Photos: Carlos Bello

You can jam up to 40 people in the tiny busses that ply the streets of Caracas, and you run into all kinds of everyone there: folks running their errands, others going to work or school. They all wait between one stop and the next; sitting, standing or clinging to the doors of the bus. While they wait, they listen to us read the news, brief pills of information that nobody was asking or looking for, but found their way to their route.

“Good afternoon. This is the early edition of the BusTV newscast.”

BusTV was born in 2017 amidst the protests. We wanted to let people know what was happening. The demonstrations broke off, but our passion is greater than ever amid continued censorship, media crackdowns and citizen rights violations. Today, we report to more than 3500 people a month, and count with 8 teams of reporters in the Capital District, Carabobo and Mérida.

Many drivers don’t charge us anything as a small contribution to our work.

In just six minutes, we report all kinds of news: politics, the economy, culture, sports. We also share solutions; food tips are always wonderfully well received by the audience. It doesn’t matter how many go to bed without eating or that prices double every 17 days because of inflation. People experience the crisis everyday when they pay for the bus ride or when they buy flour. They want to know what to do about it, how to deal with it. Hunger is always present, regardless of whether oil prices go up or down.

“A tire for this bus costs around Bs.S. 40,000, that is, Bs.F. 4,000,000,000. To buy it, the driver would have to pick up approximately 40,000 passengers…”

We get on the bus. We ask the driver to allow us to read the day’s news. “The news?” some of them ask, curious. “Yeah, the news,” we answer and ask them to turn down the volume of the salsa brava that plays in the background. “Well, read it quickly, ‘cause I’m working.” “It’s ok, as long as you don’t talk about politics.” “Of course, that way people get the information, let’s see if they wake up.” Many drivers don’t charge us anything as a small contribution to our work.

“Over a million Venezuelans have emigrated to Colombia in 2018, according to an official statement by the Colombian Immigration Office…”

Some people stand up to get a better look through the crowded bus. We read and people comment among themselves, muttering.

Heads turn to the center of the aisle. Some people stand up to get a better look through the crowded bus. We read and people comment among themselves, muttering. An old man on the back yells “that’s a lie!” and a lady near the door tells him to keep quiet because she wants to listen to the news. The discussion continues and the newscast rolls on. Our cardboard TV frame protects us, puts us in a distant dimension. We are a moving TV, rooted in the center of the bus, with a show that goes on no matter what people say.

A man talks loudly over his phone, looking at the window, distracted. An old lady beside him turns and stares at him. The guy turns his head and finds black eyes looking at him. There’s a short staredown, the lady widens her eyes even more and twists her lips. “Hey, talk to you later, I’m on a bus,” the man whispers and the lady triumphantly returns to the news.

In the queues in bus stops, people cover their faces with towels, umbrellas, pieces of cardboard and folders. Their caps aren’t enough to shield them from the scorching midday sun, neither is the tree in the corner that offers a cool shadow for a piece of the line that keeps getting longer up the street. The jeeps should be moving down that road but they don’t, and people wait one, two, three hours as life passes. People cover their faces, not just from the sun but from the camera that’s recording the BusTV session in the bus stop.

“We’re in a dictatorship. You should say that, why don’t you? Surely you support the government.” The woman’s voice reverberates across the street and stays with us as we finish our report. “This bus is chavista. You can only report news about Chávez here.” The fare collector laughs and climbs off the bus to welcome us, wanting to know about today’s news, which of us is going to do the reporting that day and when are we going to be on TV. He tells us we should also interview him. The conversation breaks off with a “Pay up, please,” as a woman tries to get on the bus. “How are the Bus girls?” is a common thing when a driver or a bus stop manager sees us with our cardboard TV frame and our script, promptly announcing “Here come the news!”

We’re always in groups of three: One to hold the TV frame, another to read the news and a third to record the journey. That’s how we roll in Caracas, Valencia and Mérida on any bus stop or line, under sun or rain, during rush hour. People cheer when the newscast ends and we hear a few threats too. Three weeks ago in Antímano, a young man told us to stop doing this, that it’s good and it benefits the community, but that journalists who tell the truth are being closely watched. It’s true, we’re fairly visible, but this isn’t necessarily frightening. It’s an act of resistance which earned us a nomination for the Sixth Edition of the Gabriel García Márquez Award for Journalistic Innovation; we seek to light the torch in the darkness, one bus stop at a time, with a fundamental manifesto in mind: we don’t wait for the audience to come to us, we go to where they are. 

“Meanwhile, lines for gas, bread and fuel continue. This was El Bus TV. Thank you very much for your attention. We’ll be back with more information.”

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this excellent article. I’ve been a fan of ElBusTv since the start and I want to thank all those involved in making it. Keep doing the good work!

  2. Keep it up.The trick is to get an increasing number of people to engage in acts of peaceful resistance. Think of these as confidence building
    steps that in time could lead to a march of millions to Miraflores serking the restoration of your rights.

  3. ‘…An old man on the back yells “that’s a lie!”‘

    You will never, EVER be able to convince the Kool-Aid drinkers (of any political stripe). Clearly, he “knows” the truth. Because his heroes said so. And why would politicians lie?

  4. Excellent iniciative, very creative and courageous. A slice of the Venezuela that will survive this nightmare with civic dignity

  5. Excellent, truly excellent–has survived, perhaps, because it stays apolitical, and only “reports to (more than) 3500 people a month”; but, if it became political, the reporters’ families would only be seeing cardboard cutouts of them at home, and, what is the future of bus transport, if each tire costs 40,000 passenger fares?

  6. Come work for Breitbart. They tell us what’s happening. Unfortunately, almost half the country still shouts “That’s a lie!”

    Radio Rumbos used to broadcast stuff with a light touch to it: **!ping!** La hora es la una, bajo cielos nublados en casi todo el pais. Hoy aumento la taza de inflacion por 4.67%, comparado con el dia de ayer que quedo en 5.9%, pero el dia aun no se acaba. Las cifras dejan la hiperinflacion en 560,000% este ano 2018. Se espera mas el ano que viene anuncio la IMF. El jefe de finanzas del pais anuncio que todo esta bajo control. **!ping!** En otras noticias, la Autopista de Este se califico hoy de hueco, acompanando a la carretera Caracas – Maracay. El encargado de carreteras nacionalas dijo que eso se repara el ano que viene. Disfruten el viaje hasta ese entonces. **!ping!** Ayer se volco una gandola cargando billetes de cien de los anteriores, regando toneladas de cajas llenas del dinero por el lado. Afortunadamente lograron rescatarle las llantas, la gasolina, el volante, la corneta, y un loro que llevaba el conductor. **!ping!*** El Ministro de Hacienda explico que la probreza es relativa, como la fisica, y que por esa razon, no se encuentran pobres en la nacion. **!ping!** El precio de una cerveza alcanzo un dolar, o sea, aproximadamente 300 bolivares de los mas recientes, o casi 4 veces el sueldo minimo mensual. Claro, dependiendo de que si uno se la compra, o si se la lleva gratis. Se advierte no tomar mucho. **!ping!** El record de la cola mas larga del mundo la lleva Venezuela, pero no se sabe si va hacia Columbia, o como afirma la oficina de migracion, de vuelta de Colombia. **!ping!** Y ahora un tema musical mandatorio de la banda de las Fuerzas Armadas.

  7. It was really hard for me to not jump on immediately posting about this, but I’m trying to behave myself. Trying to be more civil. Trying to be more positive. It ain’t working.

    Because how can anyone find fault with these young people doing what they’re doing? Right? But seriously, folks:

    Are you fucking kidding?

    Does anyone think this will effect any change? When anyone in VZ with half a brain already knows what the deal is? And it can’t matter anyway, because they’re all under a repressive military and socialist dictatorship. If it did, they wouldn’t be allowed to operate.

    Are there actually shmucks here who think BusTV matters?

    20 years of Chavismo, and THIS is the example people point to as an example of revolt?

    • My first thought as well Ira. But, well, my explanation is that they can’t touch the real sensitive subjects, the real important stuff without risk of being censored by the dictator and the second in command. They have to keep it light and fluffy or else!! I always thought it was really strange that all the other news sources here in Venezuela are difficult to get access to. And some are imposible to get to if you are using a direct Cantv internet connection yet Cc remains happy go luckily unhindered. Must be that they are falling under the definition of an “approved” news source.
      There is obviously something else here at play, call me paranoid.

    • Come on, Ira and Marc! Of course BusTV isn’t going to save Venezuela all by itself. But it is a tiny step in the right direction. These kids are out there, doing what they can with the few resources they have. Unfortunately for every person of action there seems to be a thousand instant experts ready to criticize. An old saying:

      “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”

    • Meh. Picking up a gun and fighting for your country isn’t for everyone.

      The problem comes when picking up a gun and fighting for your country isn’t done by anyone.

  8. Also I’m glad to hear that you are trying to be more positive Ira. That’s the spirit! I on the other hand find myself slipping deeper and deeper into despair and depression as I am watching my little town which used to be pacific and “antiparabolico” becoming a violent and scary little hell hole. Yesterday night armed robbers broke into one of my neighbors house and pistol whipped the wife who had just returned from Italy with Euros to support her family and slashed her husband with a machete so they could get them to cough up those euros. She’s pretty banged up and he’s in intensive care. Also in other news around the same time one of my liquor store buddies had his Santa Maria torn down right on the Main Street and the store was emptied of its content in plain and open view. They went in right from the front and “nobody saw anything” I talked to one of my national police buddies yesterday afternoon as well who just came back from days off about how he fell out of favor with his new boss because he had a break down and told it like it was infront of the whole troop. Then all the rest of them chimed in too (apparently some started crying) about how they are being paid less then 300 Soberanos a week ( a half a pack of cigarettes) to risk their lives every day and the boss wanted them to go out patrolling all night to boot! He also explained that his ex girlfriend sits on her ass all day everyday at home and makes 2000 Soberanos a month through varios social programs that she collects. Police are dropping like flies and are no where to be seen anymore and the criminals know it as they are coming out in record numbers every night now to rape and pillage. Connect the dots boys and girls, we are headed for a civil war quicker then you can say lickity split. The have nots are enviously hunting the semi haves and there is no one left in the middle to prevent us from having it out between us. I can’t wait for Christmas when things naturally have always heated up as people realize just how shitty they have it.

    • Oh and news flash, I just swung by the other house that I purchased for my daughters mother a few years ago ( a couple of blocks away from my main residence) which is right beside the Italian ladies house to check on it and found that all the air conditioners had been dismantled and the compressors and the fans for the outside units had been stolen. Also the thieves stole the #2 wire that went from the main post to the house which provides the electricity for the main panel. 3 pieces of # 2 wire about 25 meters long each so weighing in at about 20 kgs of copper. Good score for a single night. It just happened last night because my cop buddy had just come from that house when I talked to him yesterday and he assured me that everything WAS in order there yesterday. There is also a 20 KvA power plant there which is still intact but I noticed that the theives had opened up the cabinet (silenced generator with a locked cabinet) and scoped it out so I imagine they will be back tonight or some time in the next few days to steal what they can from that as well. Its too heavy to carry off (about 400 kgs) but they can certainly take it apart and carry it off in pieces. Guess who’s going to be camping out all night for the next few days until those bastards show up?

      Oh and just found out that the italian lady also got slashed by the machete in the head and got 40 some odd stitches and the husband is barely hanging on, they say he’s not going to make it.

      • On my last successful home invasion by ski-masked gangs (2 with wife/me hostage, 1 when we were out for a short time), not counting at least 3 other attempted home invasions in the last 2 years, I had a knife held to my right carotid artery twice, with only a millimeter more of pressure which would have severed it (it hurt for months afterward). I now have complete house reinforced window bar/door coverage, in addition to usual 360 degree floodlights, plus remote-controlled sirens/etc. DGCIM friend neighbor house has been robbed/attempted several times, also kidnapped on road home to house 8 pm 2 years ago (lucked out/escaped after forced to dig his own grave), and 2 wks. ago was in Las Mercedes at 8:30 pm on a busy Sat. night with Govt. friends, when his SUV was blocked front/back by other SUV/motorcycles, he/friends thrown to ground/robbed, saved by execution by police passersby, SUV stolen, he/friends unharmed, since Govt. ID’s well-hidden….

    • Would some of you more enlightened snowflakes out there care to explain to me, yet one more time, how terribly backward and unsophisticated us Yanks are for defending a citizen’s right to own firearms?

      • Firearms are good self-defense, IF: you know how to use/maintain them correctly; you’re not taken by surprise, as is frequently the case in Venezuela; you are not taken by more than one, which is not the case in Venezuela; your wife/child/SO/other family member is not also taken, which is usually the case in Venezuela; you have effective/nearby emergency medical help/medicines, which is not the case in Venezuela; you are taken by surprise, the attackers do not find your firearm (on-self/in-house), because if they find it, then they will execute you/yours, because you dared have a gun, which you would have used on them, which is usually the case in Venezuela.

        • Unfortunately that is all true net. Chances are they are going to try and kill you anyway so I prefer to have one or two anyway. Also the trick is to have several layers of protection. High walls, security cameras everywhere, several well fed dogs that won’t eat poisoned food, AND bars on doors and windows. If they come at night your dogs and high walls give you a chance to wake up and shoot them while they are coming over your walls or crossing you yard. If they get to you outside of your house while coming home then you at fucked. I always make sure there is no one in the street before I come and go from my house. It really sucks to live like this.

          • I have all, security cameras in process (don’t usually help much). Guns in-house, yes, effective at distance from within well-defensed house. Concertina wire on far back fence with night illumination to thwart hole-makers. Dogs at key back/side/front/in-house entry points (even in bedroom). BIG danger, entering/leaving house/vehicle weak points; remote-controlled house siren, personal siren alarm also, cheap/effective. Have guns in-house hidden/difficult/impossible to find. Cooperate when surprised. Negotiate with usually one older/planner head, even to pay off next day(s) to provide incentive not to maim/kill; younger accomplices would just as soon put a bullet in you to gain street cred.

      • The right to form well-regulated militia is not exercised sufficiently, imo. The work and the courage come in at the stage where you talk to neighbors and friends and organize, and implement. Facing that fact, that it is necessary to to do that, is “the moment” of fear one has to overcome. You sit at home and ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this? I could just watch TV, instead of going to that meeting for an hour.” Once you have faced that, bitten on that, you have achieved a level of courage not to be sneezed at. The bulk of the rest of the courage is maintaining the purpose of being prepared, that’s the critical “well-regulated” part. An armed community is not a high level of militia, doesn’t require an obstacle course and wilderness survival skills. There are lots of police who will do what they can to share what they know with a community and help them arm and organize. It makes the cops’ job much easier.

  9. If these kids are reporting on

    T H E
    B I G G E S T
    case of embezzlement, which has already splashed:
    H A L F the opposition
    T H E fucking P O P E
    E V E R Y apolitical bolichico
    And is being investigated by the US government

    They’re doing a better job on keeping it grounded than Caracas Chronicles.

    • My pleasure Ira, it’s a release for me. I’m like this fucking close to killing someone right now. No, I mean it literally, I’m going hunting this very evening, God help the motherfucker that comes over my wall tonight, and wish me luck…

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