Mérida Escalates

31

Roads blocked with logs and burning tires blend with the mountains to make up the new Mérida cityscape. It’s only Wednesday and this week will already be remembered as one of the most violent in the city’s recent history. On Monday a staggering 340 people were wounded as the result of repression and gunfire at opposition street protests. That’s one injured every 4 minutes.

Protests are not new here, but they’re bigger — and so is the violence the state has met them with.

The violence erupted when police started shooting tear gas canisters and rubber pellets into a sizable rally that tried to get to Merida Governor’s Office, to stop it from reaching destination. Protesters then fled to nearby Viaducto Campo Elías, a usual place for confrontation. Shortly after that, the police first, and then Colectivos, attacked the protesters. Another thing that’s almost usual by now.

Three of those wounded Monday had gunshot wounds: moto-taxi driver Anderson Dugarte, 32 was shot in the head, Freilan Álvarez a 21 years old ULA student lost his left eye to a gunshot. His current condition is delicate. A 27 year old police officer, Hugo Guillén, was also shot in the chest and is currently out of danger.

I asked J, my friend who works for ULA’s first aid volunteer squad, what it was like.

This was different… not only the violence, but also the determination of the wounded we took care of. We would patch them up a little bit and then they would head back out to the protest. I helped a guy who had been shot with pellets three times… He told me to wait for him, since he was probably getting shot again in a few minutes.

The volunteers’ job is hard and dangerous, they are in the middle of the protest and they are committed to help everyone, no matter what side they come from. This time they got overwhelmed very quickly.

“We couldn’t even count all the people we helped,” another squad member told me. “They were just too many, we couldn’t even fill our own records, it all happened really fast and there was tear gas all around us.”

J also confirms one of my fears: “There were shots that came from the protesters’ side… More than the last time.”

Later that afternoon, according to some witnesses, a group of armed Colectivos breached one of Merida’s fire stations, stealing one of their ambulances.

Two weeks ago, we warned that the violence with which police forces and in particular pro-government paramilitary groups were engaging opposition protesters was preparing the ground for an equally violent response from the other side. The phenomenon was new last time, but now seems to be turning increasingly common. It’s no-less bone-chilling for being expected.

Yesterday’s protest were not limited to a single spot, they developed all around the city. Even high school students, who are increasingly taking center stage at these protests, blocked several major city roads.

Later that afternoon, according to some witnesses, a group of armed Colectivos breached one of Merida’s fire stations, stealing one of their ambulances and then using it to supposedly kidnap protesters who were later taken to the State Governor’s Office.

The episode however, was described as a “misunderstanding” in an official communiqué distributed through the Firefighters’ official twitter account. In fact, we understand the kidnapped vehicle was actually taken by “intelligence” personnel who decided to take some of the wounded to an “attention center” located inside the Governor’s office.

The funny part is that the same official account had denounced the hijacking just a few hours earlier.

We all know that kind of impasse don’t we?

At the same time, people from all around Merida’s downtown, where protest are quite unusual, complained about Colectivos roaming for the next couple hours, beating and mugging pedestrians and robbing the few stores that remained open. After they left, people in the area were supposedly attacked by the police, which tear gassed houses and apartment buildings, and even beat up the few people who decided to remain on the street.

Governor Ramírez quickly accused the opposition of “creating a climate of ungovernability in order to push for a coup d’etat”. He referred to protesters as terrorists and warned them that “the Constitution doesn’t protect terrorism.”

Not even the night brought calm this time. Just like two weeks ago, GNB armored vehicles patrolled residential areas, shooting tear gas canisters at the windows of those who dared to yell at them. In the nearby city of El Vigía, once a chavista outpost, protests also took place during the day and part of the night, and were followed by isolated episodes of looting, showing another increasingly common trend that seems to be spreading around the country.

It’s the new normal, and it’s just it’s not normal at all. As J told me “People are no longer afraid: it’s the government that should be, because when so many people, when they’re so decided to take a stand, no repression is enough to stop them.”

31 COMMENTS

  1. This is definitely the beginning of the end for the Maduro regime. Even if the protest subside the public opinion in Vz and abroad have turn against them in a big way like never before. The big question is how long Maduro has left, a few days, weeks or couple of months?

  2. Lo deseable por encima de cualquier otra cosa es que el cambio de régimen llegase sin violencia pero, al mismo tiempo, celebro que la gente no se quede quieta recibiendo balas y, tal y como cuenta usted, empieza a responder cada vez más a menudo. Maduro y su gente ha dejado bien claro que si queréis el poder político tendréis que ir a por el con un paro general, violencia… porque le dan exactamente igual las manifestaciones. Si esto le resulta “bone-chilling” a pesar de que era lo previsible a mi ese sentimiento me lo inspiran los 3000 niños más que murieron en el 2016 respecto a las cifras de 2015, tras la crisis económica generada por su gobierno. Lo que me resulta inaudito en todo esto es que a estas alturas, tras varios años de crisis y protestas, no haya habido todavía grandes movimientos por el lado chavista o los militares. Dudamel o la fiscal general son muy poca cosa teniendo en cuenta la magnitud del rechazo a ese régimen.

      • Hasta que le tocaron sus intereses.

        Bueno, no le quita que fué un cretino cínico, o que lo siga siendo, el hecho es que ahora es otro carajo más que públicamente le echó mierda al régimen, y en las presentes circunstancias, es más conveniente tenerlo así a que siga diciendo por el mundo que el régimen es una democracia y que todo está lindo y bello acá.

        Así que entre negociar que al Dudamel no le zampen unos trancazos por haber sido vitrina del régimen y negociar alguna impunidad para los verdaderos enemigos de Venezuela como lo son Maduro, Diosdado y las demás cabezas del régimen, prefiero a Dudamel aunque me tenga que tapar la nariz, pero bueno, no queda de otra, cualquier aliado para derrocar al chavismo-madurismo-castrismo del poder sirve si de verdad está por cambiar al régimen, lo que es diferente a querer conservar esa inmundicia de sistema comunistoide donde los enchufados tienen jodido a todo el mundo con monopolios gobierneros como quieren los imbéciles de marea socialista y los bastardos del 4F.

  3. The fright that was once instilled by chavismo’s death squad since the days of april 11 is now being displaced by the rage and frustration of the people.

  4. I am learning from this. I’m not there, don’t have contacts … just an observer … but the thought comes to mind that this is reversing a coup d’etat Chavez was jailed for and later pushed through with “political” means. It seems that Venezuelans have concluded very correctly that injuries and losses now are minor compared to what happens if the regime remains in place. Too much of what the regime is about has already taken place: uncontrolled inflation, looting the national wealth wholesale, arrests, jailings, starvation, refusing medical supplies, usurpation of the AN, a mockery of a TSJ and CNE … it’s a long list, all cloaked in regime deception.

    A hell of a lot of people are cheering for Venezuela in what has become a long and difficult battle to reestablish democracy and have the will of the vast majority respected. There’s a lot of personal heroism that’s very visible.

    • I agree but it is regrettable that people in Venezuela needed such a level of destruction and so many years for finally waking up and fight (admittedly, nobody could foresee 2 or 3 years ago that Maduro would let the country get rotten so deeply)

      • ” it is regrettable that people in Venezuela needed such a level of destruction and so many years for finally waking up and fight ”
        No true, many Venezuelans woke up to this nightmare soon after Chavez was elected starting his anti democratic anti constitutional moves. This is why there was an attempt to removed from power 15 years ago that didn’t count with international support.
        After that we can assume this dictatorial regime started in earnest, 17 years and counting.

        • Cuando vivia alli, conoci mucha gente que vieron por adelantado lo que venia. Algunos ya se habian comprado algo en EEUU, para mudarse cuando las visas estuviesen aprobadas, y algunos mas se apuntalaban para quedarse. Lo que paso (digo yo) fue que casi la mitad de la gente se trago las promeses vacias del chavismo. Eso todo en los 1980-1990. Mal llego a ser peor, y parece que hoy en dia el 90% del pais se ha dado cuenta de lo que muchos sabian desde ya hace mucho. No se como formularlo precisamente con detalles, ni en pensamiento ni en palabras, pero uno podria decire, creo, que ha transcurrido una continua, progressiva, planeada erosion de la democracia atraves de decadas, para llegar a lo que recuenta este articulo de lo que se acontese en Merida. El sentido congregado de la poblacion, el pensamiento congregado (par no usar esa palabra “collectivo”), ha oscilado de los tiempos de MPJ y RB, atravesando ideas socialistas, entrando por un lado, y saliendo por el otro como si de un tunel, a devolverse a una mejor realidad, para ver la luz al final de ese tunel, la salida al final de esa mala racha, dado datos y viendo los resultados horribles del “Chavismo”, pero aun quedan unos pocos, bueno … estupidos, que aun se creen los cuentos de la ficticia “guerra economica” etc.. Eso es lo que veo yo, solamente. Es mas dificil ver de afuera. No se seinten las vibraciones en las calles. Pero a veces una tiene la perspectiva de una distancia. Tengo fe que los Venezolanos, y solo los Venezolanos, sabran lo que hacen, y encontraran como liberarse de la dictatudra esta de Maduro.

          • para Gringo
            sí, estoy básicamente de acuerdo y no hay mucho más que decir. Creo que la erosión ha sido sobre todo del nivel de vida en el país. Si solo hubiese sido la democracia, algo demasiado abstracto todavía para mucha gente tanto en Venezuela como en España, todo sería muy distinto. Es cierto también que desde fuera no se sienten las vibraciones de las calles pero internet y el hecho de que ahora todo el mundo lleva una cámara en el bolsillo ayuda mucho a compensar esa carencia.

            (queda mejor decir “común” en vez de “congregado”. Si tienes algún typo lo mejor es echarle la culpa al autocorrector)

        • to Toro Volt
          it is true, many people woke up soon (in fact never slept with Chavez) but the fights were to no avail. Only now, after the destruction, most of the country is with them. Between the “ta barato dame dos” and “antibioticos no hay” there is a middle point where most developed countries are but Venezuela is still on its way to find it.

  5. “La invasión y secuestro de nuestra unidad de la #Est1Libertador es una clara violación a los tratados de Ginebra y sus protocolos.”

    So, according to the government, there is a war going on? Dunno, I would say that stealing an ambulance is a crime, not a war crime, but hey, if you say that the situation is of a war…

    • They’re processing civilians on military courts because they say if a civilian acts again a military officer is act of war, so they declared a civil war.

  6. “J also confirms one of my fears: “There were shots that came from the protesters’ side… More than the last time.””

    Fear? The government has clearly stated it’s willing to tear up the constitution in order to stay in power. Maduro would happily crown himself king of a boneyard. The army brass is in too deep, too dirty to do anything.

    There are no other options. You fight fire with fire, or resign yourself to living out your days as a serf.

    • There are no other options. You fight fire with fire, or resign yourself to living out your days as a serf, said some Syrian, now probably dead from a barrel bomb, circa 2011.

      • Worse, that’s what some daesh bastard told to a syrian to convince him to let the actual terrorist get involved in the conflict, remember that there are at least three sides in the syrian conflict: Al Assad’s regime, the people that wants to get rid of him and the daesh that wants to invade the country to take its territory and resources.

        Also, it’s not even Maduro and his claque are even offering the people something in exchange for their servitude, which at least Chávez did (Let’s be honest, the guy bought almost everyone in the country in one way or another so they would turn their look from his atrocities), Maduro and co. are offering simply the continuation of this status quo: Go and starve in a house which soon won’t even be yours (You’ll lose your lifetime’s work), waiting for a phyrric food box that can be also be subjected to the whims of any petty bureaucrat, and if you get sick, tough luck, you’re mostly dead anyway.

        Maduro thinks his strategy of all-out frontal repression will net him the results it did for Chávez before, but as I said before, Maduro thinks that only repression will suffice, he also thinks that he can go and kill anybody who protests if things go too far for his taste.

        You know what’s the actual bad part that will result of this? That even those who only voted chavista in the first one or three elections (But then got out because they started to get screwed the same as everybody else, those who “woke up” early) will be held as guilty as those who voted for Maduro and gleefully giggle enjoying all his lunacy.

        I’ve always said it and I will stand for this claim: That Maduro and the chavista dictatorship do NOT want people to answer violently to their repression because they DO NOT need an actual cause to blame people for dissent, what they’re looking for with this repression is for people to shut up and stop protesting altogether, cowering in fear and despair, leaving the things as they are (aka “dejando la cosa así”).

      • Fransisco, te quiero como si te conociera personalmente, pero de vez en cuando metes la pata!

        Is there any way I could contribute through PayPal? I recall I did that a while ago, but now I can’t find it.

  7. If the game is played in violence opposition will lose. They have more guns and less reason and the soldiers are happy to respond with all the violence that would be needed.

    • The regime doesn’t want violence, they want people to shut up, stop protesting and “quedarse quietos”

      The violence is a means, it’s not their end, they don’t need violence to blame anybody or to justify anything.

  8. The best option and best strategy for the opposition is non-violent civil resistance, as explained by this lady:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJSehRlU34w&t=22s

    However, there is a little problem (one this lady seems to ignore): Once your opponent knows what’s your best strategy, he can take measures to undermine it. In this case, the government can and is doing everything it can to make the protests turn violent.

  9. Hasta ahora, hemos sido pacíficos. Punto. Ellos han sido los violentos. Pero es una guerra y hay que aceptar que no se puede vencer sin tomar decisiones difíciles y sin entrar a veces en un área gris. Que uno opte por la no violencia como estrategia, no quiere decir que uno sea irreprochable o que tenga que serlo. No se trata de ser irreprochables y perfectos, sino de ser efectivos. Necesitamos un enfoque más pragmático, y dejar a un lado ese falso sentido de superioridad moral que nos causado tanto daño.

  10. “J also confirms one of my fears: “There were shots that came from the protesters’ side… More than the last time.”

    It’s dangerous if the opposition starts arming itself, and returning live fire. But at this point they need to push even more, and use new techniques: larger crowds, but with no pre-announced plans or routes only starting points with evasion routes. Huge trancas of the major avenues yes, 2-3 million people out, paralyzing Caracas and other major cites. They need smarter, unpublished Strategies.

    I like the shields, masks, helmets and all the new protection equipment. Produce more of that for the larger marches. White shirts with logos, franelas can be cheap, distributed by the thousands.

    I also like the new excrement bombs, the GNB hates them.. oil-paint projectiles, Eggs would be great, from the balconies, but people are poor and hungry…

    For Live Fire, careful.. maybe they could use only Snipers on balcones and rooftops. Especially when the GNB’s are beating up an estudiante like savages, on the floor, when they wound or kill a protester, or kidnap them. Plomo con eso but from a distance – snipers. Real shots.. sporadically at the ruthless ‘paramilitares’ , especially if you see them armed, shooting at people.. as they appear on many videos everyday.

  11. Ok, ok, let’s be clear on one thing here:

    Please, refrain from suggesting that people that goes into a protest has to pocket a gun, nowhere in the world that could be considered pacific by any means.

    NOW, which I totally agree and that MUST be done, is the SELF-DEFENSE TO PRESERVE THE LIFE AND PROPERTIES, the regime’s sending their death squads to destroy businesses and people’s houses, even breaking into the houses and kidnapping the people.

    In those cases, when the colectivo crosses the threshold of your living room, by any means, feel free to lop his head off with a machete, because FUCK THE COLECTIVO IS TRYING TO ENTER YOUR HOUSE TO KILL YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WHAT THE HELL?!.

    That was what happened in El Paraíso around the 20 of april, where the colectivos showed to destroy the place and kill people, but instead more than 30 colectivos ended spilled (with probably their guts spilled too) in the streets.

    And that was what should have happened in Valencia when well known genocide ameliach sent his colectivos to destroy the city, caracazo-style (https://www.caracaschronicles.com/2017/05/05/valencia-isnt-spared/)

    Now, if the regime insists in using mindless violence to repress the people, we can’t certainly wait until they decide to literally send the pranes’ gangs to fuckin’ machinegun people into minced meat (The wet dream of many chavista fanatics) and the death toll escalates from 4-5 in a protest to 50-300 corpses scattered after a protest.

  12. Yes, I fear that opposition rallies end up turning violent. First because that is just water to a desperately thirsty PR apparatus. We’d be playing the game they want to play, the game in which they always win. But also because I don’t want a civil war to erupt. It’s easy to send people to die for freedom from a comfortable chair and behind a computer screen.

    • Their PR apparatus is running quite smoothly, both inside (100% of the media assimilated by hegemoncorp spouting lies 24/7) and outside (millions of dollars burned in lobbying the regime)

      “We’d be playing the game they want to play, the game in which they always win.”

      They have won only because the people has never, ever defended themselves, the opposition didn’t even had a plan to withdraw people to minimize the amount of those who are kidnapped or killed, most of the MUD rallies have always devolved into “sálvese quien pueda” when push comes to shove.

      I’ve said it many times, but it feels like I’m talking to a brick wall here: The regime doesn’t need that opposition people to become violent, in fact, they DO NOT WANT THAT, what the regime wants is that the people STOPS THEIR PROTESTS, PERIOD, and they think that the violence will scare people into finishing the protests.

  13. Univision gives the puputov rave reviews. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUkD0PAAYyU Maybe this shit goes viral and the world rallies around the “Brown Revolution”. Trump already said that he is on the side of regime change…Hes a business man. Real cheap, maybe he can send los estudiantes a few containers of hazmat suits and laser guided puputovs. Seriously, this puputov shit could go viral and the alternative media will be all over this.

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