Yesterday, Downtown Caracas felt like a leftie matinee. It felt far, far away from the tear gas and repression just a couple of kilometers to the East and West. Salsa music, people dancing on the streets, some bottles disguised in brown paper bags and free oranges were on offer there, where the opposition may not go.  

Chavistas were out celebrating. Tons of buses showed that the government was up to its usual tactics. Public employees, forced to march; people in the rest of the country, bused in.

The rally broke down into groups: milicianos over here, a group from Misión Madres de la Patria further on, workers from the ministry of fisheries or from the Metro de Caracas over there, each with signs to identify them. All in a day’s work.

At times, it felt like a cierre de campaña, an election rally. They threw everything at this.

Just in front of the Defense Ministry building, a small group started early to gather in front of their office and from there started to walk and join the big concentration.

On the way to Avenida Bolívar, music trucks played salsa de camioneta por puesto interspersed with catchy chavista tunes like the funky, ska-infused Adelante Comandante:

From time to time you could hear something from Alí Primera but mostly they stuck to salsa. Reliable crowd-pleaser.

From some of the nearby buildings, people started to cacerolear, banging pots and pans in protest. I even heard two old ladies with shirts from some forgotten agriculture plan complaining about neighbors throwing stuff from buildings. But nothing was going to stop the party. They even brought back the huge inflatable Chávez for atmosphere. Couples dancing and young guys in UNEFA uniforms shouting slogans…even an old lady wearing a fake Maduro mustache managed to find someone to dance salsa with.  

Some groups decided to take a break, sitting on the streets, eating fresh oranges that trucks were giving away, while others stopped to take a selfie. From time to time you could see an “anti imperialist” sign or hear someone scream “fuera yankees”.

We’ve learned to distrust VTV’s tomas cerradas, but the fact is that turnout was decent.

It was a great day for peddlers. An old guy with hat sold me a bottle of water for Bs 1,500 — 150 dollars at the official rate. He said he was giving me a deal: the “real” price was Bs.1,800. Then he told me how happy he was to sell out all his stuff before noon. I overheard a young guy with a Venezuelan flag track jacket collecting money from his group of friend to buy a bottle.

It was a party vibe, like everyone had decided to set aside worrying about shortages, about crime and queues and just celebrate “la revolución” for an afternoon. It was the happiest place in the country.

We’ve learned to distrust VTV’s tomas cerradas, but the fact is that turnout was decent. It wasn’t a “historic” turnout or anything like it, but a pretty good crowd. Sure, it’s not that hard to get people to turn out when the cost of not turning out is their job, but still: it didn’t feel like a crowd that was about to turn on its masters. Far from it. Baffling though it might be to us, there are still chavistas out there, and they’re still into this stuff.

11 COMMENTS

  1. The last paragraph was the most interesting one. I would like to hear more about it. Is there any possible way you won’t be kicked/ harassed if you starting talking to people?

  2. Thanks for that refreshing but very depressing post. Things need to get much worse before these rojitos choose democracy over their jobs (and a free orange)

  3. I wouldn’t stress over that last paragraph at all. There’s a percentage of the population, small though it may be, that will always support & believe in the “project”.

    As I’ve long said, Maduro could tell his followers to eat shit, and their response would be, “con pan o casabe”.

  4. One major flaw of the opposition for the last 18 years is to have assumed that it always has “el pueblo” behind it. Whether out of self-interest or blind ideology, the fact remains that there are plenty of Chavistas out there. Ignoring that is at our peril.

  5. Anything to not work, and be paid for it, sometimes apart from just keeping one’s job. Sure, there may be 15-20% Chavista believers, 10-15% enchufados/bachaqueros/benefiting extra in some way, 3% traditional Communist, and a couple of % newly “dignified” as they starve to death…,.

  6. Some bullets. First, people (opposition) marched in every town of the country.
    Second. No cars, no buses, no metro.
    Third. No incentive.
    Fourth. No protection (everybody knows some people are killed freely everytime by the colectivos-police-paramilitares-fan)

    More bullets. Chávez built his popularity on the ruins of the country. A sample: he endebted the country ($20billions) to China for lavadoras y televisores used in the campaign of 2012. So indeed considering the level of people’s education in average (misión robinsón is still there) some of them still think these came from the pockets of Chávez’s family.

    More bullets. Remember, despite what’ve been happening, the country keeps being one of the richest lands in the world and oil revenues are still there freely controlled and expended by the govt without checks.

    And lastly, stockholm syndrome. Indeed, weak people feel they need to please their captors.

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