Shocking scenes from Caracas’s Southwest poured through on Social Media last night. The harsh new spasm of violence will have political repercussions we can only guess at.

The commotion centered El Valle. It’s one of the city’s toughest, most violent shantytowns.

In the daytime, it looks like this:

Here’s a closer look:

Hillside slums fringing a formally constructed —but hardscrabble— strip at the bottom of the valley. The whole thing is just across the highway from Fuerte Tiuna, Caracas’s main military base. Poor areas like this have borne the brunt of the economic crisis, with food distribution spotty and hunger trends off the charts. Couple this with a very active and extremely violent criminal underworld, and the potential for trouble is clear.

It’s hard to tell exactly how it all started last night. It can be baffling trying to piece together a sequence of events in a country with no free media. The night was a whirl of blurry videos, shared Whatsapp Voice Notes of uncertain provenance, audio clips of almighty firefights, and far too much uncertainty.

From what we’re able to make out, at around 10:30 p.m., people began to stream down into the commercial area to loot shops.

This, if you’re wondering, is what looting looks like when it’s about to happen in the building where you live:

 

The security forces went out in numbers:

There are many reports on social media that show government-linked paramilitaries were sent alongside the security forces to confront the looters. What all reports coincide on is that there was an immense amount of gunfire as a result:

 

 

 

Barricades

A series of small, burning barricades were set up throughout the area to try to cut off the paramilitaries and security forces. Much of the area looked like this:

El Valle’s “Hospital Materno Infantil” was right by the looting, with many reports of tear gas wafting into maternity wards. Awful

 

 

All this within earshot of Fuerte Tiuna. 

On the Tsunami of military-linked rumors that accompanied all this we won’t say much, because they’re virtually impossible to confirm. There are some pictures going around of area civilians congregating on the highway that separates the Fort from El Valle proper, apparently chavistas defending it. 

Still, it can’t have been a very restful night there.

The Aftermath

And here’s a sense of what El Valle looks like this morning. (Photos by Joe Codallo).

62 COMMENTS

  1. Supongo que los extranjeros como yo agradecen la explicación al principio sobre el barrio (por cierto, creo que hay un pequeño error tipográfico donde dice “very active and extremely active criminal underworld”). Espero que todas estas protestas finalmente cuajen en algo concreto y no les pase lo mismo que a las de los años pasados. Para que la gente no muera y sufra en vano, Venezuela tiene que salir de una vez de esta tiranía.

  2. I happened to check twitter about 11:00 EDT and the hastag “El Valle” was the highest trending at the time and for a couple of hours. It was nuts!! There was video of a water tank being pelted with molotov cocktails, another one had search lights supposedly from Miraflores palace.

    Speaking to the in-laws back in Caracas they complained that the repressions was even more violent yesterday. It was particular harsh in the western/poorer side of town. The level of anger is just escalating.

    Then there was the ‘el expolio de Cristo’ but criollo. The naked guy climbing the tank and showing on his body the wounds of bird shot. Such pictures are incredibly damaging to the dictatorship, just remember Napalm girl (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phan_Thi_Kim_Phuc) or the shooting of the Vietcong guerrilla by the police chief (http://davidrobertcrews.blogspot.com/2007/03/that-famous-photo-of-viet-cong-guerilla.html). Ultimately this was why the all powerful US Army lost in Vietnam.

    At a personal level being glued to Twitter and consuming such a feed is a strange and dreadful experience. Of course one is safe and unexposed to bullets and teargas, but it is emotionally depleting.

    • Estoy de acuerdo con lo de “Twitter…is emotionally depleting”, por eso las noticias sobre Venezuela me las tengo que tomar poco a poco. Yo soy español y no hay mucho problema. Mi solidaridad entonces con los venezolanos que tienen familia allí o viven todo esto en carne propia porque no han salido del país.

      La comparación con la Napalm girl es muy lejana, está cogida con pinzas. Muy pocas imágenes alcanzan ese estatus. Esa foto del hombre desnudo tiene fuerza pero, seamos sinceros, a nivel global Venezuela es tan solo un lugar más con problemas. Además, la historia de los dos o tres últimos años en Venezuela ha sido esta: ahora protesto y matan diez o veinte personas, ahora me canso y lo dejo, ahora vuelvo a protestar con una mega marcha, ahora me pongo a dialogar y lo dejo… Eso es muy poco televisivo. Atraería bastante más una protesta como la de Ucrania o Egipto pero las condiciones sociales y/o la idiosincrasia del Venezolano, al menos hasta ahora, no han hecho posible algo así.

      Sin pretender afectarle más emocionalmente, le dejo aquí los tweets de un venezolano encontrados en la cuenta de Luis Oliveros. No explican todo lo que ocurre en Venezuela pero sí bastantes cosas.

      Gabo‏ @Gabo_Caruso
      Una chama hoy en la marcha de Bqto empezó a invitar a unas personas que estaban haciendo una cola para comprar pan.
      Esas personas, hombres y mujeres que a simple vista se veia que estaban pasando roncha, se rieron de la chama.
      Seguido de eso, un hombre que estaba en la cola le dice: “Nosotros vamos si nos dan refrigerio”
      Quiza lo que digo sea una estupidez, pero esa mentalidad interesada, la que no nos deja ganarnos lo nuestro echandole bolas de verdad
      Esa mentalidad es la que nos puso aqui en primer lugar y no nos deja salir.
      El cambio no solo esta en salir de un gobierno, el cambio radica mayormente en uno.

      • El punto no es que el chico desnudo o la donita delante de una tanqueta lleguen a ser iconos historicos. El punto es que en este momento en la conciencia de los venezolanos son iconos.

        Estoy de acuerdo contigo que es muy pronto e inclusive improbable que lleguen al nivel de notoriedad de Napalm girl. Pero en la guerra de informacion y de emociones que cursa en Venezuela estos son golpes muy fuertes.

        • Sí, son iconos para los que pueden pagar internet o leen los periódicos. El resto vive en otro mundo. ¿Cual? El Wall Street Journal lo explica muy bien ayer

          ““All I have is hunger—I don’t care if the people protest or not,” said laborer Alfonzo Molero in a slum in Maracaibo. “With what strength will I protest if my stomach is empty since yesterday?”…The opposition’s rallying cry centers on political rights like freeing political prisoners and holding elections, rather than on bread-and-butter issues such as food prices and scarcity.
          “We, the politicians and activists are not thinking like these people,” said Jhovani Landaeta, an opposition activist in the impoverished Valles del Tuy. ”They’re isolated from the national debate.” “For the masses to come out, they need to feel that they are at a point of no return,” said Félix Seijas Jr., director of pollster Delphos. “We’re still some ways away from that.” “

          • Food and medicine are part of the demands of the opposition To get to that point we must first change this government. That’s the only way.

            Que Alfonzo no le importe la protesta es parte del problema. Así nunca cambiaremos nada.

          • El principal problema es que la oposición ha querido dar el mensaje de que el chavismo arruinó a Venezuela, tratando de NO culpar al chavismo por la ruina de Venezuela.

            Han tratado de darle la vuelta y evitar como sea el decir “esto es culpa de Chávez, estás jodido por las políticas de Chávez” excusándose en que “había que respetar a los chavistas”, lo cual es una cosa tan absurda e inútil como el subsidio a la gasolina o el control de cambio.

            Como siempre se quiso mantener a Chávez como un santo impoluto en la discusión política en Venezuela, eso ayudó a mantener al chavismo en el poder durante tanto tiempo y que se le permitiera al miserable ese hacer cosas como mandar a matar dos docenas de personas el 11 de abril y no ser enjaulado por el resto de su vida por ello, o todas las demás estupideces que hizo después que llevaron a Venezuela a la situación actual.

            La gente como el el tipo del artículo que está controlado por el hambre justo como quiere el chavismo, han estado 18 años convencidos de que Chávez nunca tuvo ninguna responsabilidad en su situación actual, cuando fué realmente el principal causante y culpable.

    • renacuajo67 – Not meaning to diminish your chosen iconic image, I would add that the photo in yesterday’s CC, the one of the people wading waist-deep through the open sewer of the Guaire is my chosen iconic photo. That’s not fog in the photo, it’s tear gas. If only there were some way to do a “scratch and sniff” over the worldwide internet …!! Cruel to put it this way, but the regime has driven Venezuela into the sewer. The arrogance of the regime to openly broadcast that is terrible.

    • I disagree. The US army lost in Vietnam because of the politicians back home. It will be the same in Venezuela, when the current dictator can’t hand out favors to those who employ him he will be ousted by a new dictator (effectively chosen by those same employers). Left/Right all the same no difference. Until people realize that those political “definitions” are just excuses for raping the people nothing will change you’ll just exchange one corrupt government for another.

      • But follow the sequence of events. Politicians withdrew their support because the people opposed the war and the people withdrew their support because of those dreadful pictures.

  3. “repressions was even more violent yesterday”. On CNN International news, a freelance reporter (wish I could remember his name) indicated that there seemed to be less repression yesterday. He also said that Maduro had said that gunmen paid by the opposition were the ones that attacked the maternity hospital, but that it could not be confirmed by CNN. We know better, but those outside Venezuela watching these news may think the opposition are the bad guys.

    • The hospital was attacked with tear gas. GNB was trying to contain a demo next to it and all the tear gas wafted into the hospital. I don’t get why CNN still believes whatever the government says.

      Repression was worst yesterday, but it happened at night and in the slums. Not in El Rosal, where gringo journalists are usually posted.

    • CNBC reported that the $500,000 donation to Trump’s inaugural was the reason for the protests.
      However Fox News openly ridiculed CNBC and took the time to explain the seriousness of the situation, the causes, the government’s seizure of all powers and the opposition’s struggle against a dictatorship.
      People may ridicule Fox news, but they were dead on in their reporting.
      The media blackout in Venezuela is not keeping the world from knowing the truth.

  4. When you get riots, like looting a panaderia, it makes the police seem welcome and debilitates the caption “protests against the regime”. The regime, in its “nationalization” campaign does far, far more economic damage, and the “corruption” (outright massive fiscal grand larceny) does far greater economic and social damage. A rock and a hard place, trying to be “perfect” while at the same time fighting a dictatorial regime.

    The balance obviously goes to the opposition, regardless.

    The inequality between classes has never been greater in Venezuela than it is now, and it is the regime enchufados who are the “imperialist pigs”, amassing their ill-gotten gains while utterly destroying the population. In this “balancing act” of good v. evil, the “wealthy pigs” under capitalism don’t destroy the economy. They need healthy and educate workers, to hire people and pay wages and distribute goods and services. Maybe it’s true that their sons and daughters are privileged, and sunbathe by the crystal-clear swimming pool on vacation from colleges all day while their parents work their tails off to provide much better than average meals (chicken is still chicken, and skilled cooks are present in ALL economic classes, you know?), and better housing for them, but “on balance of good v. evil” privileged sunbathing is an awfully small “crime” compared to starving a population, destroying the oil industry, infuriating the world, and generating hyperinflation which cripples everyone.

    Sickening as it may seem (for the greedy and envious) in the U.S., to see top CEO’s getting $20,000,000 dollar annual compensation, that is still only 1% of the company’s profits, which generally run to be about 10% to 15% of gross revenues in big mature industries where competition has brought profit margins down. Under the socialist regime in Venezuela, the regime is taking 100% of everything!

    I go with the capitalists. (And I have done manual labor as well as office jobs. Under capitalism, I was able to start my own business, and believe me, that IS, for me, BETTER! So I hate to see a panaderia looted – sorry, I think everybody hates to see that.)

    • While you bring up ‘nacionalizacion’. Yesterday the government expropriated the GM plant in Venezuela. I guess in their warped way of thinking they intended to gain some propaganda commie cred.

      It was a feckless move on what I guess was an idle plant anyways. Probably GM is happy to take this off the books and open a legal case against the government.

      My observation is that it seems desperate. It looks like a ‘try something, just anything” type of reaction.

  5. I don´t think the regime has the resources to repress protests day protests day and night at least not in a non-lethal way. What happened last night could be a turning point. The oppo needs to keep pushing and pushing until something gives.

    • Really you believe “the regime doesn’t have the resources to repress day and night”??? Pffffff which rock have you’ve been living under for the last 18 years. Including counting today the regime as easy another 1000 days more in power!

      • So you think they are concentrating all their resources in the big cities then? Is that why everywhere else the police don’t even have a pot to piss in? I agree with Rene, they have to run out of tear gas eventually, they just can’t have enough stockpiled to keep popping off canisters like they have been. That’s just the tear gas. Those things are not cheap.

      • It’s not that one single round of protests will end the regime, it’s not that “there’s a day when chavismo stands, and the next day they aren’t”

        It’s not that “the peo is brewing” or “the social explosion comes”, the thing is that Venezuela IS right in the middle of the peo, and there IS a social explosion IN PROGRESS.

        The country moves, and the only response chavismo can think at this point is to shoot it hoping that it will get down permanently, but it won’t go permanently down, because chavismo always makes life harder for the people, the people will increase the intensity of protests more and more and more.

        More people is protesting these days than those that protested in 2014, also, the chavismo has reached less murders this time so far because the people in the streets are much angrier than they were in 2014 and thus MORE DANGEROUS.

        It’s a matter of time, that when the colectivos go to score some kills in a protest it will be very likely that won’t return with zero losses.

  6. For almost 15 years I lived in that very same building whose bakery was looted. The saddest part is that -according to my sister- once they managed to get it , there was barely any food left to take. The mob also looted the Chinese owned grocery store across the street.

    I’m sorry to break this out to you, but this looting has little to do with protesting against the government. These people are just “aprovechando el bochinche” to loot. They are so impoverished and brainwashed by the chavista rethoric that they see the owners of these small local businesses as “greedy, rich capitalists” taking advantage of them by selling overpriced products. When/If the next election comes, they will gladly support the same chavistas who have dragged the country to this mess.

    • “I’m sorry to break this out to you, but this looting has little to do with protesting against the government.”

      I’m sorry to break this out to you, but hunger has no ideological colors and a lot to do with this government.

      • You are right about hunger, but are these people literally starving that they would sack the local bakery? Or was there some fool telling the hungry people that the shops were hoarding food and overcharging?

        I guess we will never know for sure. But this will certainly make the food situation worse for that neighborhood. Sad.

        • We will never know for sure, but the news we have state that there is a food problem in Venezuela. Recently, a CC contributor even wrote an article on how he got in a line for CLAP bags at 6:00 AM because he didn’t want to keep losing weight.

          It’s 2:15 PM where I live and I haven’t lunched yet, and I’m already going nuts, imagine being in such state for several months. Although you are right that looting can only increase the problem, it’s hard to judge those people. I certainly can’t. The whole thing is depressing indeed.

          • Nobody is denying that food is heavily scarce in Venezuela, my point is that these guys are thugs ! They looted every single shop they could in the main El Valle avenue. They left nothing at the grocery store NOTHING! Not even the shelves or empty shopping cars, why would you steal an empty shelve if you’re just looking for food?

        • All the lootings are ordered by the regime and performed by the colectivos, as well as all the murders and violence so far.

          Chavismo is frothing as they frantically try to build the fallacy that the opposition is violent, not to justify repression within the country, but to clean their own image outside Venezuela (All while wasting billions of dollars)

  7. It will be extremely depressing and extremely dangerous, but at the same time very much plausible and possible and understandable, if the fall of the regime would come not by high minded civic disobedience, but a repeat of the founding myth of the Caracazo but against them.

    Hope we can see it not go that way, but frankly, I cant see what any other force may wash them away. Problem is, of course, it probably will wash away a lot more, including lives

    • “…but a repeat of the founding myth of the Caracazo but against them.”

      Only that this time, the revolt would have actually been against the government’s stupidity instead of being stoked by a foreign invading force to take over the country.

  8. I agree with Rene above. El Valle is significant, and attacking its population, especially against their buildings, and with trucked-in hated Colectivos, was a tactical error. The flats apartment buildings shown are only a small fraction of the total area population, most of which lives in the surrounding hills, armed to the teeth, and controlled by numerous gangs. These people are very poor, very needy, always have been, but now, even more so (I did 6 mos. Company sales training in the flats/hills, the last one to do so, before the Company eliminated the sales zone, because it was too dangerous)….

  9. It should go without saying that any news or rumors should be confirmed. Cuban intelligence is putting out fake news briefs and twitters about Venezuela. Please do not be fooled.

  10. Oddly enough, there is an interview with the Commander of the Brazilian Army today in Veja magazine in which he says that after Dilma’s government noticed that her impeachment could really happen, they asked the army to repress the protests like GNB are doing in El Valle, but the army told them to fuck off.

    Remove the army from them and they have no clothes!

    The full interview is only available in the magazine, but the headline already says it all:

    http://veja.abril.com.br/brasil/exercito-foi-sondado-para-decretar-estado-de-defesa-diz-general/

  11. Over the years, many have stated on this and other blogs that the end of Chavismo will come when a crowd comes down from the hills- Chavismo’s natural constituency- to protest Chavismo. Perhaps we are reaching that moment.

    • Most likely it is going to be middle class in the widest possible definition, and probably it is the parlous state of the economy motoring the protests, the people governing mismanaged to the point of collapse, and it was not just graft and theft but ignorance and being unable to foresee the actual situation

  12. Besides the incredible visual value of the thin, naked, bible-on-hand young man and the brave adult woman doing her tiannamen square defiance, besides the shit river scape, and all the senseless tear gas scenes, IMO the most important event of the week was Diosdado and Carreno on TV on a flagrant state terror move, showing the pictures and residential addresses of the opposition leadership.

    Declaring them war objectives and threatening them with some Collectivo TLC.

    If this is not shocking you guys, you have lost your capacity for real thrillers!

      • He’s such a cynical and morally bankrupt man. He knows full well, and has known full well, how fraudulent the whole revolution is and was from when he first decided to jump aboard. But this once respectable diplomat knew he would be able to live his life of luxury by joining team “Chavez”.

        During protests outside of Venezuelan embassy, a few times he came out, crossed his arms, smiled and stared smugly at the crowd for several minutes, seemingly enjoying the scene and the abuse shouted his way. Then he went inside, no doubt getting ready for another boozy dinner at some Georgetown 5 star restaurant drinking aged Scotch.

        • Yup, the open secret of chavismo that isn’t merely the deluded poor, communist traitors and criminals, there was quite a bit of white-collar guys like him and Pérez Abad that said “fuck professional ethics, want a piece of the loot!”. They wouldn’t be nowere as effective if that wasn’t the case.

          • It is telling that these events have not triggered a single, high ranking resignation from the regime. That is to say: nobody’s conscience has been moved by these events. Which evidently means, the regime has declared total moral bankruptcy.

        • Thats how they drafted this guys since the beggining, people that they knew wanted money and were mediocre, criminal minded or just plain bootlicker, corruption is the stronger glue that keeps the chavismo, thats what kept them tight with a hive-esque mentality, everybody that was highly skilled and honest got cast out, bullied and threatened till they left

  13. Estimado Quico, I have a question for you: will you be having any follow-up articles on Ecuador? Are you aware of the CEDATOS situation?

    CEDATOS is a reputable polling company whose exit polls had Lasso ahead by 6 points. The gvmt has arrested 4 CEDATOS employees. Gvmt also attacked and sacked their offices, confiscating computers, files, etc. A couple gvmt guys wearing ski masks video recorded all journalists who were there covering this action.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg0aRu7VWq0

    Protests there are flagging. Lasso voters are largely not on the street defending their votes. Several in my wife’s extended family, who say they voted for Lasso, are saying it is impossible that Ecuador might become another Venezuela, “Dios no va a permitir eso.”

    ¿Que te parece?

    • Ulamog—Can you find this being reported anywhere else? I’ve tried a few search terms in google (el paraiso-colectivos-murieron) and have come up with nothing.

      My spanish is pitiful to say the least, but it sounded to me like the gentlemen was saying to GNB was showing up in official and unmarked vehicles to remove the bodies. Trying to hide the fact that if the people choose to fight back that they can be “effective” in their defense.

      • Here’s an interview with the journalist that recorded the audio (It’s in spanish, sorry ’bout that):

        https://youtu.be/UOOljoQ_Oto

        The “core” of this event is, that either maduro, or diosdado or alsaime ordered the colectivos to slaughter a troop of national guards with the intent of scattering their bodies accross Caracas and blame those deaths on the opposition (As drug lord reverol already did with Paola Ramírez’s murder at the hands of colectivos which was debunked as it was recorded on video.)

        The thing is, that from the national guard group, the colectivos murdered 30 guards, but two played dead and informed their companions of the slaughter, so when the colectivos went to El Valle to destroy the place (Again, orders of either maduro, diosdado or alsaime to frame the opposition representatives), the people was already waiting for them to arrive, and when the ransacking began, the colectivos at first thought that the people were going to join them, but instead the people went to FIGHT them to defend the markets and businesses places there, the colectivos were caught by surprise and lost more than 30 of them in the battle, as they were expecting support from the national guard but the guards just flipped the bird on them (For the slaughter I mentioned before)

        And then, about 11 pm there were plateless trucks picking up the bodies of the dead colectivos away to hide any evidence of their acting there.

        The audio also addresses the fact that the army in general is furious against the regime for the “sacrifice” of their troops to favor the stupid lies of hegemoncorp (a term used to describe the chavista brainwashing and propaganda apparatus) so they are not going to rely the same support to the colectivos as before, the reason that the worse repression bouts are most likely performed by colectivo criminals disguised as either guards or cops.

        • WOW!

          [I wasn’t going to post this because I thought it would seem stupid, but now it doesn’t seem quite so stupid:]

          Por eso es, vale, que tenemos aqui el Second Amendment:

          “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

          The USA is a union of states born of war. Full scale war. “Give me liberty, or give me death.” (Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.)

          That was perhaps improved upon a bit by Gen. George S. Patton: “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making some other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

          Maybe you guys can forge a new country out of the rubble of the old … and never let that kind of bad government happen ever again after that.

          We have our own little melees here (Berkley). Some “ANTIFA” (“anti First Amendment”, or anti freedom of speech) dressed all in black, apparently organized by leftists, would be a version of the colectivos, without bikes, no guns, no tear gas, just bricks and bottles and sticks. They were beaten back and chased down the street by unpaid ordinary citizens, Trump supporters, who got perturbed a bit.

  14. […] El jueves, al menos 12 personas murieron durante incidentes de saqueo en dos urbanizaciones humildes en Caracas. Once murieron por heridas causadas con armas de fuego o electrocutadas en El Valle, según el Ministerio Público. Después de que las fuerzas de seguridad y civiles armados llegaran a El Valle, se escucharon varios disparos y el Hospital Materno Infantil en el área debió ser evacuado luego de que entrara gas lacrimógeno al edificio, reportaron los residentes. […]

  15. […] On Thursday night, at least 12 people died during incidents of looting in two low-income areas in Caracas. Eleven people were killed or electrocuted in El Valle, according to the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office. After security forces and armed civilians with links to the government entered El Valle, there was repeated gunfire and the children’s and maternity hospital in the area had to be evacuated after tear gas entered the building, according to some residents. […]

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