especially if our words will not alter the course of events. Much of the country is in the streets. Given this situation, it is very important that our best minds either support the protesters or, if in doubt, refrain from discouraging them.

    • This is supposed to be a forum for thoughtfull, dispasionate discussion, not a cheerleading contest. As much as I appreciate the blog, I don’t think it matters at all in the big picture whether anyone here writes something supportive or not. Quico is not wishing failure on the movement, and neither do I. We all understand that Chavismo has been a plague rotting the core of the country, and the faster they go, the better. It is just that we have been already down exactly this same road and it ended in utter disaster, setting us back many years. We will only get ONE shot at getting rid of them, and if we fail this time, it will take another 10 years for the proper conditions to come back.
      Unless the leaders of this rebellion know something that the rest of us don’t know and have a well thought out master plan for the next while, which frankly does not seem likelly, it is hard to see path for success.

  71. Quico, you’re so right about almost everything. But it seems you’re just focused on Altamira protests and some people know what it means for the government and how this story ends. We have to keep in mind that in this case, the entire country is protesting. Have you seen all protests in Táchira, Lara, Mérida, Carabobo, Aragua? Just to mention a few. All of them are led by students and followed by “el pueblo” and el pueblo is finally integrated by chavistas (in a big proportion) el pobre and el boligurgés as well. It’s a lot of work that has to be done and nobody knows how long is going to take to fix everything!. Maybe we do or don’t have certain base to deny the existence of a good –long term- plan, but I can assure you something, this is not ONLY a middle class protest!. Thanks for your SPOILER alert anyway!

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