For María, May Day meant a true journey. On Sunday night, she was in Zulia state getting on a Caracas-bound bus along with her three year-old son, a Spiderman blanket and a big red bag. It’s not the first time she’s done this. Just a few days ago, on April 19th, she made the same trip for another demonstration.

“This time I didn’t have anyone to take care of my son,” she told me as she gave him water from a big yellow thermos on a corner of Avenida Urdaneta in downtown Caracas.  “He’s pretty quiet, he slept the whole way,” she told me proudly. The kid looked tired and half sleep, he was trying to hide in his mom’s chest. He wasn’t the only kid I saw. Some moms even walked around with months-old babies in their arms.  

The bus she came in brought all her co-workers from the Consejo Comunal, mostly women.

María is 29 and she’s been working with the Consejo for two years: delivering CLAP bags, helping people in the community and, sometimes, turning up to pro-government rallies. “We have breakfast when we arrive, they give each of us a sandwich, water and some oranges. I also bring a couple of arepas in my bag… do you want one?” she offers as she grabs her red bag with the map of Venezuela, that matched her red shirt with a picture of Chávez with his fist in the air.

She said that nobody “forced her” to come to Caracas, but everyone in her Consejo came. For her, it’s unremarkable, “just part of the job.”

I’m part of the group that organizes the building, to receive help from the Misiones, and we want to make sure that they know that we are chavistas

“On the bus, they take attendance to make sure everyone is there, then we try to stick together because we go home on the same bus. I never get the chance to visit Caracas, I come just for the rallies. I would love to go to see the Ávila but I can’t. As soon as the demonstration is over, we need to be back on the bus to head back home. Luckily, Tuesday we have the day off,” she explained as she got herself ready to walk for hours with her kid in her arms.

The streets off of Urdaneta avenue were closed to traffic; they looked pretty empty. The same old trucks were playing the same old songs from Chávez’s last campaign, but this time, just a handful of people were dancing. Most just walked round and shouted out slogans: “¡Viva Chávez! ¡Viva Maduro!”

A couple of blocks away, Jesús was enjoying some minutes under the shade of a small tree. Sweat ran under a red cap emblazoned with Chávez’s eyes. He’s around 50 years old and went to the rally with his neighbours, all from a Misión Vivienda apartment complex in downtown Caracas. “We got together this morning and walked here,” he said.

“It’s not like we went out and forced people to leave their apartments, but we made the decision to come during a meeting on Saturday. I’m part of the group that organizes the building to receive help from the Misiones, and we want to make sure that they know that we are chavistas,” he explained.

Nobody pays me for being a chavista and now we have to show that we are stronger. ¡Vamos a ganar, carajo!

Jesús told me that he “didn’t get food or money for coming here. I just bought a papelón. Yes, there are some buses of people from other states but there’s nothing wrong with that. They come because they want to see the President and show their support. Nobody pays me for being a chavista and now we have to show that we are stronger. ¡Vamos a ganar, carajo!” he screamed.

A “band” plays tambores on the street as a small group of young people dance, while some older men shout slogans: “Fuera Yankees (….) la OEA pa’l carajo.” People watch from the surrounding buildings, and a few record on their cellphones, no cacerolazos this time.

Next to a buhonero, there is a 30-something year-old lady with blonde hair under a 4F hat, a red polo shirt, dark sunglasses, still wearing her Corpoelec ID. She tells me that a group of five coworkers had agreed to come by car, avoiding travel on the “designated bus.”

“We came from Aragua and we got together with the rest of the office early this morning, so they can check that we all got here. I’m going to walk for an hour longer, and then I’m going home, my boss already saw me, so I can go,” she explained.

“Sometimes they make you sign a list, today they just saw us and made sure we made it here,” she told me, remembering past demonstrations.

“Nobody told me that they are going to fire me if I didn’t come, but they told us it was really important that we march today. If you don’t have a car, they provide a bus. I think each boss is expected to bring his team. Probably I don’t have to work tomorrow,” she said.

I never got the chance to visit Caracas, just for the rallies, and I would love to go to the Ávila but I can’t.

“Some time ago,” she told me, “they would gave us a special ‘bonus’ if we went to a rally, but not anymore: we just get the next day off. I think it’s pretty fair. I don’t like coming here, with the sun and the crowds, but you know how the things are, you have to look out for your job,” she said as she went off to meet with her group.

In the opposition, we tell ourselves this comforting tale about the people chavismo “forces” to protest. In fact, no one I talked to out there actually resented having to come. They may not be burning with ideological fervor, and for sure many wouldn’t be there if their jobs weren’t on the line. But they welcome the chance to show their allegiance. Reality is always messy like that.

Whether you do or don’t take attendance, some will dance and enjoy themselves. Some chavistas still believe in the tale of the “guerra económica” and they really do blame Venezuela’s tragedy on  the yankees, the opposition, private businesses, or anyone else the government points to. They shout: “Con hambre y desempleo con Maduro me resteo.” [Through hunger and unemployment, I stand with Maduro!]. And they mean it.

30 COMMENTS

  1. So they get the next day off. The government pays their salaries for the day they are on the approved party-political march, and the next day.

    Two days, no work. Paid by the public purse.

  2. Gaby, too generous–some have explicit roll call, most implicitly are there to avoid risking their PetroState freebies: Govt. jobs/housing; Misiones; pensiones; CLAP bags; et.al.–leaving maybe 5-10% true believers, even they doubtfully willing to die of hunger for their cause.

    • Actually this is it. All people there mentioned are enchufados, none of them producing any s*** to the humanity only living like parasites waiting for the govt to give them houses they did not pay (the rest of vzla did it for him), the other working delivering claps (no time for commenting this bullshit) and the other lady who “works” i would like to see her credentials and what she actually does there (yeah everybody knows the answer, polishing her nails, looking “pretty” for her boss, waiting for five o’clock, and receiving a free lunch, a free t shirt and a cap and two days off, the day they march and the next day and all pay with the money of the taxes paid by the bakers, the comerciantes, the people who pay taxes and so on) and more those people have free buses, free oranges and more important their protection guaranteed by the pnb, gnb and all of this against…

      the opposition rallying facing bullets, facing jail, abduction, being robbed, beaten, gased, target, pursued during and after, no buses, no metro, walking from kilometers, no oranges for free, no music but shooting and …

      this article dares to compare motivations. This is really sad and really disturbing to see “journalists” writing this bullshit (second time in less than a month)

      This the real problem with the country. Sociedad de complices. Look lapatilla (ravell) retweeting former ministries of maduro like they were heroes now.

  3. Unless they are completely stupid, brain-washed and lobotomized, these Chavista and Maduro supporters are BRIBED, one way or another. They get benefits, freebies, if not cold cash. Their bosses are also probably in the scam, allowing employees to take days off..

    What do they get? Free food, free housing, free ‘loans’, connections, ‘contacts’? The entire system is corrupt. Anyone receiving zero ‘benefits’ and with 2 brain cells knows that chavismo is a monstrous disaster. Anyone facing crime, lack of food and medicine.

    These are just another form of ENCHUFADOS. One way or another. Corrupt. Liars.

    That, or they are brain-dead zombies.

  4. I posted this on a different article a few days ago, but it’s relevant here.

    Keep in mind, some of those public employees were formerly employees of private enterprises that were nationalized by the government. There is one in my family.

    Many times in the past, “Paco’ (this family member) was told to attend marches or demonstrations or his job would be in jeopardy. Usually, Paco’s boss would discretely tell him not to come, he would mark him as attending, and would let Paco know if someone from the regime was taking attendance and Paco really had to show up. In those cases, Paco would come, sign in, and then leave whenever possible. In 2012 he had to sign a pledge promising to vote for Chavez; i think there were other pledges at different times. (he signed but obviously didn’t vote for Chavez)

    The night before May 1st, besides getting the usual notice at work, Paco got 4 different calls (3 of them recordings from various high up people) threatening non-attendees with loss of job and pension and even CLAP if they didn’t show up. There has been more propaganda than normal in the workplace.In the last month, the pressure and threats to public employees have reached a new level.

    So there certainly are others like Paco, who despise the regime and are absolutely forced to come. It may not be as many of the people as the opposition claims, as you suggest, but it’s def true for some of the attendees

  5. So you try to debunk a fact that is that people are forced to go to kiss maduro’s soles or else they’ll be fired by taking the word of three goons that are the ones in charge of forcing people to go to kiss maduro’s soles or else they’ll get fired.

    Keep believing that chavismo still has a “popular base”

  6. they are not “forced” in the same way that Big Brother did not force anything on people in the book, nonetheless everybody knew that getting caught not shouting during the “two-minute hate” was a crime punishable with jail or death. chavismo created the system so taht nothing is “illegal” but still the reprisals are there… if you dont show your allegiance you loose your job, house, food, etc… its thoughtcrime!

    • Or, we can say they’re not forced, in the same way the victims of Jigsaw in the Saw movies weren’t murdered, they were “just put there”.

  7. Have you considered what fear of a totalitarian state can do to people like these? Anyone could be a snitch, so they play safe repeating what a chavista commissar would like to hear… I think that what they told you speaks volumes…

  8. Why do people simply ignore and later dehumanize those who they are speaking of. There is a large part of the population who are being acknowledged for the first time in Venezuelan history, and no amount of corruption will erase that fact. This government can do whatever it wants and it will still be better for them than it ever was. We should question our intentions when we do not keep this in mind. It’s very easy to blame the outcome of the revolutionary model on the same “paga peos’ of always, when we well know that it’s the people in power, plenty of non Chavistas hold that place and always will. Yes, this government is terrifying and inept, but it didn’t come out of nowhere.

    • “… being acknowledged…”

      Which is the biggest lie ever in venezuelan history.

      If someone’s dehumanizing people, it’s the chavismo, or the “to the Guaire what’s the Guaire’s” didn’t sound like enough dehumanization already? A bunch of idiots celebrating that the people they hate are “eating shit” at gunpoint, even when that stupid meme costed more than 14 billion dollars (The cash that was supossed to be for the Guaire’s cleansing but jackeline farías stole)

      Yes, chavismo didn’t come from nowhere, it came from the cuban invasion to steal Venezuela’s oil, aided by the imbeciles that composed the thick of the economic elite in Venezuela who liked to live off the succesive “cadivis” that the moronic leftist governments loved so much to impose from time to time and had the population’s rights cut off to a minimum to avoid any amount of independence from the “daddy government”.

  9. If you have a cushy job on account of your loyalties , or are the recipient of some other benefit from the regime and are given a chance of taking a ride to go to an exciting rally with blaring music and rousing speeches attending the rally is not something which you have to be coerced into doing , its like going to the fiestas patronales in the town square , or attending a firecracker spectacle something routine that gets you out of the daily rut and provides a bit of entertainment ……!! I know however quite a few govt employees who do recieve direct pressure to attend these meetings and who make up excuses not to go because they would rather avoid them , the bosses if friendly will not pressure them and even make excuses for them to stay home or at work…..!!

    Still attendance at these meetings is at an all time low , people are just fed up or Maduro doesnt provide the entertainment that Chavez once did. !!

  10. Reality, to any individual, is a peculiar thing. Those who are “cared for” on other people’s money and suffering, complacently ignore what they do not see, and to them, everyone else must be like them … now if only those oppressor capitalists would stop being such terrorists!

    That old saying, “Don’t judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes” comes to mind. Usually, it is taken to mean that accusations are easy to make, when you do not realize the pressures another is under. Why can’t it apply more generally? Or in reverse?

    The whole socialist thing is born of lies and deceptions and accusations. If no enemies are convenient, then one can make up some imaginary ones! Those who are “cared for” only see their own worlds, not the worlds of those who are deliberately oppressed, tear-gassed, harassed, beaten, and jailed – or shot. Socialism plays on that relative blindness.

    I may think I “know Venezuela”. Un Venezolano puede que se ria de mi, no con maldad, pero solo viendo que yo, como gringo comodo en mi vida, no se de lo que es vivir sin mi embajada Americana y mi cuenta bancaria en $$. Y possiblemente viendo que yo no tengo la misma alma de Venezolano. So, maybe I’m off-base on this, but, trying not to be too condescending, it occurs to me that these Chavistas literally do not know any better. It isn’t that they’re evil, it is that they’ve been deceived. They think that the guy who lives in a big house in the Country Club (because he worked his tail off all his life) … stole it from them (who had so little to steal to begin with that it wouldn’t be worth the effort).

    I’ve talked to people here in the USA who say things like, “The rich don’t pay taxes.” In fact the top 5% pay something like 67% of all the taxes. The bottom half don’t pay any income taxes because they do not make enough money. There are all kinds of studies around demonstrating that people think they know stuff they in fact know nothing about. Some will even kill over things they know nothing about.

    I really think these Chavistas think that if everyone were Chavista, everything would work out just great for everyone.

    • Every time I hear the Liberals slamming wealthy people, my first inclination is to ask how many people were ever hired by poor people.

      • Millions upon millions of people. Demand for the products poor people consume generates millions upon millions of jobs. Please dress up your classist hatred in more convincing garb.

        • Francisco – I am not attacking you here. Please do not get into or fall into the trap of redefining words to suit convenience and confuse. That is a very nasty evil which has been perpetrated upon the society by very nasty evil individuals. Recognize that.

          To hire someone means to offer them pay to complete assigned work. Poor people may in fact hire contractors such as plumbers or masons, but usually it is a help-barter (I fix your broken bricks, you fix my broken pipes or baby-sit my babies).

          Successful businessmen who establish companies hire workers and have entire departments set up to handle hours worked, issue paychecks, handle taxes, pension contributions or credits and other payroll functions. If you do not see that difference then you should – my suggestion – revise your “friends” or “contacts” or “have met” list, and spot/ find/ pick out the individual who has been f**ing with your mind, then never talk to that individual again. Or revise your reading list. Or be v-e-r-y aware and very alert as to whom / what you are dealing with.

          Like I said at the beginning, no offense to you. I’ve had it done to me, and so have many.

    • One of the fundamental prerequisites of accepting socialism is believing that economics are a zero-sum game. In other words, there is a fixed amount of money and that a person can only get “rich” by taking money from others. The concept of growing the economy so that all have more is beyond comprehension.

      This belief is very common among those who are uneducated and never part of a healthy economy. When many of the wealthy in your community get that way through fraud and crime, then it just reinforces that belief. It then becomes very easy to believe that all people richer than you must be criminals or exploiters.

      Once accepted, then socialism with it’s wealth redistribution for the masses ideas is an easy sell.

      I’m a Yank. I lived in the Caribbean as a kid all around Cuba. I noticed it. Even then Cuban radio and Cuban propaganda was everywhere pushing this concept. Especially in Jamaica in the 1970’s. It was disheartening listening to what you thought were intelligent sensible people spouting such nonsense.

      My point is: An ingrained culture of corruption will always lead to this point. Unless the corruption is solved, VZ’s problems will never be solved.

      • Ron – Right. The same twisting of truth occurs in other sectors of society as well. I would just point out that most wealthy people are not corrupt. A few are, not many. Sooner or later, corruption destroys its users, and you get bad products on the production line. One of the primary examples of the malfunction of society is the drug problem, another is poor education.

  11. “Some chavistas still believe in the tale of the “guerra económica” and they really do blame Venezuela’s tragedy on the yankees, the opposition, private businesses, or anyone else the government points to. They shout: “Con hambre y desempleo con Maduro me resteo.” [Through hunger and unemployment, I stand with Maduro!]. And they mean it. ”

    Which proves that Venezuela will have at least a 0,5% of perfect imbeciles forever.

    The trick is how to stop said 0,5% from touching any figment of power.

  12. “Some chavistas still believe in the tale of the “guerra económica” and they really do blame Venezuela’s tragedy on the yankees, the opposition, private businesses…”

    This is very sad but doesn’t surprise me in the least. Same phenomenon here in the USA.

    Western Democracies don’t allow minors (less than 18 years old) to vote for many reasons.
    However its biggest failure lays in the catastrophically naive assumption that Adults would automatically know better and consequently vote in their best interest, but most of the times they don’t.
    The reason is very simple, the unfortunate but understandable reality is that the average citizen is completely clueless about Politics, Economy, International Affairs, etc. Hence the disastrous results, in Venezuela and elsewhere where this form of Democracy is practiced.
    So “By the people and for the people” ends up as “By the Mass Manipulators for the Mass Manipulators”
    The right to vote has been given away without the responsibility to Know and be Informed.
    We deserve this catastrophe, all of it !

    • “However its biggest failure lays in the catastrophically naive assumption that Adults would automatically know better and consequently vote in their best interest, but most of the times they don’t.”

      I don’t think most learned people assume that. The Founding Fathers of the USA certainly were skeptical and scared of the masses voting, partly because they were rich and considered them rabble, but also because they were uneducated and could easily be swayed by populists and demagogues. As Winston Churchill supposedly said “The best argument against democracy is a 5 minute chat with the average voter.”

      But what is the alternative? To go back to Churchill and paraphrase him, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

      • And the USA founding fathers were right. The USA emerged as World Power at the start of the 20th Century, with just an elite minority of voters deciding its direction, things started to get messy as more people were allowed to vote, culminating with a geriatric showman with no experience or related education for the job, Trump.

        The alternative is to do what has been done in any field that requires certain level of expertise/education. Licenses !
        We do this all the time for everything except politics. Quite ironic.

        Why is reasonable and fair to have driving test for a driving license but not a voting license?
        It should be expected and demanded as a civic duty to learn the basic facts in order to earn voting rights.
        Rights comes with responsibilities.

        The goal is to elect very competent political leaders by a significant portion of the population.
        The goal is NOT to have ALL the population elect any leader regardless of competence.
        No need to reinvent the wheel, just common sense.

  13. “I don’t like coming here, with the sun and the crowds, but you know how the things are, you have to look out for your job” in one paragraph, “no one I talked to out there actually resented having to come” in the next.

    El papel aguanta todo indeed.

  14. “Some chavistas still believe in the tale of the “guerra económica”

    I’ll say what no one dares to say:

    It’s because most of the Venezuelan population is UNEDUCATED, ignorant, INDIOS.

    Face it.

    • Most of the population of ANY country is ignorant, as it should be of the complex subjects that pertain to Politics, Economy, International Affairs, Taxation, Justice, role of government, etc
      It require thousands of hours of reading to become knowledgeable about them, let alone keep updated in a daily basis.
      It is impossible and unrealistic to pretend otherwise for the average person with a normal life.
      This is the reason why many Democracies have failed. It is on denial of this fact, giving too much hope on the “people”.

    • Vaya nombrecito tan ridículo para una página.

      Vamos a refrescarle la memoria al palangre que la maneja, recordándoles que amenazar a la gente con sacarla a patadas de sus trabajos es la norma en el chavismo:

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