Otro Calvario

I went door knocking for Voluntad Popular in El Calvario, a shantytown in municipio El Hatillo. People asked about our political prisoners by first name, like they're friends from down the street.

No one has summed up the mood these last few days better than this one señora I met at my casa por casa yesterday. In her mid 50’s, wearing a worn out grey T-shirt that matched greying hair, she stood behind the bars of her metal door, and whispered to those of us near enough to hear: “bueno, o marchamos y ustedes se meten en un peo, o pasamos hambre y el problemón es nuestro.”

Either we march and you guys get in trouble, or we starve and then we’re the ones in trouble.

Well played, señora.

They’d ask about our political prisoners by first name, as if they were old friends from the block.

Her bon mot came at the end of a sweaty afternoon yesterday walking through El Calvario, a hard-up barrio in Municipio El Hatillo, asking people to come out to the opposition rally on Thursday.

Hours earlier, Táchira State governor José Vielma Mora had accused our mayor, David Smolansky, of arming radicals in his state to plot the violent overthrow of the government. Well, I actually am one of Smolansky’s “shocktroops”, and the only weapon I was given was a stack of flyers and a walking route.

The government’s going all out to intimidate and demobilize our base ahead of tomorrow’s protests.

Still, the mood in my canvassing team was not necessarily nervous but definitely anxious. Everybody seemed to be working on auto pilot, as they visited El Calvario’s lower and mid section, knocking on every house for the better part of three hours.

The speech was scripted: “Este jueves a las 9 a.m. nos encontramos en la concentración. Invite a sus vecinos!”. We wanted to knock on as many doors as possible, there wasn’t much time to linger. But in those brief moments interacting with neighbors a few basic questions came up again and again: what will Thursday look like? ¿qué va a pasar? And…who’s next on Maduro’s hitlist?

Everyone empathized with the situation our political prisoners and our marked men are in. Not a house went by that didn’t ask about David, Pancho, Gabo, Lester, Delson, Yon, Freddy, Warner, or Carlos; just some of the victims of the latest wave of persecution. They’d ask about them by first name, as if they were old friends from the block.

For some, September 1st is just another event on the political calendar. But for those that knock on doors and hand out flyers trying to bring people out to march, September 1st is a much more intimate and nerve wracking affair.