The extraordinary ongoing battle for control of the Cota 905 shantytown shows the full extent of the Animalfarmification of the Venezuelan state.
In Animal Farm, Orwell brilliantly shows the slow, gradual mutation of the revolutionary elite into an oppressive governing caste entirely indistinguishable from the one it overthrew. As the book closes, the pig-led socialist revolution has degenerated to such an extent that “the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
That’s the quote that keeps ringing through my head as I read about what’s been happening on Cota 905.
“They got here saying they were going to demolish the houses, because, according to them, it’s by Presidential order. They just keep stealing and entering the houses without any judicial order. I don’t know what they want, says Bermudez.
Another of the neighbours in the area related in a phone call that the government people were looking for “El Cocui” and the members of his gang. “Those people left. El Coqui left before the first of those police operations, and the thugs that were here left also. Innocent people live here, they shouldn’t have to pay for crimes committed by others.”
It’s true, there were gangsters in here, and some of the ones they killed were gangsters. They tricked those guys, they told them to surrender, that they wouldn’t shoot, and when the guys came out, they were shot. What the bad guys were doing in here in the community, now it’s the police doing it, said a resident of La Quinta neighbourhood, who did not wish to be identified.
It’s easy to forget now how big a part people’s resentment of the “redada” – the heavy handed police raid – as a crime control technique played in the rise of the Chávez movement. These raids involved mass arrests, beatings, extra-judicial killings, all within a climate of unfettered, unaccountable policed brutality. They often seemed like the fourth republic’s only consistent response to crime, and came to stand in for the alienation of the governing elite from the people it supposedly served.
The people of Cota 905 are looking hard back and forth from man to pig and from pig to man and from man to pig again. And there’s just no telling them apart.
But this isn’t just a story about out of control redadas. The point here is that the gang’s aren’t just backing off faced with the police and the armed forces, they’re fighting back. El Estímulo, which is going mano-a-mano with Efecto Cocuyo for horrifying coverage of the crisis, says that when the authorities back off, the gangs start hunting down anyone perceived to have helped them, even with a cup of coffee.
Here’s some of their, um, stimulating report,
Los plomazos secos y repetidos despertaron a todos. La piel de gallina fue la única cobija del miedo. Segundos después lanzaron la advertencia: “vamos por sapos”. Y aquí los sapos cobran. Otros plomazos. No habían pasado 24 horas de la toma militar en la Cota 905 cuando los malandros volvieron a su tierra. Solo por instantes, para dejar claro quiénes mandan y quiénes pueden pasar facturas —además de las policías.
La casa de Ricarda —identidad protegida— exhibe más de diez heridas de bala en su frente. Está ubicada en el sector La Línea, cerca del barrio Las Quintas, donde los tiroteos son tan turbulentos como el reguetón y el vallenato. Ella sabe que su único pecado fue darle café a unos policías que se pararon frente a su hogar mientras ocurría la toma militar del lunes 13 de julio. Alguien la pilló. Algún vecino cooperante de las bandas armadas. La vieron como una “sapa”. La visitaron la madrugada del martes. “Abraham” es el nombre del líder de la banda de esa zona. Aliado de “El Coqui” ahora, porque antes eran enemigos. Pero haber transado les permite asociarse para atacar.
Ese muchacho, que no pisa los 30 años todavía, tiene poder. Lo respetan. Y aunque Ricarda tiene un nieto que forma parte de la banda, no le perdonaron el cafecito.“Usted no sabe lo difícil que es vivir así. Asustado, porque uno no sabe en qué momento lo matan. No hice nada malo, pero me tienen amenazada. Temo por mí, por mi familia, por mi nieto”, describe la mujer con una voz sísmica.
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