Towers A and B, Doral Centro, La Candelaria. It’s late night on July 27th. We’re in the heart of the city, a few blocks from the Ministry of Interior and Justice. The people I talked to for this story spoke on condition of anonymity.

First, a middle aged neighbor, married, with kids. From his window, he can see the dark street and the main door to the building. At least 22 black vehicles are parked and some 200 state security officers walk from one side to another.

For hours, he can hear detonaciones nearby. We call them detonaciones because who knows what they really are gunshots? rubber pellets? tear gas canisters?

On Twitter, he reads that a Bolivarian National Police (PNB) officer was wounded in the neck with a gunshot coming from a nearby building. He knows the drill “now they’ll go home by home looking for the culprit,” he says to his wife.

But it’s late; almost 11 p.m. He turns off the lights, says good-night to his wife and children and goes to sleep.

Three hooded officers, armed, without identification from any State security agency, walk into his house.

He’s still awake when he hears a noise outside his apartment. Voices mingled, shouted orders, laughter. Through the peephole, he sees a little huddle in black.

 

Everyone in the house is up now. He had never seen his children so edgy. He thinks of the stories he’s heard about raids nearby. He knows what comes next.

His wife tries to calm him down.

“Open the door!” orders a voice from the other side.

No way. The police are not coming in here, he thinks. He sees a yellow gas trickling in from the front door. His wife runs into the bathroom, grabs a towel, makes it wet and jams it under the door.

The children cry, they are knocking on the door. He realizes it’s hopeless.If I don’t open it, they’ll just kick it in,” he thinks to himself. He tells them there are children in the house and that he’s opening. They come in.

Three hooded officers, armed, without identification from any State security agency, walk into his house. They look through each room, rifle through drawers. They don’t make a mess. And they leave without a word.

We call them detonaciones because who knows what they really are gunshots? rubber pellets? tear gas canisters?

A few floors up, a shower was on. While she’s showering, she hears a few knocks nearby. She doesn’t know where they’re coming from and she doesn’t care. The knocks become stronger. They come from her door.

She steps out of the shower, dries herself, throws on some clothes and goes into the living room. Her husband is holding the door open. From the other side of the reja, a man in black aims a weapon at him. He’s panicking.

The neighbor downstairs, an older man, tried to go to bed early that day. He hears the doorbell. Then a knock on the door. He gets up, reaches for the keys and opens. A hooded man greets him from behind the reja. He orders him to open, says they’re looking for someone. The old man stares in disbelief.

“I live here by myself,” he says.My children are out of the country. Have a good night”. The officers leave.

The neighbor across from me was still awake. He hears the knocks and opens the door. Three people go in, including a woman. She shakes the man, who looks around with concern and doesn’t understand what’s happening.

He gets up, reaches for the keys and opens. A hooded man greets him from behind the reja. He orders him to open, says they’re looking for someone.

“Look, mija,” he says,God bless you. But please don’t vote for the Constituent Assembly.” He makes her smile, humanizes that hooded face; he even manages to wink at her.

Floors below, the knocking grows stronger and more persistent.

“I have a kid here, show some respect,” shouts a woman from inside.

She opens and two masked officers go in. They check room by room. One of them, frightened, orders his companion to withdraw. They are not very religious, but that day, in that room, there was a candle lit to their guardian angel.

There’s no hint of judicial process on any of this: no warrants, no prosecutors, no rights. Often no words are spoken at all. In El Paraíso, stories of officers robbing apartments as they raid them are common. Some raids, apparently, include assaults.

As the masked men leave, the neighbors are left to tally up the damage: broken security cameras, stolen equipment, grids and some doors kicked in. The real toll is psychological, though: now they know there’s no safety even at home.

16 COMMENTS

  1. HRA saying that the opposition should be participating in the regional elections. Quico jumping on it and posting a clear plan to success in 3, 2, 1…

  2. Excellent piece and excellent writing. I hadn’t seen Shari here before. Nice addition to the team. Ucevistas hasta la tumba.

    On another note, I don´t know just how close I can be to living a raid in my apartment. I live in Coche, Res. Venezuela. On the most outspokenly oppositor tower. The law enforcers have broken through our defenses before, but we have been able to repel them. It is just a waiting game at this moment, tho. We know that.

    The latest episode of this Call of Duty-esque novel was the GNB breaking the main doors of the lower levelled towers in the closed neighbour, climbed the 5 flights of stairs, broke the lock to the roof and climbed on top (all of this very stealthy) and proceeded to ambush us firing tear gas canisters and rubber pullets from above.

    Que nos agarren confesados.

    • Mejor que los agarren preparados…

      When they come, as you say you know they will, they need to be neutralized. Make sure your neighbours know this, only united you can win. As usual, the criminal will go on to the next less protected target…

      My prayers.

    • The scenes you describe are “Kafkaesque” not “Call of Duty” like. Pretty soon, everyone of you is going have his or hers own “Trial”. We wish our best and speedy resolution for all. (or you can turned in “la cucaracha”

        • Thanks for your wishes, guys. And yes, we try to be prepared and organised but when 200 pacos come knocking, it is hard to resist. The OLP are strong proof of that, I believe.

  3. That’s narrative writing, which is hard to do for professionals, to say nothing of doing so in a second language. SHOWS what it’s like to actually be there, in the teeth of it. Excellent piece. Especially the little human touches per the soldiers.

  4. So much for entering only with a search warrant.

    I wonder why my comments under the blog name of “Boludo Tejano” have been blocked for over a day. It began with an overly-footnoted comment- 3 links. I should not be so pedantic perhaps, less my comment be mistaken for spam.

    • DSF, On CC I have seen vulgar words, links, and highly offensive statements, so in my opinion you are not being blocked. You “might” have been duped by a slight bug in the CC comments section. I see this mentioned somewhat frequently, but if you did not catch it……

      If you compose a lengthy comment, spending maybe 5+ minutes (never tested the length of time) the comment section “times you out” without any warning. You “Post Comment” as usual, and wait another 5+ minutes for the section to post it, and then freak out that it never appears. Well, I did once have composing a masterpiece. lol

      ANYTIME you spend time composing a long comment. COPY/PASTE to word, a notepad or,? then submit.

      and if it is “lost in space”, then PASTE it anew, and be subjected to the wrath of us other posters, as we all are. Sometimes, I admit, I forget to use my head, and others are very happy to tell me I am full of it.

  5. Yep – It’s a Call of Duty script for a forthcoming video game. Venezuela has taken over from Iraq, Syria and Yemen as a hotspot for video-gamer creators looking out to glean scenarios for their latest blockbuster video sales creations. Where next? London’s acid attack moped riding boy-gangsters?

  6. Excellent piece….easy to see yourself in one of those La Candelaria buildings (as I have a long time ago), visiting friends. Sad to see what is happening to that central area of CCS.

    That Sebin/Conas is like a tropical gestapo. Similar tactics, arriving suddenly and knocking on doors with 2 objectives: 1st and foremost, to create fear and distant second, remove some potential threats that will magically appear in front of them (how do they know what is a threat? a young person 15 – 30? Are they so stupid to believe that a gun will be easily found in one of those apartments?). Of course, they won’t be overly concerned about form and due process, they just remove the young person, and leave the family worried sick and wondering about the detention center. Criminals.

    What has not been openly discussed is that the People are applying their own of justice. Just last week, a regime supporter – “colectivo” who shot a young protester was neutralized within 24 hours. The before and after pics are in the cloud. The regime has not talked about it, but several colectivos have suffered the same fate. The only people in the regime that are relatively safe (they have many bodyguards) are the ones at the top. This type of carnage is not going to raise an eyebrow (or be investigated) in Venezuela. There is an app for that: “Ajuste de cuenta”. (happens to be an accurate description).

  7. Wow… simply stunning that the socialists who all weep at the sight of such corruption still feigning ignorance as to how they got to this point.

    It is done and over with. MUD lost and now are out of power.

    Welcome to the party!!!

  8. Great article. Many prayers for continued safety for Shari and all of the other CC reporters “in country” coming from Miami.

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