It’s been three months since Alejandro which is not his real name was released from hell.

He was arrested during the recent protests and spent a month in jail. Right after it happened, I talked to his mom, who told me how his detention set off an earthquake in their tight-knit family. Now he’s out… and I finally have a chance to get his side of the story.

I really don’t know how this skinny guy managed to survive an experience like that, but he’s back in his office, trying to lead as normal a life as Venezuela can offer.

I met him a few meters from the square where, almost a month ago, people came together to honor those killed during the protests. It’s hard to believe that the streets around Parque Cristal were a battlefield. The place is full of shoppers now; it’s Friday and office workers drink beer and mojitos after work.

Alejandro has a passion for politics. He’s calm as he remembers the day they picked him up. It was April 6th, when the struggle had just started.

I was close to the El Recreo mall when the Policía Nacional and the National Guard took me. First, they stole my cell phone, and took everything out of my wallet except for my ID. An officer asked me for 500,000 bolívares in cash to be released. And they had just robbed me. I told him to let me make some calls, but he wouldn’t. And he said I was fucked.

Alejandro was locked up, beaten and given electric shocks. He remembers fellow prisoners giving him hope. More often, though, he only heard threats: “You’ll see what happens to those who mess with the police.”

He heard the infamous “Me le echan gas del bueno” until it literally felt like it was tattooed into his eardrums. “They played chavista songs and blasted Chávez speeches at full volume, like a nightclub,” he said.  

They recorded two videos of me. The first was real quick, but the second was more serious. This dude asked me the same questions over and over again, differently phrased. If I was in any political party, if I received money from someone.

In El Helicoide, they took me to an office, chained to a door for a good while. Then a guy asked me for the password of every social media account I have. I told him, but I don’t know if I confused the Facebook password for the Instagram password. An officer came in raging; ‘You fucking liar.’ And in came the taser and, every time I received a shock, I fell to the floor. My legs were butter. And he kicked me. I needed, like, a minute to get back up. He did that three or four times.

Still, he’s passionate when talking about the future. He wants a change of government, but no longer trusts the opposition.

I’m angry, but not because the MUD runs for regional elections. Looks like they have a problem with how they communicate their actions.

He’s aghast that MUD leaders may forget about those still jail, “even with people from their own parties. I spent time with Los Morochos. It’s like they (the opposition) see it as a plus to have political prisoners, to have people pasando trabajo.”

Bitterness finally shows in his voice, thinking of politicians that led the protests and suddenly embraced the opposition primaries; they swapped the calle hasta que caiga” for election campaigning. “Look at Requesens. He’s from Baruta and he was on the forefront of the protest, but he changed it for elections in Táchira. And he lost.”

Carlos Ocariz, the opposition’s option for governorship in Miranda, (in)famously said that candidates are the new escuderos. Alejandro certainly disapproves.

I can’t even comment on that. Terrible. I remember when the team of Foro Penal asked me to be in an event and I met Pernalete’s mom. I didn’t have words, and she was all ‘it’s okay, son’. Yes, I spent a terrible month detained, but what about her? She lost her son and didn’t even have money for the funeral.

He sighs, disappointed. “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know if I’m voting in these elections. I know the MUD has the communication power, that’s why they have to call people onto the streets. When they say they stopped the protest to avoid more killings, that’s a straight up lie. Security forces have been killing protesters since 2014. The MUD threatened to break the status quo, but they never called to Miraflores. It’s sad, but I have more faith in Trump now than in any other option. The opposition believes in fairy-tale elections against a much more noble enemy than the real one.”

In between college classes and work, Alejandro sometimes meets the old chamos from the La Resistencia days.

If you take a walk around Altamira, they’re there, asking for money,” he tells me. “Months ago they were wounded with perdigones [rubber pellets] but they also used to get food from the people, las viejitas. Now that the protests are over, the food also stopped. They’re chamos who had nothing to lose and joined the fight. Now they’re forgotten again.

When Alejandro speaks, he’s very composed. It’s only after he’s been at it for a while that you notice the twitches in his reactions. His stare seems that of a man older than him. Maybe that’s recent. Maybe he’s just lived through a lot this year.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Maduro sure proved me wrong. I laughed when he said the election of the ANC would bring peace. Then again, I believed the MUD possessed testicles.

  2. The opposition believes in fairy-tale elections against a much more noble enemy than the real one.”

    Alejandro, stop being naive, The MUD has joined the government, it’s painfully obvious.

    • You may be right about this, but then again, you would have to explain something: If the government and the opposition are playing now for the same team, then why is the government so actively trying to promote abstention among non-chavistas? The government clearly doesn’t want the opposition to win in any state, and they clearly don’t want us to vote for any opposition candidate, and that’s the main reason I’ll vote. Whatever the government wants me to do, I’ll do the opposite…

      Worst case scenario, you are right and the opposition let’s the government commit fraud without complaining, or something like that, but since in that case it doesn’t make any difference whether I vote or not, I’ll still vote just in case we still have some opposition left, and just to piss off the government and force them to commit their next wave of abuses (like removing governors that don’t bow to the ANC) that will further damage their image abroad.

      I’m just playing the best I can with the cards I got, trying to cause as much damage as possible to the enemy, i.e. the government. In summary, the strategy is very simple, based on these two facts:

      1.- If people don’t vote for the opposition, the government will be very happy for sure.
      2.- If people vote for the opposition, the government may or may not care:
      2.1.- If they don’t care, it doesn’t make any difference whether we vote or not, so we don’t lose anything by voting.
      2.2.- I they care, then, well, we will have accomplished something, even if the government later nullifies any opposition victory.

      Knowing this, how could anyone conclude that the best strategy is not to vote?

      • You’re starting from a fallacy, trying to state that the elections won’t be a fraud.

        “then why is the government so actively trying to promote abstention among non-chavistas?”

        The dictatorship doesn’t care if people vote or not, they can make up the numbers as they did with the prostituyente.

        Neither the Ballots nor the receipts in the boxes will matter, in fact, they stopped mattering since the last modification of the elections law in 2006, where the ONLY VALID THING IN ELECTIONS IS THE NUMBERS STORED IN THE MACHINE DATA, NOTHING ELSE IS VALID, it is “MACHINE KILLS VOTE”

        In last instance, they’ll simply tell tibisay to announce a bloated number (as they did with the prostituyente) and she’ll blurt whatever madroga and the cubans tell her to say, period.

        The dictatorship will give one or two states to MUD and will claim they won all the others, simple as that.

        “Worst case scenario, you are right and the opposition let’s the government commit fraud without complaining, or something like that, but since in that case it doesn’t make any difference whether I vote or not,”

        Maybe you won’t care, but the people dying from starvation, lack of medicines and chavista-backed-criminals should certainly care when they loss their next relative because the status quo just got another 2-year stretch.

        “just to piss off the government and force them to commit their next wave of abuses (like removing governors that don’t bow to the ANC) that will further damage their image abroad.”

        Protests accomplished that in less than 4 months, ALL the imagery of “democratic government” they built was cracked after a month killing people on the streets, while simply waiting for the next election has done absolutely NOTHING in the last 18 years.

        “1.- If people don’t vote for the opposition, the government will be very happy for sure.”

        Dictatorship doesn’t look for abstention, they’re looking for IMMOBILIZATION.

        “2.1.- If they don’t care, it doesn’t make any difference whether we vote or not, so we don’t lose anything by voting.”

        We lose, in fact, dictatorship will GAIN MUCH MORE, because what they want is to say to the world that “Hey look! We’re having elections here! Everything is peachy! Remove the sanctions and let our minions to go to Disneyland again!”

        The dictatorship has gained something they lost with the protests: VALIDATION IN FRONT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY BECAUSE “ELECTIONS = DEMOCRACY”

        “Whatever the government wants me to do, I’ll do the opposite…”

        The only thing the dictatorship wants people to do is to NOT PROTEST, and you’re doing precisely that.

        • “You’re starting from a fallacy, trying to state that the elections won’t be a fraud.”

          Man, you really didn’ understand what I wrote, did you? I never said the elections won’t be a fraud. I said that even if they are, it is still worth voting, and I explained why.

          I’ll explain it to you again. If the government commits fraud, one of two things may happen:

          1.- The opposition doesn’t complain because they are in cahoots with the government. In this case, we are screwed, and whether we vote or not doesn’t make any difference.

          2.- The opposition is not in cahoots with the government (or at least not all of this), then they’ll have definite proof of the fraud, and this will be added to the long list of abuses of the government, further damaging their international standing.

          So if you don’t vote, you lose something for sure, but if you do, there is a chance you’ll accomplish something, so the choice is clear. They problem with you is that unless what we accomplish is “Maduro gone tomorrow”, then nothing is worth accomplishing. That’s a big mistake.

          “The dictatorship will give one or two states to MUD and will claim they won all the others, simple as that.”

          So, apparently you believe that the outcome you describe above is worse than the government winning without having to commit any fraud at all. Go figure…

          “We lose, in fact, dictatorship will GAIN MUCH MORE, because what they want is to say to the world that “Hey look! We’re having elections here! Everything is peachy! Remove the sanctions and let our minions to go to Disneyland again!””

          If we don’t vote, there still will be elections and the government will still be able to say that. If the MUD had chosen not to participate, the only difference would have been that the government would been able to claim that the opposition is the one that is undemocratic.

          You are basically wrong about everything you wrote, but this whole thread is a bit off topic, so I’ll just finish answering this:

          “The only thing the dictatorship wants people to do is to NOT PROTEST, and you’re doing precisely that.”

          Look, EVERYBODY stopped protesting, not just me (that’s if by protests you mean street protests, otherwise, you don’t know me, and you don’t know in which other forms of fights against the government I’ve engaged). And the protests ain’t comming back any time soon. Given that fact, voting is at least a way to DO SOMETHING.

  3. “You’ll see what happens to those who mess with the police (state).”

    Why Venezuela needs a Second Amendment. Then that statement gets turned around 180 degrees.

    My opinion, of course.

  4. Getashrink, the regime doesn’t care if you vote or not. The winners and losers have already been selected. The only uncertainty is how much bullshit it will take on their part to convince the rank and file to go forward and proclaim victory.

  5. I just don’t understand how the protests stopped at the exact time they would have done the most good, when VZ was taking center stage and front page around the world.

    • WC, as a member of the “do not vote” crowd, my reasoning is that participation only adds legitimacy to the process. The regime wants this even though there are still risks for them holding the “election”. Of course, I’m not only a member of the do-not-vote crowd, I’m a member of the continue-and-increase-pressure-on-the-streets crowd as well. That’s now history of course, at least for the time being.

      The vote for the ANC was obviously a fraud, even Smartmatic said as much, with millions more supposedly participating than actual turnout. Should we expect anything different on 15 October?

      I firmly believe the winners and losers have already been chosen. The opposition will be allowed to “win” 2 or 3 governorships but the rest, and the overwhelming majority of mayoral races will be won by chavistas. Hope I’m proven wrong, as I often am, but I’m afraid this one is all but a done-deal.

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