Friday morning seemed like an “ahora si se prendio el peo” kind of day after the Supreme Tribunal’s fateful Decisions 155 and 156 brought on a storm of worldwide condemnation. In Venezuela, the storm was mostly on Twitter. On the streets, it was a whole different story.
Although a group of students went to protest in front of the TSJ Friday morning, the rest of Caracas felt eerily normal.
“I know that now the Government is in charge of the Assembly. I heard the news last night but it’s nothing new,” an old man told me while he was drinking some coffee in a panaderia in Eastern Caracas. “I think that it’s good. My family in Spain was in shock, everyone there is in shock. The government went too far with this.”
“This is it, now we live in dictatorship”, an old lady told me after she asked at what time the line for the bread would start. The guy at the register joined the conversation: “and the army? Nothing, they are quiet. They have food, a house, a car, money… they don’t care.”
At the Metro, a good thermometer for the city’s opinion, everything was looking pretty normal, the usual conversations: work gossip, the lines for food, Semana Santa. I decided to ask a lady in her 20’s about the news, and she seemed quite lost, “in the end, nobody cares about the poor people.”
“Nah, the government is doing the usual, we’re used to this, this is not life and there is no leader in the opposition. Do you think that people are going to vote for Capriles again? There is nobody with bolas in this country. Politicians are fine, traveling, with money. I don’t trust either of them, the MUD is the same, todos ladrones. We need new people. Nos la metieron con vaselina, and the opposition? Nothing, they don’t care,” a young man told me.
“I think that this is perfect, you know? A ver si pasa algo,” a woman that was on her way to pick up her son told me. “We can’t stay like this forever. Something needs to happen, so this is perfect.”
“The government is doing what they know best, but they didn’t think about the international repercussions. Now the world knows that we live in a dictatorship. We need help from the world. And did you hear what the Fiscal said? Abandonan el barco, they are abandoning the ship. We are getting closer to the end of this nightmare,” a man in an elegant suit told me in Chacao.
In downtown Caracas, el Centro, opinions varied. “We have to protect the Patria de Bolivar, every country wants a part of Venezuela. They think we are pendejos and we are not, not anymore,” an old man told me. He was sitting with two other men in a plaza, one of them in a red shirt with an old Psuv slogan. “We have to be ready to protect la patria,” he added.
“And what do you think about what Ortega Díaz said?” I asked. After giving him a quick rundown of her controversial speech, one of the men replied: “Maduro was saying the other day that we have traitors in the lines of the revolution, we have to be aware”.
“We are tired. Que vengan los gringos, what do we have to lose?” a lady shouted while she was waiting in line for some bread in La Candelaria. “Nothing is going to change, we got used to this,” another young lady in the queue said. “But, the Ministers are in rebellion (sic.)”, another guy said. “And who cares?” an old man in the queue responded. “Did you vote for the Assembly? It’s kinda of a big deal,” I prompted. The response? “Another election that they stole.”
It was getting dark and Maduro was already on TV talking about the “impasse“ between the TSJ and the Prosecutor’s Office. Still, in some streets of Baruta, people were protesting. Groups of around 15 to 30 people, waving Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular flags. “Hey friend! join the fight!” and “this government is going to fall!” were the demonstrators’ war cries.
“We have to defend our Assembly, we have to take to the streets”, a young guy with a Primero Justicia shirt told me. “What are they winning with this? Nothing. They are jodiendo the ones that work,” a camionetero told me, in reference to the protests. The protesters were basically either really young guys or old people. They blocked the street only when the stoplight turned red, and the majority were smiling and waving to the cars.
Basically a pretty calm and normal day for a first official day in dictatorship.
The after-party (hangover included)
Saturday was quite another story. The media storm had already died down in the morning and downtown Caracas was colorful and loud as usual. No one seemed to realize that the TSJ revised its ruling by modifying the offending bits. So it wasn’t until Monday that the news hit al pueblo de a pie.
“What are they trying to hide from us? What do they want to distract us from?,” an older lady asked me when I told her the news on Monday in Chacao. It seems that after all the chaos, people dodn’t know what to believe. After all the anger and emotions, now the caraqueños were suffering a hangover..
“Really? So it’s all over? I don’t think so… there is something fishy about this,” a lady told me on her way to her office. “It was all planned. The government does this to keep us distracted. Have you seen this? This is not normal, they have to invent conflict to keep us busy and in queue,” an old guy told me in a panaderia in Baruta.
“I don’t think so, for real? hahahaha That’s crazy… arrugaron,” a young guy told me in the subway.
“Who cares about that? Look, they just robbed the lady at the kiosko. A young guy arrived and took their cellphones. Go and ask that lady if she cares about the TSJ,” a guy responded to me outside Líder mall.
The opinion of two men in downtown Caracas was quite different. “Every human makes mistakes and revolucionarios need to learn from them,” one told me. The other one thinks that it was all a misunderstanding that the President was successful in solving.
“They are rats, they are all rats. They are cowards. This government is unbelievable, but this is how communists always act,” a taxi driver told me.
In the end, the National Assembly or TSJ’s actions do little to change daily life in Caracas and all that comes with it: the lines for food, the shortage of medicines, the crime.
Most of the people I spoke to were still trying to digest the first news, and then the second… but now everything is in the past. Now the panadería debates are the OAS, the prices, today’s march… Venezuela is like a never ending hangover.