Photo: Asamblea Nacional

It’s 2:00 a.m. I’ve been in this bus from Caracas to Puerto Ordaz for 10 hours and we’re stopping, again. This is normally a 12-hour trip, but we’ve had to stop three times already. This is the fourth.

It’s common for buses to break down, that’s why they told us they wouldn’t give us new tickets if something happened, they’d just refund the money. You have to cross your fingers during the whole trip in an old carcacha that’s barely working.

It’s the military checkpoints what really slows us down, though. Perpetual deja-vu: we pull over, soldiers chat with the driver, he opens the side compartment, they check random bags, put them back and off we go.

They always check on us, civilians, making sure everyone behaves. Is this our life now? Do men with guns have all the power?

This time I won’t watch them from the window, I don’t have to be paranoid the whole ride. I can use these ten minutes to get some sleep. The bus shakes like crazy when moving, and it periodically rattles aloud, always waking me up. I’ll enjoy the silence while it lasts. As I close my eyes and try to get cozy, the lights turn on and the olive-green asshole shows up:

“Buenas noches señores pasajeros, les voy a pedir que bajen un momento con sus maletas.”

Fuck! They are checking everyone’s bags now.

As the sleepy passengers go down, they form two lines in front of a plastic table: one for men, one for women. Everyone’s familiarized with the drill.

I look around, trying to get my bearings. We’re at the checkpoint in Anzoátegui. There’s a fat soldier patrolling, an assault rifle on hand and the new Simón Bolívar on his shoulder. I grab my backpack and silently join the line.

Everyone is just chatting. What’s going on? Is this the new normal?

The only person who shows indignation is the old man with a cane behind me:

“Look how haughty they are. How’s this possible? They don’t have the right to do this.” Still, he made sure to lower his voice when the armed man got close.

If I could transmit a live stream from my phone and, more importantly, if everyone around me gave a damn, I would have made the biggest fuzz.

It’s finally my turn. Everything is dark and the guy checking the men’s bags doesn’t have a flashlight, so he uses his phone. I thought they’d have a woman check women’s bags, but it’s another man. I put my backpack on the table and open the pocket with dirty clothes, thinking that’ll show him. The man gets his hand in, pats the backpack from the sides and that’s it. Nothing thorough. I’m sure I could have hidden a gun and covered it with a towel, which makes this whole process extra-pointless.

I grab my backpack and walk to stretch my legs. We are probably three hours away from Puerto Ordaz. The fat patroller looks at me:

“Hey, have they checked you?”

“They just did.”

“Who checked you?”

“Ahem, the guy with the phone.”

He went to the guy with the phone.

“Did you check him?”

“No, I haven’t.”

He couldn’t possibly recognize me. He didn’t look at me while he checked my backpack, and it was dark.

“Get in line.”

“Dude, I’m telling you, he just checked my backpack.”

This was my chance to make a big deal out of this. Maybe I would have, if we weren’t in the middle of nowhere at 2:30 in the morning surrounded by armed men and tired as hell. If the bus had left Caracas when it was supposed to (at 12:00 p.m. and not at 3:45 p.m.), if I had eaten something besides breakfast, if the whole country were protesting, if I could transmit a live stream from my phone and, more importantly, if everyone around me gave a damn, I would have made the biggest fuzz.

“Alright, I’ll do it again.”

I just want to get home.

As they go through the last few bags, Fat Patroller goes again.

“Hey! Have they checked you?”

He’s talking to a woman speaking on her phone.

“Yes.”

“Let me see.”

She hands him her bag and resumes her conversation.

How can she not care? She’s not even looking! The dude’s probably going through her underwear!

I arrive to Puerto Ordaz at 4:45 a.m. with no more delays. I thought they’d steal something, but these are routine checks. They always check on us, civilians, making sure everyone behaves.

Is this our life now? Do men with guns have all the power? If I can’t do anything about it maybe it’s time I learned to be like everyone in that bus. At least it would have been tolerable.

All I know is, now I really hate traveling by bus.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. What a crappy experience, and also captures the sense of hopelessness when you realize that if nobody else is protesting besides you then they will just snuff you out and nobody will care.

    Stories like this are reminding me Venezuela is rapidly becoming the Haiti captured in Graham Greene’s “The Comedians.”

  2. This -is- the new normal. Get in line and lower your head so it doesn’t feel like your rights are being trampled over, or take the leap and leave the country so you can have a life with dignity.

    I stopped going to Guayana by bus years ago. I hitch rides with whoever i can from town to town and they pay for a por puesto.

  3. Dear, gentle Carlos,
    Didn’t you vote for this? Didn’t you sell your rights and freedoms for a few oil bolivars? Didn’t you decide to believe the easy lie and reject the difficult truth? Didn’t you do all that for your countrymen as well?

  4. “Do men with guns have all the power?”

    Uh, yea! Unfortunately that is the way it works. That is why some of us Gringos fight like hell to preserve the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution.

    I know. I am an unsophisticated dumb-ass redneck.

    • I think when you know nothing but the sheep’s pen it’s hard to know what real freedom is.

      I was just informed today by my daughter that in England a person has to be ahe 21 to buy a kitchen knife. But… What do they know about freedom and real liberty?

    • This is why the citizenry of a country must not allow themselves to be disarmed. Once that happens the government has nothing to fear from it’s citizens. The left in the U.S. has been trying to do this for years.

        • That is also why the citizens of Venezuela have no means of protecting themselves from the government or from the common street criminals.

        • According to the UNDOC, the homicide rate for Europe is 3.0/100,000,
          From the Center for Disease Control (CDC): QuickStats: Age-Adjusted Rates for Homicides,* by Race/Ethnicity†— United States, 1999–2015 :
          In 2015, homicide rates were 5.7 deaths per 100,000 for the total population, 20.9 for non-Hispanic blacks, 4.9 for Hispanics, and 2.6 for non-Hispanic whites.
          Homicide rate for Americans of European descent: 2.6/100,000.
          Homicide rate for Europeans: 3.0/100,000.

          In recent months, London’s murder rate has been reported to be greater than that of New York City.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

          • Putting it another way, blacks comprise 12% of the US population but commit 58% of the homicides.

            But the notion of targeting the problem with an ethnicity test for gun ownership, never seems to catch on with my lefty friends.

          • Boludo Tejano…..good information! Thanks. The leftists on here hate seeing information like that. It goes completely against their long range agenda. A populace MUST be disarmed and subjugated before they can really start imposing the “blessings” of socialism on the country without fear of armed uprising.

          • Boludo, you need to compare the murder rate of white US Americans with ALL Europeans to get something positive for you?
            What is next? Compare the life expectation of white US Americans of a certain income level with that of all Europeans?
            Sorry, try cherry picking stats with a Trumpist or a chavista.

            I suppose you also hold to the one drop rule.
            Tom, how often do US Americans like you use the word agenda in one day?

          • “… and that is why the murder rate in the USA is five times the one in Spain, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands.”

            Nah, Kepler would NEVER resort to cherry-picking to make a point.

          • Boludo, you need to compare the murder rate of white US Americans with ALL Europeans to get something positive for you?

            Europe’s population is considerably more white than that of the United States of America. According to Wikipedia, there are about 20 million non-Europeans in the EU (509 million). Outside the EU, there are about 200 million people living in Europe.

            If you can provide more detailed homicide stats for Europe regarding ethnic makeup and time, please do so. BTW, you might compare how homicide stats are compiled in the UK compared to how it is done in the USA.

            What is next? Compare the life expectation of white US Americans of a certain income level with that of all Europeans?
            I am reminded of the time that the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman was told that the poverty rate in Sweden was below the poverty rate for the United States. Friedman’s reply was that the poverty rate of Americans of Swedish descent was below the poverty rate for the United States.

            Sorry, try cherry picking stats with a Trumpist or a chavista.
            I’m hearing this from someone who cherry picked four European countries out of the ~40 countries in Europe.
            The point is that the United States of America is a continent-spanning country with a population of over 300 million. As such, comparison with a continent, not a country like Norway with a population of 6 million, is more appropriate.

            Apfel zu Apfel, as some of my ancestors would have said. Though without resort to Google Translate, I would have written “apfel mit apfel.” 🙂

            I suppose you also hold to the one drop rule.
            When a black- or partial black- is elected President of a European country, then a Eurosneer might be able to lord it over the United States of America. Until then, such criticism of the US reminds me of Herta Däubler-Gmelin’s criticisms. (Daddy Dearest) 🙂

            BTW, if you believe that homicides increase with increased gun possession rates, I suggest you do a correlation of homicide stats with gun possession rates in Europe. The results might surprise you. In addition, blacks in the US have lower gun possession rates than whites.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Europe

        • Then don’t come here. And don’t tell us what to do. Spain, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands (and many others) appreciated all our guns less than a half a century ago.

          The murder rate is not a dependent variable of gun ownership. There’s a town in Georgia (USA) that requires every able citizen to own a gun of some sort, with ammunition. That town has the lowest crime rate in the nation. Chicago, on the other hand, with strict “gun control”, saw its murder rate escalate from 2015 to 2017.

          I’m not going to call you a moron, but the thinking that guns are the cause of murders is moronic. That is a chant, no more. London is now banning knives. A Scot was arrested for carrying a potato peeler in public. When they have to get a permit to transport silverware from the store to their homes, or when they’re eating with soft plastic dining utensils like prisoners do, while stones and clubs become the murder weapons and the murder rate escalates, maybe the realization about who the real enemy has been all along will dawn on them.

        • You do realize that the United States has a Constitution that protects the rights of the citizen and not the rights of the government?

          Does that difference elude you Kepler?

    • Without the rule of law, the biggest bully prevails but there’s always a bigger bully.

      With an equal ability to defend ourselves, the rule of law may emerge.

      • Which is why the United States is a republic and not a democracy. Venezuela is a democracy, and we see what happened there.

  5. Holy shit. This is a great story, in a tragic way of course. I had no idea this kind of stuff was happening in VZ.

    One of the tenets of police law in the states is the absolute ban against unreasonable search and seizure. If this doesn’t fit that classification, I don’t know what does.

    This is the classic definition of a police state.

    • this is routine for everyone traveling across states. And it’s only just another thing to make the pain of traveling ever bigger and they provide no security for the passengers whatsoever, as getting robbed by armed gangs is not a rare occurrence.

      They once destroyed my brother’s suitcase’s handle by handling it very roughly. Never mind the fact that my brother uses prosthesis (that we’ve been unable to replace for a newer model due to prohibitive cost) for both his legs and he must use canes while he moves around so the fact couldn’t be ignored by them. They don’t care who they trample over, and they obviously didn’t care that he was a doctor that was going to see a patient.

      Delays on exits for these buses is the absolute normal, what’s abnormal is going out on time. Them breaking down also happens often, and then there’s the risk of being hijacked. The cherry on top being military checkpoints. Because there aren’t plenty of bands around to take care of to spend your time messing up civilians. El honor no se divisa.

  6. This type of story sets CC apart. Really paints a picture. It begs the question why does the military not identify more with the people. On a separate note why does it matter who Carlos Hernandez voted for? The story speaks for itself.

    • Somehow videos and photographs don’t tell the story like the story should be told. Who would sit through 40 plus minutes of watching bags getting frisked (b-o-r-i-n-g), and what would one photograph of one second tell (dirty laundry)? Sometimes photos may be better (unbelievably long lines outside supermarkets), sometimes videos (protest marches and water cannon), but sometimes on-the-ground stories of people who live there are the only way to tell the feeling of the whole thing (I guess you could say “tell the feeling”).

  7. I appreciate the stories these articles tell and the reality they illustrate.

    But you really should replace “making Venezuela make sense” with “showing the horrors of Venezuela.” So that it is more clear that you have shifted away from deeper political analysis.

    Con cariño.

  8. The military crap is worse than ever in Venezuela but I do remember them doing exactly the same back in 1990 and also in 1997 in several places…I recall them stopping the bus I was in the Llanos,
    once in Gran Sabana…once close to Ciudad Guayana. I remember how one of them threw the belongings of a guy from Guyana to the road, things spilling over.
    These guys have always been crap…now just worse.

  9. The notion that an amateur armed individual or group of civilians can confront a group of expertly trained and equipped and organized professionals is short of ridiculous , here in Venezuela showing you have a gun is the surest way of getting killed by gangs that ambush you when you least expect it to get hold of your piece , you shoot the guy in front but there are two guys at your back shooting you if you try to defend yourself …., remember Noriega and his speeches before thousand of screeching followers armed to the teeth saying how he would kill any yankee invaders and how in a few weeks time some batallions of trained marines made mincemeat of those so called ‘dignity batallions’……Venezuela during decades was a country were any one could gather a group of peasants arm them and start a revolt…that ended with General Gomez who created a professional well equiped well trained army and did away with all those paramilitary enthusiasts ….
    I wonder whether the guys at the road blockages are regular army or national guard probably the latter whose reputation inside the armed forces isnt the best and tend to be looked down as crooks . strange news , official gazzette reports the national guard has discharged close to 1800 national guardsmen who deserted without a by your leave, living conditions are so band , they feel no incentive to remain as part of the repressive apparatus …..

  10. Bill…the colonists here in the states had that same problem when taking on the most powerful military in the world the English military. The colonists got their butts kicked around for the longest time, suffered many defeats against superior numbers and superior weaponry but prevailed in the end rather than submit to the tyranny being imposed on them by the English crown.
    When guns are outlawed only government and criminals have guns.

    • Tom thinks it’s 1776 and fancies himself quite the dandy! Some folks from Oklahoma spend too much time detached from reality at camp fantasy ranch. He leads Vzla from the Oklahoma front. He don’t take no guff from nobody. He is mystified that his words aren’t taken as sacred creed. If only everyone would be more American dang nagbit. Ridiculous!!! Turning every conversation into a 2nd amendment lunatic rant. It is every bit like hearing a crazy SJW ramble on.

      • You don’t like Americans, especially those from Oklahoma. Got it!! Is there another point you would like to make?

        I think your post here would be the one most likely to be judged as a rant.

        • I’m a farmer in Missouri so I don’t hate America. I also own guns. My point is the discussion is about Venezuela and the unique problems that country has. A few folks can’t stay on topic. No one is taking guns away from law abiding citizens here. It’s folks that turn every discussion into the USA is great and Vzla is stupid for not heeding my call to arms….from a computer keyboard…and if I were in that situation things would not be like they are…because I’m so tough…blah blah blah! It just gets annoying. But I’m sure you will be first in line when the call to battle comes. You are a hero after all.

          • Carlos posed the question; “Do men with guns have all the power?” And several of us chose to respond. If you happen to not like our responses, well, tough shit.

            I can’t seem to find the posts about the USA is great, Venezuelans are stupid, and I am a hero. You might want to reread this thread, after you feed the hogs and milk the cows.

      • Nobody in Oklahoma..or in the U.S is hoping and praying the clap box shows up this month…and when we look at the horror show occuring in Venezuela many of us have the common sense to realize that the second amendment is all that stands between us and that same fate. I realize that it makes your blood boil to hear that and I can understand why. Now go drink your Kool Aid…….kid.

        • why is the second bloody whatever the only thing
          standing between you and Venezuela’s fate?
          That is not the case in Ireland, UK, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or chile among other countries.

          • Kepler. He thinks Oklahoma has eradicated poverty and hunger. Tom thinks like a chavista at times. At least when it comes to guns.

          • Kepler, in my lifetime there were periods when the fate of MOST of those countries you listed was determined by men with guns. And that includes partisans with guns.

          • And that includes partisans with guns.
            That got rather nasty. The father of childhood friends had parents who emigrated from what became Yugoslavia. After WW2, he made a number of visits back to Yugoslavia to visit cousins. Decades into his visits, he found out what happened during WW2. Two of his socialist cousins (maternal line) were executed by the communist husband of another cousin (paternal line). The execution took place in full view of other family members. The communist executioner became a high-ranking apparatchik.

            While Sweden was neutral during WW2, its exports of iron ore to Germany during WW2 helped feed the Nazi war machine.

  11. Kool Aid Kid, Kepler, look guys….it’s obvious we have different opinions. Let’s just leave it at that and move on. Fair enough? Thanks.

    BTW Kool Aid Kid..I didn’t know you were a farmer. A tip of the hat to you. I hold farmers in very high regard. The life blood of our nationand often a thankless job. Keep up the good work! I would like to put this little dust up behind us.

    • I will agree to that. I farm outside of Sedalia, MO. My father and and brothers are lucky to have broad acreage and a grandfather who was smart with land in the 70’s. When looking at the nonsense going on in Venezuela it’s easy to jump to the position and assume our standards can = those of a nation in absolute crisis. Who cares about Vzla here? Unless you know someone trapped inside the crisis, it’s hard to fathom and wrap your head around. My girlfriend has family stranded there. It sucks that the most we can do is send care packages while waiting for visas and passport renewals. One of my girls cousins is 5 years old and without a passport. No airline tickets are available without passport and prepayment! We will figure something out.

      Believe you me when I say my disdain for this stupid regime is real.

  12. Kool Aid Kid…Sedalia is a nice area! I have family in Springfield.I wish you the best in helping your girlfriend’s family escape the horrors going on there. My wife’s family is in Medellin and I can’t imagine how I would feel if they were in the middle of the train wreck we call Venezuela. I know many readers are still stuck there or have family there with no means of escape and I feel for all of them.
    Good luck with the farm…..Dept of Agriculture will hopefully be able to start sending food to them soon….as soon as the regime is gone by whatever means.

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