This Time, It’s Different


Se siente en el aire. Everywhere you look, everywhere you go, the murmurs, the questions, the hype, the trepidation, the dismissals, the fear; an inescapable wall of reminders of a looming….what, exactly? A  historical milestone? A defiant point of no return? An anticlimactic bust?

Nobody knows.

1S is evanescent, there’s a void there where your proverbial finger would go if you could put one on it. Maybe that’s part of the point. Deliberate uncertainty could be a novel ingredient in the stale repertoire of opposition protest recipes.

Around breakfast tables, in taxi cabs and supermarket queues, in hotel lobbies and newsrooms, embassies, Facebook walls, and public bathrooms all around the country today, the 1S conversation becomes not just necessary but inescapable.

The reckless giddiness, the checked expectations, and sheer paranoia that 1S has conjured makes a typical Venezuelan election eve look positively subdued.

That hyper-Venezuelan disregard for boundaries has reached new, unabashed heights. There’s an unspoken license to randomly inquire from perfect strangers you meet on the street, partly out of curiosity, mostly out of tacit complicity: “Will you be going?” “¿Qué va a pasar?”Cómo la ves?”

It feels like the night before a big election. And not even.

The reckless giddiness, the checked expectations, and sheer paranoia that 1S has conjured makes a typical Venezuelan election eve look positively subdued. The night before an election, you know you’ll be watching a TV-feed of a baranda for a couple of hours and scanning twitter like a junkie 24 hours hence. Today, we have no clue what we’ll be doing late tomorrow.

There’s a pervasive sense, both in government and opposition circles, that this is different.

Even for the few that would rather remain indifferent, it’s no use. 1S is a mandatory tollbooth for anyone wanting to get anything done.

“Will you be open on Thursday?” (No, señorita, la calle va a estar muy peligrosa mañana.”) “I’m calling to confirm my appointment for tomorrow” (Lo siento, le dimos el día libre a todos nuestros empleados.”) “I’d like to book a cab to the airport, please” (”Le sugerimos que llame a una posada en Galipán.”)

Rumors of roadblocks and militarization make it imperative to plan ahead — but also impossible. By mid-day Wednesday, Foro Penal reports 37 new political detentions just in the last 48 hours. Diosdado is on a repressive bender. Cooked up evidence against YonGo is presented — a belt. Somebody’s been watching too many spy movies. Reports of looting in Petare. Venezuela freezes diplomatic relations with Brazil. A leak in La Patilla claims GDP contracted 19%. Nineteen. The air is heavy. 1S has surpassed shortages, inflation, and crime, as the thing that binds all our lives right now.

There’s a pervasive sense, both in government and opposition circles, that this is different. Different enough that even opposition skeptics, such as myself, are willing to suspend our disbelief and show up to a MUD protest, even though we’re fully aware that MUD has no idea what it’s doing. Different enough that the government is willing to gamble whatever shred of self-respect it’s got left if it means improving its chances of saving its gangrenous face from embarassment. Different enough to overturn that musty old adage about how “poor people don’t protest for ideals,” while also binding the structurally incompatible visions of MUD’s parties around a non-electoral event.

All of this has to mean something. In a country that can pretty much write the book on learned helplessness, in a society hardened by seventeen years of high polarization, all of this has to mean something.

So what does it mean?

It means that the government knows its time is almost up, and they’re having a reeeeeeally hard time coming to grips with it. Last December’s astonishing opposition victory amounted to a colossal blow to chavismo’s political capital, one that they never saw coming. Having badly underprepared then, they’re intent on overpreparing this time. That’s why Chavismo will stop at nothing in order to prevent the dreaded foto of an unprecedentedly huge anti-government show of force.

And really, nothing is off the table: Aside from Diosdado Cabello’s balls-out unleashing of political persecution,incoming foreign journalists have been systematically deported, the Ministry of Defense placed a ban on photography drones, Interior approved the use of weapons for riot control, and Maduro even announced a convenient asphalting plan for the city of Caracas on September 1st. Apparently, none of these tactics have managed to dissuade people from protesting.

Because, it’s different this time. It’s hard to explain it. But if you’re here, you know.

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  1. Mucho aplomo y Sangre fría mañana Emi, desde afuera también se percibe ese “no sé que” de leer las distintas fuentes.

    En mis especulaciones pienso que el mejor libreto para el régimen sería no hacer nada violento amén de todas las amenazas y arbitrariedades a detal de los últimos días( 17 años!). Cómo reaccionaría una MUD mañana ante algo así? Vocifera, baila y se va para su casa?

    Como siempre digo, lo importante no es la jugada de mañana sola, si no los escenarios ya planificados (wishful thinking?) para cada eventual evento.

    Dios nos bendiga.

    Jueves de #cisnenegro

  2. Good luck to everyone tomorrow and God be with you! I hope to see an end soon to this corrupt Government. Rebuilding will take time but it will happen.

  3. Suerte con todo!!! This will be a truly momentus event … win or lose. This is the big showdown as to who determines the future of Venezuela … the people or the moribund Chavista elite that is paralyzed from changing and starving the country.

  4. I don’t march, I’ve rarely done it. However, I’ll do it tomorrow. Why? A mixture of reasons. Of course it’s scary if you stop to think about it too much, but I really don’t want to be the guy who preaches something on twitter and then gets scared when the civilian movements I believe in call for my participation. If this is what the political movement asks of me, as a start of a new direction regarding pressure, then let’s do it.

    Let’s record and take pics of as much as we can. And nobody do anything stupid, like pick up a fight. I hope we can tell our stories here on Friday.

  5. En español para que no se pierda nada en la traducción:

    A los que vayan a Caracas mañana, estén preparados para lo peor, el chavismo ha adiestrado a sus fuerzas de choque reclutadas de bandas de malandros asesinos a los que no les importa un pito la civilización con tal de no perder su teta con el gomierdo.

    Estén conscientes de que la marcha SERÁ emboscada por la peste roja en algún momento, ya sea tarde o temprano, pero los atacarán, porque el chavismo cree todavía que puede doblegar a la gente a coñazos y tiros; por favor, no caigan en la ingenuidad de que “como los están viendo no se atreverán”, Maduro mandó a matar a 45 personas en 2014 sin pensarlo dos veces, si tienen que correr para salvar la vida, CORRAN, pero hay que hacer hasta el último esfuerzo para impedir que agarren y secuestren gente.

    Los chavistas están enloquecidos, neurasténicos e histéricos, ya todos sabemos qué son capaces de hacer, desde 2002 cuando Chávez ordenó la masacre de Llaguno hasta en 2014 cuando Maduro dió la orden a los gusanos malnacidos del Sebin y los colectivos.

    Hay que protestar, sí, pero también hay que estar consciente de qué se está poniendo en riesgo por plantarle cara a la peste roja.

    • About 30 cities around the world have scheduled something today, 1 SEP and a similar number Friday & over the weekend.

      Who knows, outside Venezuela we may end up protesting for the next few days if the fit hits the shan. ( Or celebrating like hell!)

  6. This Time, It’s Different:
    There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.

    For one thing, those protesting tomorrow in Venezuela are risking a lot more than Buffalo Springfield – authors of the “something happening here…” lines- and friends did in the US back in the day. Protesting in the street was a game back then in the US. If protesting tomorrow in Venezuela is a “game,” it is an infinitely more risky game than the Vietnam War protest game as played in the 1960s in the US.

    We don’t know how it will turn out. As others have commented: excellent piece.

  7. A few commwents. Writing 1S looks like 1slamic State. Is that the example that you want to follow?

    Using the first line from the Buffalo Springfield song “For what it’s worth” after the deadlu shootings by the US National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio (There’s something happening here, what it is ain0t exactly clear) is an insult to the people who lived in 1966 and wrote that song when it comes from a spoiled brat like you, Emiliana. You have no idea about that period of contenporary US history.

    You “piece” is a pathetic continuation of the media campaign of fear and uncertainty drummed up by local media. In other words, using methods enjoyed by pure fascism.

    What is different – if you want to know, I will tell you – is that with threats of ousting Maduro implicit all over social media, there copuld ne many arrests tomorrow. Gas del bueno as well.

    That is what will be different if anyone steps out of line.

    But for you a few more deaths to achieve your undemocratic goals does not matter, eh?

    • You have no idea about that period of contenporary US history.
      She has a much better idea than you do, Arturo. The Buffalo Springfield song For What It’s Worth was not written about the Kent State shootings in 1970.
      Although “For What It’s Worth” is often mistaken as an anti-war song, Stephen Stills was inspired to write the track because of the Sunset Strip curfew riots in November 1966. The trouble, which started during the early stages of the counterculture era, was in the same year Buffalo Springfield had become the house band at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.[4]

      It was within this period that local residents and businesses had become increasingly annoyed by late-night traffic congestion caused by crowds of young people going to clubs and music venues along the Strip. In response they lobbied the city to pass local ordinances that stopped loitering and enforced a strict curfew on the Strip after 10pm. However young music fans felt the new laws were an infringement of their civil rights.[5]

      On Saturday, November 12, 1966, fliers were distributed on Sunset Strip inviting people to join demonstrations later that day. Several of Los Angeles’ rock radio stations also announced that a rally would be held outside the Pandora’s Box club on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights.[5] That evening as many as 1,000 young demonstrators, including celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda (who was handcuffed by police), gathered to protest against the enforcement of the curfew laws. Although the rallies began peacefully, trouble eventually broke out among the protesters and police. The unrest continued the next night and periodically throughout the rest of November and December forcing some clubs to shut down within weeks.[5]

      Against the background of these civil disturbances, Stills recorded the song on December 5, 1966.

      Arturo, payaso sos.

    • Mr. Rosales, shouldn’t you be preparing your next axisoflogic article regarding how, when the protests turn violent tomorrow, exactly as predicted by Diosdado since he’s the one authorizing the action, it was clearly the oppo folk? You know, snipers, military gunmen, tear gas, grenades, flashbangs, all that good stuff that is already present in the city due to the military buildup. A

      I think the government will cast its dice and cross its proverbial Rubicon tomorrow. Have fun defending a bunch of murderers.

  8. Except that the lower classes still won’t be protesting for an ideal, but that’s OK. They will be protesting because there is no food and no money.

    That, I think, is what makes tomorrow’s demonstration special: it is not about political ideology, it is not about supporting the opposition – it’s about protesting against a government that is ruining lives and stepping over civil and human rights.

    I don’t believe the vast majority of the poor who have travelled to Caracas for the demonstration will be there to support the MUD; they will be there to hold this government accountable for their misery. End of story.

  9. No quiero parecer negativo, la marcha es una buena forma de protesta. Pero no va a tumbar el gobierno.

    Creo que la precariedad con que vive el venezolano actualmente, hace que busquemos un evento que milagrosamente cambie el destino.

    Si el gobierno es inteligente (Que por supuesto no lo es), pero lo digo desde el punto de vista maquiavélico. No debería reprimir mañana. Y en ese caso, cual sera el efecto de la marcha? Presión al CNE??? Por dios, el CNE no siente ningún tipo de presión, antes de que se formulara el revocatorio ellos estaban conscientes de su estrategia. Sencillo: No habra revocatorio, tampoco habra elecciones de gobernadores (Todo dicho por ellos mismos…).

    Vivimos en dictadura, el gobierno no tiene previsto hacer mas elecciones, y lo dicen descaradamente, la única forma de cambiar de gobierno sera a través de la fuerza. La oposición debe hacer alianzas/conexiones con los militares.

    El PSUV, GNB y grupos armados chavistas monopolizan la violencia. Necesitamos tener presencia en ese apartado, mientras tanto, todos los militares están de parte de la dictadura. Así no hay posibilidad de cambio de gobierno.

  10. Emi, es increíble como describes un sentimiento colectivo. Se siente incluso desde la distancia. Hay como una vibración en el aire, como un rayo fugaz a punto de detonar. Se siente el colapso inminente de un viejo orden. Las generaciones se inician y terminan con sucesos históricos y suelen durar sl rededor de veinte años. Creo que los Gen X de Venezuela nacieron con el Viernes Negro y los Millenials con la llegada de la Revolución. Capaz este es el punto de quiebre para el nacimiento de una nueva generación.

  11. A huge turnout will cause a lot of heads and minds ro turn. There are usually three groups in most settings, those for something, those opposed and those in the middle, the cautious ones just waiting to go with the winning side. A huge turnout will cause that middle group to pick the opposition as the winning group. My prayers are with you. Godspeed.

  12. NOW,
    In your faces, in your dreams, in your daydreams, the horror is rampant
    It’s not fair that you have been called, you,
    Who have children who can’t stop crying; you who have incontinent parents, you who can’t find a tampon,
    You, who can’t find a fucking aspirin in fucking VENEZUELA, the pride of the continent.
    You, who didn’t know in 1998, that a bacillus had entered the cell wall of our nation,
    It’s not fair. God, why? Why now? For what?
    I cry. I can’t help you, my beloved cousins. Even if I were there, I am afraid I would be a coward. I know I would be a coward. I hope you will be better than me.
    Godspeed tomorrow, everyone. Be brave.

  13. I hope you’re right, I hope it IS different! Espero que prevalezca la paz, la coherencia y la inteligencia a la hora de dirigir la marcha. I can’t help but think that we will wake up Sept 2nd, with a few more dead, a few more imprisoned y todo IGUAL que siempre!! Godspeed!

  14. I hope and pray you are right Emi. God be with you and with every brave soul that ventures out tomorrow. Praying for no gvmt violence and a rapid Ceaucescu style collapse.

  15. Well, I’m here, and for me -and my family and everyone I know-, this is no different. Everybody knows that nothing will happen tomorrow. We all are going to protest, but we know that at the end of the day, no matter what happens -which is probably nothing anyways- the chavismo will be still in power -with its 30% of hard supporters believing in the Guerra Economica-, and that the CNE will still take all the time of the world to activate the referendum.

    It definitely does not feels like the night before a big election. Not at all. And let’s not even talk about all the rest of the country, because caraqueños may feel some emotion towards tomorrow, but the majority of people inland don’t even know that tomorrow is the protest. It will be just another day for all of them.

    Stop pretending that tomorrow can happen something extraordinary. Nothing will happen and deep down we all know it…

    • I am thinking that this protest will quickly fizzle.

      The reality is that too many in power are just going to do more dramatic things to keep hold of power until the very end.

      The criminal gangs and dealers are thriving in this environment and have no use for an honest cop or military.

      Unless you have an outside sponsor like the US or Mexico or such, the idea of a revolution from the peasants is just a pipe dream.

      I wish everyone who matches a strong will and safe trip. But don’t forget reality.

    • Sadly, I was right all along. March ended before 2pm. Results: Cacerolazo at 8pm. It’s probably the most pathetic “protest” I’ve ever seen, considering how early it was planned. Pathetic.

      • I am afraid you are correct.

        What was on display was too muted to have had the desired impact.

        My fear is that this just showed the bus driver your hand and now the MUD are ledt with no next step.

  16. Hopefully this will be peaceful, and that the Chavismo criminal thugs won’t hurt anyone. Unfortunately, there will probably be violence and arrests..The more people come out, the less the corrupt guardia, corrupt police or corrupt sebin can do to suppress the march.


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