Gocho Uprising Update

San CristobalSan Cristóbal, where the protest movement started, remains an extreme outlier in the current crisis, with many residential neighborhoods essentially out of the control of the government. Luis Miguel Colmenares, a Gocho friend of the blog, sent us this status update – which was sourced through conversations with four people in the city. We’ve translated it here:

  • Protest hotspots have spread throughout the city. Some roadblocks and barricades are manned around the clock, such as the one in Barrio Central (which is a shantytown, not downtown), while others come and go, such as Quinimari, Barrio Obrero, Carabobo Avenue, and dozens of others throughout Táchira State.
  • People wounded in the clashes have been arrested in hospital and turned over to prosecutors, and so many of the wounded are now refusing to go to hospital for treatment. Neighbors are trying to care for them in their home, with doctors getting around by motorbike when needed to treat minor wounds.
  • From 10 a.m. today (Friday), the whole area around the Airport was taken over by the military, including areas surrounding the Universidad Experimental del Tachira (UNET), the area around Pueblo Nuevo Fútbol Stadium, the bullring and its surrounding area. It’s not clear why, we suppose some VIP will fly in to the airport soon.
  • IMG-20140221-WA008
  • On Thursday, at 6:20 p.m., there was a minor onslaught with a few tear gas canisters and some rubber buckshot in the Pirineos area of Quinimari Neighborhood. Later, after 8:00 p.m. we saw a much harsher attack which left several people wounded. Right after it finished, the power went off in the entire area, which left neighbors really worried.
  • Running battles were common on the streets throughout the last week. We’ve heard more and more reports of state security agents forcing their way into protesters’ homes. Yesterday, on Avenida Carabobo, one older lady neighbor decided to allow student protesters to use her bathroom. Later on in the day, the National Guard broke into her house to beat her up.
  • IMG-20140221-WA010
  • There are no fatalities. Zero. In Táchira beating each other up is normal, it’s accepted. But there’s a code here.
  • This morning the city was calm, with few protesters on the street. Public transport is not operating. Businesses open briefly in the morning, or sometimes not at all, to avoid risks. There are few taxis on the street, most people avoid going out.
  • Broadband internet is working again, though it’s very slow, and it goes down in problem areas at sensitive times. The internet blackout isn’t a blanket thing: it’s not all over the city, or at all times.
  • The local media is completely under the government’s control now, they’re publishing none of what’s going on.
  • IMG-20140221-WA009
  • In the downtown area, there are cops on every corner. There are different security forces, with different uniforms, some National Police, some militia, other uniforms that we can’t easily identify.  90% of the shops are shut. Notaries are working, as well as a handful of bakery shops and very few restaurants.
  • A big march is called for 2 p.m. on Saturday at the City of San Cristobal Obelisk. We expect a peaceful rally to reject the military takeover of the city and the abusive repression of the students, as well as freedom for jailed protesters, and calling for peace in Venezuela.

All of the information in this report has been sourced by people on site in Táchira State. Civili Society organizations, student groups, and people in general.

I can vouch to the fact that the people of Táchira State is a gentle people, committed to kindness, solidarity, cordiality: these are the values of Táchira’s families.  But when you offend us and make a show of denying our rights, we face down abuses of power because we reject violence in all its forms and we demand respect for our state, and for all of Venezuela.

Al Jazeera managed to pay the city a visit.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.