Muerto en Vida: A Glimpse into the Metro’s Buhonero Mafia

My friend’s terrifying run-in with the way the mafia behind the metro's itinerant hawkers protect their turf.


Saúl and his friend Johan hop on the Metro de Caracas at Capitolio station, dirección Palo Verde (Eastward). It’s Thursday afternoon. They make their way toward the middle of the wagon, when a group of lacras (‘scourges’, is Google’s helpful gloss) hops in behind them.

Saúl is adamant as he tells me the story en caliente: “they didn’t look like regular tukis; these were the kind of thugs you just know have at least three killings under their belts”.

At the next station – La Hoyada -, a dingy Metro-buhonero hops in to offer Bolibomba bubble gum in the next car. It’s a common sight in the Metro, worthy of its own viral YouTube tribute.

But something is wrong.

all of a sudden, one of the nastiest lacras of the bunch blurts out an “EL COÑO E SUAMADRE!!” He scuttles towards the wagon and grabs the hawker by the arm, literally spitting the words on his face:

“Que coño e madre haces tu acá mamagüevo? Me estás chocando el carro de nuevo! Quien coño te dijo que podías estar vendiendo en Línea 1 a esta hora maldito becerro?!?”

Shocked by the burst of ultra-violence, Saúl and Johan take a while to come to a terrifying early conclusion: there’s a mafia behind the metro-buhoneros, commanded by some of the nastiest, most baneful malandros of Caracas. And the scene just got worse from there, with every exchange between the mobsters and the poor buhonero scaring the shit out of all the bystanders.

“Fuck, this guy is a real chocón” [cartel-breaker? this one’s hard to gloss.] On and on it goes. “We took you from the sad sack of a human being you were in prison and put you to work, and the only thing you seem to know how to do is fucking us”, or…“What the fuck are you doing chocando el carro en alta, you moron?”

The gangsters have transformed into hyaenas, intimidating and laughing at their prey.

“What are you talking about, mano? I always do right!” blurts out the hostage, trembling with fear.

“Don’t ever call me mano, I’m no mano of yours you fucking chocón. I still remember that one time when you went with us to the candy store and you were cara-e-tabla as fuck, trying to steal a box of chocolates in front of the Chino owner… It seems like the your goal in life is to be a fucking ladilla de mierda. Es más, Give me that fanny pack you wearing RIGHT NOW”.

“But, but..”.


The head of the malandros is bright red with anger at this point. With a vein throbbing in his temple and bloodshot eyes, he snatches a los coñazos the koala off the hawker’s back and starts to rifle though the pockets. Two seconds into it, the thug finds a bag of cocaine, which he promptly takes out to put it in his victim’s face, so casually yet plainly evident for everybody living the scene in the wagon, Saúl and Johan included.

Conque Periquito… con razón tan chocón“, the thug mocks him, referencing the common neuropsychiatric complications prevalent among cocaine abusers. “Te comiste la flecha, mamagüevo. You’re going to Petare with us”.

The thug’s face loses all hint of emotion while handing down the death sentence of the bubble-gum buhonero.

“You fucked us up for the last time”.

Our chocón goes pale as the midnight moon, digesting the grim fate that awaits him. The whole incident feels like an eternit, but they were only arriving at Sabana Grande the moment when the thugs declared the death of the poor Bolibomba salesman.  

Shortly afterwards, the lead thug taps out a number on his phone.

“Que dice menor!! I’m with the chocón, remember him? The motherfucker thinks he can sell his fucking Bolibombas wherever he wants, but what do you think… Yeaah man, he’s friends with that other motherfucker that we saw selling in Plaza Venezuela.. Pocoyó!! Yes, that’s the name of that cunt..hahaha, yes of course I’m gonna get rid of him. Listen, I need you to get to Petare subway…. TRÁETE EL HIERRO AL ANDÉN. This little chocón isn’t going to get a chance to escape under my watch.”

The lead thug – Saúl never heard his name – hangs up the phone. It’s all set now.

The metro arrives to Chacao station. Saúl and Johan are scared, but not as cagaos as the chocón, who looks more dead than alive at this point. They catch a quick glimpse of the muerto en vida, and quickly hop off the train without looking back.

Pobre chocón.

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Russian-Venezuelan. A Santiaguino who left his heart in Caracas, Daniel is currently rehabbing from his addiction to High Beta and is pursuing a masters' degree in economics at Universidad Católica de Chile. Views are his own.


  1. I’m trying to translate this in to English. It appears that you witnessed some gang members who found someone selling cocaine on their turf without their permission. Or was he just selling chewing gum and had some cocaine for his personal consumption on him?

    Would that be correct?

    • You know relative prices are *screwed*up* when the profits from selling loose pieces of gum on the metro can sustain a coke habit…

          • Mosquito, it goes like this:

            Perico is coke, with varying degrees of purity. It’s usually cut (mixed) with other elements like powder or salt, and the quality of the product depends on how much there is of that cutting agent.

            Then comes crack, or piedra, which is freebase cocaine; in easier terms, it’s less quality than coke and is usually made with what’s left after coke is done. It’s famous because, since it’s lower quality, it’s cheaper. It gives a fast adrenaline rush -I’m told, haha.

            Finally, if legends are to be believed, is bazuco, which is made of the scum of the scum, basically what’s left after crack is done. Consumed the same way you’d do crack, you can recognize it because it’s dark. They mix it with kerosene. It’s ultra cheap and I imagine it has some sort of stimulant effect, since it’s in the family of cocaine.

            So, Coke > Crack > Bazuco.

  2. I know we are desensitized to everything at this point, but there’s no way I’m staying in the same wagon with those malandros all the way through Chacao.

  3. So, in a completely public location, three thugs openly conduct violent criminal business, completely without fear of any public authority. Just exactly how can Venezuela pull itself back from the brink of barbarity?

    • In a moving closed public location to more precise.

      It is like been a thug in a boat, with the difference that of a boat you can jump.

      So, you can reach your conclusion about the safety of the passanger of our subway system.

    • Yup. Standing ovation to Daniel. Perfectamente escrito en spanglish!

      I didnt know that we had bolibomba buhoneros en el metro… and that you better buy from them unless… and that they were controlled by a mafia…

      I mean, wtf a la n

  4. Daniel, that brutal milieu – a metaphor for the whole country – sounds increasingly like the turbulent social order found in overpopulated penitentiaries, where the most violent and organized brutos rule by terror. Except on the metro, and the country at large, there are no prison guards, so to speak. The dignity Delcy rants on and on about is simply not there. The whole shebang fells like the thorny acres below Salto Angel: pura selva.

  5. There are thugs with badges and thugs without badges. Both doing business in plain sight. Society simply imploded in Venezuela.

  6. Incredible. The guy selling chewing gum was given a death sentence then and there, in front of everyone. He was going to be killed as soon as they got off in Petare. How fucked-up can a society be for this to happen in front of everyone? This is worse than dysfunctional, this is failed-state dysfunctional, this is Games of Thrones. God have mercy on all of us! One of the best articles in CC for a long while.

    • I totally disagree that this is “one of the best articles in CC for a long time”. It’s well-written, and alarming, like so many newspaper stories. But it does not address the root problems and does not propose solutions, and does not follow the thoughts and actions of much more rational men who are trying to repair damage and save lives.

      Everyone has a dark side, and perhaps this is the fascination with seeing the brutality. Like watching a pride of lions attack and kill a buffalo. The idea is that this is where teeth meet flesh to draw blood, this is reality, this is “The Quickening.” That’s false. The real reality, the one that matters, is the calm and rational thought which brings real solutions. That’s where the struggle for life is.

      There is a story about a chess game, often told. One guy was losing, and in frustration and anger, seized the board itself and hit his opponent over the head with it. Maybe it actually happened.

  7. Hay un déficit de vigilancia muy alto en todo el sistema, poca policía, la policía muy poca no se da abasto, le han dado demasiado poder a la buhonería ilegal dentro del Metro de Caracas, ellos se estan apoderando de la seguridad del sistema por eso nadie los denuncia el mismo personal del metro ha tratado de sacarlos los de trenes, piden en los parlantes a la gente QUE NO LES COMPREN, pero la gente no hace caso y colabora con estos vendedores fuera de la Ley, el personal del metro desiste porque se arriesgan a que les pasen cosas horribles, ningun usuario se atreve por el tema que no hay suficiente vigilancia en el sistema a tocar la alarma de los trenes para que los saquen, a mí ya me tienen obstinados, groseros, vienen a horas picos a vender dulces no les importa que el tren este lleno a tropellan a la gente y no es garantía que los caramelos not engan drogas ya hubo un caso en el de Cua vendieron hace 1-2 años caramelos de burundanga para dejar inconscientes a quienes los compran los consumen y luego los asaltan… también hay pedigueños estafadores que piden diciendo que tienen enfermedades, etc, y es falso la mayoría, hubo un caso una señora que luego la grabaron riendose como engañaba a la gente mintiendo que tenía a un hijo enfermo, una estafadora profesional manipuladora sinvergüenza donen a las fundaciones ONG´s no contribuyan con este tipo de gente porque le hacen daño a la seguridad del metro.

  8. I kept hoping and thinking what can we do to get him out? I guess I have been seeing too many American movies… It’s a bit fucked up how desensitized we all are to this. Y’all realize this, right? Like.. We need go get together and do some therapy.

    This isn’t mormal, and walking away and telling it like someone mentioned, as if they had watched lions hunting and not a person being sentenced to death… Just wow… I can’t believe we are there.

  9. It is pleasant to my eyes that countries that used to be oppressed by British colonialism have decided to approach the English language in a humorously way. May this written broadcasting center symbolize the representative state of positive relationships between our states, cultures and citizens.


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