It was mid-afternoon on May 30th and most of the protesters were already heading home. But not Luis. Luis was hiding out in a Cruz Verde paramedics’ pickup truck, a sort of mobile medical unit that moves across the protests. He was dizzy and was not responding to the commands of his caretakers. He was vomiting. He realized that he had just lived through one of the most frightening moments of his life. He stayed there, hidden from the security forces, unable to stop shaking or vomiting, for a full 20 minutes.

“Officers have shot rubber pellets at me, tear gas canisters have whizzed by very close to me, the ‘ballena’ has hit me, but this was the time I really felt in danger,” Luis told me as he thought back on it.

Luis not his real name, for soon-to-be-obvious reasons is in his early 20s. He speaks with purpose, each sentence perfectly formed. His confidence seems well beyond his years.

The memories aren’t clear. Luis struggles to piece together how long the assault in that one corner of Chacao really lasted. He was, as he puts it now, “too lucky” to get away.

“There is not much chance of getting out of a situation like that twice. These days I’m more cautious”, he told me.

On May 30, he’d arrived to a march departing from Plaza Altamira at noon. His face uncovered, he started to walk with a river of people, mostly students, towards downtown Caracas. It didn’t take long before the repression started. He was prepared for this; since the protests began, 61 days earlier, he has been on the streets again and again. He was out there in 2014, too.

Officers have shot rubber pellets at me… the ‘ballena’ has hit me, but this was the time I really felt in danger.

“Since everything started, I’ve been there,” he tells me proudly. Every day, as soon as he gets off of work as a program developer, he grabs his backpack and darts off to protest.

On that day, he was right on the front line, volleying back tear gas canisters, a job that is not easy but that he is not afraid to do.

“La salida es la calle” the way out of this is street protests he insisted, still convinced of this maxim despite what he went through.

It took him about a half an hour to walk to Chacaito, where the confrontation between the Resistencia and security forces was already well underway. He put on his mask, his goggles, his helmet and gloves: a “uniform” his partners in the fight have made their own.

Luis doesn’t know the name of any of the guys who were with him that day. Sometimes they exchange a couple of words, but always wearing a mask; they’re his anonymous companions on the streets.

“I usually go by myself, unless someone calls me. That day I went by myself,” he recalls.

He stood there for a couple of hours, resisting and returning the attacks. Between rubber pellet detonations and tear gas canisters, he decided to stand with the “resistance” for hours, until three o’clock in the afternoon, when he decided that the battle that day was over for him. He put everything back in his backpack and started to head back to Chacao.

La salida es la callethe way out of this is street protests he insisted, still convinced of this maxim despite what he went through.

He didn’t know the worst was still to come.

Close to the Supreme Tribunal building in Chacao, he saw as a group of people feeling, but he decided to keep walking, this was not the first time that he’d seen people running for no reason.

Moments later, amid screaming and noise, he saw a swarm of 60 or so National Police (PNB) motorbikes.

Shit.

Then he ran. He made it about 50 meters before he realized that the demonstrators who were near him had dispersed and some of the bikes were coming after him. He forced his legs, running to survive now. No match for motorbikes, he sprinted for another 20 meters or so and he was cornered.

He knew what was coming next: he’d seen police take the protesters on their motorcycles. It happened to a relative, too, back in 2014. But the officer didn’t force him onto the bike.

Instead, he kicked him. Hard.

In a matter of seconds, he watched as four police officer circled him. They pushed him into a corner and beat him. And kept beating him.

All the cops were wearing gas masks, he couldn’t see any of their faces, but he presumed that they are really young. He could sense the hatred in their blows: they beat him on the head, kicked him, punched him, elbowed. They seemed to be enjoying it.

But the officer didn’t force him onto the bike. Instead, he kicked him. Hard.

He put his hand in his pockets and he bent his head to protect himself. He tried to ask for help, he tried to explain that he wasn’t doing anything wrong and was heading home, but the blows did not stop.

He could hear the violent shouts of the police, “quédate quieto,” stay still . And then, “we’re going to arrest you.”

In the middle of the beating, he could hear the voice of a fourth member of the group. A woman’s voice. He didn’t get to see her face but he figured she wasn’t wearing a gas mask because her voice was clear.

“Don’t hit him, aflojen,” she said.

“One of them was angry at me, he wanted to steal everything I had and keep hitting me. I felt his hatred. They wanted to hurt me”, he remembers.

Luis tried to stay strong as they kicked him. He tried to protect his face. One of them managed to grab the cell phone out of his pocket, they tried to get him onto the motorcycle but in the struggle, he fell to the floor and one of the police fell on him. They snatched his bag, with his “tools” of resistance, his clean clothes, and his job ID. In the middle of the escape they ripped his shirt. Bizarrely, he still had his wallet in his pocket.

“One of them was angry at me, he wanted to steal everything I had and keep hitting me. I felt his hatred. They wanted to hurt me.”

His head was spinning. He doesn’t know when or exactly how he managed to get away. He ran down the middle of the street, in panic, listening to the screams of the people on the street. He tried to cry for help. He heard rubber buckshots being fired at him, but none of the pellets hit him. He kept running until he saw the Cruz Verde truck in a corner. Safety.

I ask him how long the beating went on. He’s honest, he says he just can’t say.  

The amazing thing is that Luis feels lucky.

“If they’d caught me I wouldn’t have slept in my bed, I might be still behind bars. Thank God I got away,” Luis said.

After hiding out in the Cruz Verde truck for 20 minutes, he was taken Salud Chacao, the municipal health clinic that tends to wounded protesters almost daily. He still has bad bruises on both sides of his body and on his head. None of his injuries were life-threatening.

Luis has always known the risks of going out onto the streets. He knew all along it wasn’t just the risk of being arrested, he knows people die out there. He has seen the video of the moment when Neomar Lander was killed and the countless videos of demonstrators being arrested. He’s still out there.

If they’d caught me I wouldn’t have slept in my bed, I might be still behind bars. Thank God I got away.

The very next day after his assault, bruised and sore, he was back out protesting.

“I’m more cautious now, more prudent especially now that I don’t have my equipment,” he says.

His family asks him to be careful. But they don’t tell him to stop protesting. They have the same convictions.

“If we let fear overtake us, we will lose, because this is going to get worse, he tells me. “There’s no turning back now: if we give up we lose the country.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. If you are waiting for pity from Nationalsozialismus Guard, good luck. They are well separated from the people and thus indoctrinated to view his fellow countryman as the enemy. This article also illustrates the shitheads they are: http://prodavinci.com/blogs/me-gritaron-a-este-pais-lo-jodieron-los-extranjeros-por-roberto-mata/

    In their tiny mind they think they see themselves as superior and observe themselves to be pitifully better off than the rest.

    It comes down to the government going so broke that it cannot feed the goons or some group of generals with real firepower to realize that the situation is unsustainable and that being at the pinnacle of a failed state is still a bad deal.

    Also, it would not surprise me that the ‘guerreros kids’ will morph into real urban guerrillas with bombs and murders of government officials. How ironic it would be that Chavismo and its veneration for such movements of the 70s would be hit by Montoneros style rebelion.

  2. Another testimony of a similar story: (Female writer)

    Yo no quiero despertar un día y que mi hijo(a) me pregunte sobre este periodo de la historia de mi país y tener que responder que me quede en casa, que no hice lo suficiente, que otros fueron más valientes que yo mientras hacía el papel de observadora.

    El día sábado 20 de mayo de 2017, salí con mi grupo usual a defender a mi país de la gran tiranía que lo gobierna. Poco a poco fuimos mejorando nuestras tácticas para protegernos. Cargaba una máscara, lentes, guantes y mi casco.

    Luego de haber llegado a la Av. Fco Miranda, con intenciones de agarrar la Libertador para llegar al Ministerio de Interior y de Justicia, comenzó la represión. Siempre empieza con lo usual: bombas lacrimógenas, fuegos artificiales, molotovs, piedras y demás.

    Poco a poco fueron retrocediendo los cobardes de la GNB, aquellos malandros armados en uniforme que “juraron defender al pueblo”. Escribí un mensaje a mi mamá diciendo: ‘estoy bien, ya pronto salimos’
    Luego de haber llegado al Rosal, donde la represión seguía, decidimos darnos la vuelta para retirarnos. No fue si no a la altura de Salud Chacao, ya sin máscara ni lentes en la cara pensando que estábamos resguardados, y con la tensa calma que se vive en la calle en momentos de marchas, que conversábamos sobre la cantidad de bombas que recolectamos en una bolsa – unas 100 por lo menos. En eso escuchas los gritos de miles mezclados con los motores de unas motos: ‘ahí vienen!!!! Corran!!!!’
    Unas 6 cuadras corridas más tarde, luego de haber caminado toda la tarde, no aguanté más, pedía a los que estaban alrededor mío que nos escondiéramos. Poco a poco me fui quedando atrás. Hasta que me di cuenta que estaban a unos pocos pasos de mi.

    Vi como un grupo de 8 personas intentaba entrar a un edificio, y sin pensarlo corrí hasta ellos solo para encontrar a mi llegada unas rejas cerradas y la cara de un propietario que se rendía ante nuestros gritos de auxilio.

    Volteo y ahí estaban: unas 50 motos con funcionarios de la PNB, y a unos pocos metros de nosotros un policía con su armamento listo para disparar. Suplicamos que pararan: ‘no no no no!!!!’
    En un instante lo sentí en mis piernas, el gas más caliente y espeso que había olido. Tratando de salir de ahí caí de boca al piso, no sé que se hicieron aquellos que estaban conmigo. Solo recuerdo no poder aspirar ni el propio gas, arrastrándome tratando de pedir ingenuamente ayuda a los mismos que me atacaron. De un jalón me lanzaron a un lado por el bolso. Me levantaron y arrancaron mi celular de las manos, la máscara de mi cuello y el casco de mi cabeza. De vuelta al piso, vi los zapatos de uno de ellos. Con los mismos me pateaba y me decía como si fuese una exagerada: ‘ya pues ya!’ Me extendió su mano y me lanzó a un banco de piedra. Ahí una de sus acompañantes me preguntaba si yo era prensa, a lo que no pude contestar que era abogado, ya que no existía oxigeno en mis pulmones.

    En ese momento llegó un señor vestido de mono azul. Un paramédico que habrá vivido su propia historia antes de cruzarse en la mía. Contaba a gritos desesperado que lo habían robado y atacado. Sin pensarlo me atendió y pude respirar nuevamente. El PNB cínicamente me advierte como si me hubiese hecho un favor: ‘no te estoy llevando así que no te quejes!’ Mi paramédico le gritaba que me dejara en paz, el mismo se montó en su moto y arrancó.

    Comenzamos a caminar, arrastrando los pies pero tratando de acelerar el paso. Preguntaba su nombre y no logré entender, para mi simplemente fue un ángel. Segundos después caí al piso nuevamente, mi paramédico pidió a un hombre en una moto que me llevara a plaza Altamira, y así fue.
    Al llegar, unas señoras me atendieron, me curaron la piel que ardía como una quemadura, cambiaron mi camisa, me dieron agua y abrazos. Ahí vi una cara conocida. Jamás había sentido tanta calma y desesperación al mismo tiempo. Escuché gritos de aliento que decían: ‘fuerza chama!’, ‘sigue adelante reina!’, ‘animo!’

    Lo que más me sorprende de toda esta experiencia es los extremos de la gente que conocí ese día que jamás volveré a ver. El PNB que nos disparó mientras nos veía a los ojos, el que robó mi celular, el que pateaba, la que preguntaba si era prensa, mi paramédico, el señor de la moto, las señoras de Altamira, todas las caras que vi con ojos de preocupación y cariño. Sigo pensando que los PNB son la excepción de la regla, que los venezolanos son los que conocí luego de mi ataque, que ahí está la esencia de nuestro país!

    No me cansaré de luchar, de seguir adelante con ánimo como me recomendaron extraños pero que se sentían como hermanos en la plaza. Si antes tenía convicción ahorita la tengo con más fuerza!
    Gracias a los que participaron en esta fracción de mi día el 20 de mayo! No sé quiénes son, pero los siento conmigo!

    • La sola actitud de perdonavidas que muestran los miserables con uniforme esos es razón suficiente para joderlos cuando llegue el momento.

      Y ese momento está llegando mucho más rápido de lo que se lo imaginan, lo mejor del caso es que la misma gente que ha sido jodida por ellos como los primeros que salieron a protestar, los cuales tendrían toda la razón en desquitarse, no tendrán que mover un dedo cuando les llege el “24 de enero” a los esbirros miserables que disfrutan torturando gente y que se creen la gran cosa sólo porque llevan una basura de uniforme.

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