Heavy riot police and military contained the rally to Francisco de Miranda Avenue at El Rosal. Under the metallic noon-day sun of Caracas, blocks filled up with thousands of expectant protesters in white.
We had people – a lot of people – but there was no sound system, no tarima, none of the normal paraphernalia of a major oppo event. A tense calm dominated. Everyone wondered what was next: violence? confrontation?
Leopoldo showed up unannounced, on a motorcycle. He walked several blocks among the throng of people, sweating, pushing, cheering.
I was told he stood on top of a statue, gave a speech into a megaphone, hugged his wife, and gave himself up to the military personnel. 95% of the people at the rally couldn’t hear him. Most people had no idea what was going on, including me: I was several blocks back, away from this scene.
Then he was gone.
It was over almost as soon as it started. And then…vertigo.
Are we supposed to go home now? March to Miraflores? File down to the Guaire and jump in? Nobody had a plan.
People shuffled up and down the avenue, like zombies.
Antonio Ledezma was around. I walked up and asked him what came next. Got a shrug. Then I saw Juan Requesens and asked him. He didn’t know. I thought Juan Guaidó must be clued in. Blank stare.
No cel reception. No twitter. No news. No leader.
Even those close to López had little clue of what the next move was. Which struck me as bizarre, since Leopoldo is a tactician above all things. Surely, something was cooking, surely his three days in hiding were spent hashing out a master plan. We just had to wait and find out.
Then the rumors started: Diosdado negotiated López’s surrender with his family, in response to threats on his life. The Minister of Justice denied that Leopoldo had been summoned for arrest, so questions spread as to whether or not he was even wanted to begin with, or whether this was all a stunt. Maduro claimed hired assassins had a bounty on López’s life. Carlos Vecchio went MIA. No one from Voluntad Popular had a counternarrative to offer.
By nightfall, Venezuela was once again mired in chaos: wounded protesters in Valencia, students shot by collectivos, violent repression in San Cristóbal, fires and guarimbas scattered around small towns and big cities, all set to the background of conspiracy theories and inertia.
I wish I could tell you what this all means. I just don’t know. Too many questions, very few answers, and a weird, anxious feeling that something is not right.
The only thing I do know: tomorrow we will all wake up and take the streets again.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.