The bully shoves back

Reality in Venezuela has taken us from "No vale, yo no creo" to "No lo puedo creer." As the government goes on the offensive, the pace of the crisis is quickening. It's a white knuckle ride.

Sometimes days go by when nothing seems to be happening, even during times like these. But other days bring way too much, even during times like these. In a span of 48 hours, Nicolás Maduro’s government went full throttle, mounting a full counterattack after weeks of unrest and bloodshed.

Two days, May 22nd and 23rd, have shown us what escalation feels like, and it ain’t pretty.

After the announcement that Táchira would have its own version of Plan Zamora, riot control units nationwide received support from tactical groups, trained in harm and destruction.

It wasn’t the GNB or PNB, day-to-day acronyms any marchista expects. Not even SEBIN, the feared intelligence police. More exotic names roamed: CONAS, DGCIM. The crème de la bloody crème. May 22nd in San Antonio sent shivers down our spines.

Applying tactics like those used by the OLP —which amount to military raids to take down drug and kidnapping gangs— a different sort of policeman began to roam not only streets, but parking lots, hallways and even some apartments throughout usually peaceful Caracas suburbs. The images were shocking even by today’s standards.

Intelligence officers dressed as civilians fired guns at protesters in another usually quiet neighborhood, around CIED at La Tahona. Hardly a focal point of the conflict.

Hundreds of kilometers away, a different kind of conflict brewed. Barinas, birthplace of Hugo Chávez and a symbolic llanero stronghold of chavismo, revolted like few other places have. Eight protesters dead, the local CNE office, PSUV’s headquarters and the National Guard garrison overtaken and set ablaze. It was barely night time on the 22nd.

Two days, May 22nd and 23rd, have shown us what escalation feels, and it ain’t pretty.

May 23rd was just as noisy and chaotic, but for other reasons. Maduro’s economics team presented the new version of CADIVI/SICAD/DICOM, whilst admitting there’s not much money left and that they intend to keep it for themselves.

Not far from where they set out this elaborate pagarse y darse el vuelto en dólares scheme, Maduro held a rally he expected to give some traction to him and his Constituent Assembly proposal. It didn’t. A few hundred people joined Maduro, who was visibly upset by the embarrassing turnout. From there, he headed to the CNE to hand in the rules for electing members of his new pet project, the National Constituent Assembly. Somehow, he got them fast-tracked and approved in days.

Right after that, Tibisay Lucena held a press conference, announcing the Constituent Assembly would take place in July. The same people who said it would take over a year to hold a recall referendum —a simple yes/no vote— can suddenly process a highly complex election for 540 members over multiple constituencies in two months. De pinga.

She went on to say state governor elections would be held in December. Elections, that is, for an office that may or may not exist by the time people go to vote.

Night fell again, and with it a dawning sense of acceleration. The pace of this crisis changed. We still don’t know what we’re heading towards, but we know we’re heading towards it faster and faster.

Chavismo has started to shove back, and it only made the inevitable tastier.

Today there was supposed to be a march to honor the fallen. Instead, it is heading straight towards CNE. Politicians and everyday folk alike are in the mood to disrupt and demand justice. They don’t shove, they push forward, no matter what the bully says or does. It’s as if the worse we’re treated the more energized we get. As if chavismo’s last ditch thrashing is an elixir to us.