You’d think that, after days of massive opposition protests, April 11th would be the perfect day for chavismo to return to the streets. Fifteen years on from the 2002 coup attempt that became a heroic comeback, what better time could there be to re-establish the government’s popular credentials?
That’s what they said they’d do. Elías Jaua, now the Education Minister, announced they would rally from 10 a.m. on the emblematic Puente Llaguno to commemorate “the 15th anniversary of the rebellion that defeated the brief dictatorship of Carmona Estanga and denounce the massacres he ordered.”
So I went out there to check things out. And it was kind of shocking. The turnout on Puente Llaguno was, in a word, pathetic. Even chavismo’s Twitter-bot army seemed quieter than usual.
There weren’t even the usual guys hawking bottles of cold water. Ambiente de marcha: zero.
The rally was supposed to start at 10 a.m. A small sad-looking stage was set up on the overpass: nothing like the all-out theatric tarimas the government wheels out for big rallies.
Near noon, Numa Molina, a catholic priest, said mass on the stage in remembrance of the victims of that day. A group of a 150 people, tops, sat in on the service in red shirts with old chavistas slogans from this or that Misión. Most were older lefties. No high-profile governing figure was going anywhere near that stage. There weren’t even the usual guys hawking bottles of cold water. Ambiente de marcha: zero.
The Easter holiday makes it harder to rally people for a show of strength. Most people in every chavista demonstration are obviously public employees forced to show up: during a holiday, it’s almost impossible to recruit even a decent crowd.
The usual anti-imperialist slogans were shouted, the traditional insults were hurled at the National Assembly, but you could tell their hearts weren’t really in it. “Huevo sin sal” is the phrase that comes in mind.
A mix of a speeches by some non-entities came next, followed by a sad, forlorn “cultural festival” that painted a dramatic picture of chavismo’s new weakness. An older lady in a kind of batola —picture a devalued Soledad Bravo— took to the stage to sing a song. The handful of older people in the crowd sat there, disengaged, barely paying attention, not even bothering to applaud afterwards. It was just sad.
It was an once de abril sin pena ni gloria, a portrait of a government whose mobilization capacity has just plain collapsed. Honestly, it was sad.