Photo: José Díaz

“What pernil are you talking about? I didn’t get anything. We paid for it, but they never delivered. We gotta party all the same.”

That’s what a woman in her fifties told me as she fixed her hair outside the Capitolio metro station, two blocks from the Plaza Bolívar, where the Mayor’s Office of Caracas was finishing up the details for their New Year’s Eve party.

The woman, wearing purple trousers, was accompanied by an elder lady. Both held their purses tight as they waited for the rain to clear out. It was 6:00 p.m.

“I just want to dance” they told me. “I came from Propatria to spend New Year’s Eve here. It’s better than staying at home, at least there’s music and we can stay overnight. Why don’t you come with us?”

A handful people loitered around the square, while a band called Fórmula Familia performed on the 20-meter long stage amidst a colorful display of lights.

“I live nearby. I came because I don’t have anything at home, my children don’t have new clothes. Last year, we could get hallacas and salad here, but I don’t see that today. Looks like Erika messed this up.”

The few attendees were soon scattered by the rain, the air felt grey and cold, and not only because of the downpour. I got the impression that the participants were there because of the hope of a giveaway, more than the mayor’s invitation. On stage, two presenters kept repeating the words “love” and “hope”, asking people to shout with them that Venezuela was a happy country, but the people didn’t seem particularly cheerful.

The square was damp and after an hour of rainfall, the attendees grouped together, facing the stage. They never came close to filling half the place, they didn’t even reach beyond Simón Bolívar’s statue in the center. I could see rows of empty chairs.

“They didn’t bring tables, like in previous years,” said Carmen García, who came over with her three children. “We used to get here early and reserved a table. They didn’t let us bring alcohol, only food, but we had a good a time. There was none of that this time.”

She crossed her arms, looking at the musicians on the two giant screens set up at the borders of the square.

“I live nearby. I came because I don’t have anything at home, my children don’t have new clothes. Last year, we could get hallacas and salad here, but I don’t see that today. Looks like Erika messed this up.”

When the rain finally stopped, the two women left the subway station and walked to the square; they soon started dancing on their own, then they found partners.

“I don’t just dance with anybody, especially if they smell bad,” one of them told me. “I’m wearing my perfume, mija.”

They took a spot four meters from the stage, waving their arms, laughing and singing. Only them and other three couples were moving around the square, sticking out with an excitement that struggled to look sincere. The rest was incapable of that effort.

Only the stage was awash with light. The Plaza Bolívar lacked any special Christmas glow, the lights were opaque and the ornaments were quite simple, considering the investment made by PSUV mayor and Frente Francisco de Miranda leader Erika Farías. Over Bs. 24 billion ($215,414, enough to subsidize 2,400,000 CLAP boxes) were spent in ornaments and preparations for the party, which included two international artists such as Bonny Cepeda and Las Chicas del Can, who charged the government in dollars, of course, an amount that remains undisclosed.

“What does Venezuela want? Peace!” the presenters asked, answering their own question. After two hours, the concert failed to get people excited.

“Well, mija, as I said, we can’t stop celebrating just because there’s no pernil. It’s true that everything is expensive and there’s no food, but if Erika put up this party, at least we can enjoy it.”

Omar Acedo took the stage along Francisco Pacheco y su Pueblo, and later Erika Farías started the countdown to 2018. Everything went down fast, the countdown and the hugs, while people banged pots in several areas near the square, protesting hunger.

Was it necessary to spend that kind of money while people are suffering?

“Well, mija, as I said, we can’t stop celebrating just because there’s no pernil. It’s true that everything is expensive and there’s no food, but if Erika put up this party, at least we can enjoy it,” said the woman I talked to when I left the subway station.

The woman spoke only of pernil. When I asked her whether she had meat, chicken or eggs, she replied “How? Everything is so expensive.”

But in her revolutionary mind, shortages are induced and at least “I’m still getting my CLAP box,” after this comment, she made a gesture to end the conversation.

“We couldn’t set up a New Year’s dinner this time, so we’ll wait here until the last singer.”

Attendance in the square included downtown neighbors who came by dressed just like at home, in shorts, tank tops and slippers. There were also colectivos around, mainly from the Frente Francisco de Miranda. It was a long day (started at 5:30 a.m.) and the toast was nowhere to be found. “I just want January to start,“ I managed to overhear a conversation between two men, talking about 2017: everything is expensive, there’s no food, my children have no toys or clothes.

“At least tomorrow, we can get on the metro easily,” said a man who had come over with his wife. “We couldn’t set up a New Year’s dinner this time, so we’ll wait here until the last singer.”

Farías threw a New Year’s Eve party, ignoring the people demanding food, better public services and security, and that was plain obvious in the meager attendance. Caraqueños are angry at her because she didn’t come through with electoral promises and only a few bought the message she gave just hours before the end of 2017: “Nobody can force us to give away hope, joy and our fighting spirit.”

Many of her followers didn’t even stay around to hear her speak.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like something out of a period of depressing writers like Sartre (“No Exit”), Kafka (“The Castle”), Beckett (“Waiting for Godot”). Surreal.

  2. Something is off with the math for the CLAP boxes. I thought I read they cost somewhere around $14.00, not the US 10 cents your numbers would indicate.

    How well attended has this celebration been in the past?

    • Yeah, the math struck me as suspect as well. And I’ve heard prices recently of $45 per Clap box. Whatever the number is, rest assured chavistas are getting rich in the transaction.

  3. “But in her revolutionary mind, shortages are induced and at least “I’m still getting my CLAP box,” after this comment, she made a gesture to end the conversation.”

    Sadly, you will never be able to get through to people like that. That she could get “something for nothing” is nothing short of “magical”, and is what drives her, not that she had nothing because of Chavismo. These people have drank the Kool-Aid, and no bit of fact, reason or logic will dissuade them from belief that the Chavista Unicorn of Plenty is coming around the corner (at any moment!) to piss out her Golden Stream of Good Luck onto the heads of the Faithful and True Believers.

    These are voters. Worse, they are ignorant, easily led voters, who follow anyone who promises them “something for nothing”. And if that something also involves making some “unseen enemy” miserable? Even better!

  4. https://elcooperante.com/jefe-de-la-redi-capital-trato-de-liderar-salutacion-de-fin-de-ano-y-esto-le-gritaron-los-militares/

    Rodríguez Cabello trató de liderar salutación de fin de año y esto le gritaron los militares
    El Cooperante

    Caracas, 3 de enero.- La llamada salutación de fin de año en la Fuerza Armada Nacional, ocurrido el día miércoles 27 de diciembre 2017, tuvo un carácter particular. Regularmente, el mismo es ofrecido por el presidente de la República o el ministro de la Defensa. Sin embargo, en esta oportunidad lo dio misma el Mayor General Alexis José Rodríguez Cabello, jefe de la Región de Defensa Integral (REDI -Capital).

    Según reveló Sebastiana Barráez, MG se dedicó a hacer diversos llamados de atención. “Saquen el pecho”, “párese más firme”, “¿por qué muestran esa actitud de desmoralizados?”, entre otros. Pero, la respuesta no fue la más esperada.

    Varios militares gritaron: “¿dónde están los perniles?, ¿dónde están los juguetes?, ¿dónde está la comida?”. “Rodríguez Cabello se molestó y trató de ubicar de dónde provenían los gritos, pero se generó gran confusión y murmullo entre los presentes. No hubo manera de que ubicara a uno solo de los responsables”, detalló la periodistas a través de una publicación en Punto de Corte….

    You won’t need our help

    • “You won’t need our help”

      You can bitch about it as much as you want.

      But the intervention will come, colectivos will be mowed down with gringo bullets, and there isn’t a single thing you can do about it.

  5. “…at least I’m still getting my CLAP box,”
    “At least tomorrow, we can get on the metro easily…”

    “At least”. The motto of the Chavist. “The Lowest Common Denominator” should be attached to any Chavist slogan.

    At the very least, these Chavista true believers can be required to wear their red shirts proudly after the downfall of Chavismo, along with a cowbell necklace, so that when they walk down the street, people can turn around, point at them and look at what a disgrace they have wrought upon Venezuela. Whereupon, fruit peelings, rotten vegetables, food wrappers and garbage in general can be thrown at them.

    At the VERY least.

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