Soldiers and Civilians Rebel in Cotiza

GNB officers rebelling against Maduro on Monday morning surprised most of the country, but Cotiza neighbors joining the protest and standing by the officers was the real news. Cantv blocked social media so no one would know about these events and Guaidó sent a message to military officers across the country.

Photo: Notiespartano, retrieved.

Early this Monday, there was a rebellion involving some National Guard officers who, after taking weapons from the Petare garrison, entrenched themselves in Cotiza. Anonymous accounts shared videos of the insurgents on Twitter, where they called for a rebellion against Nicolás and asked the people to protest. Shortly afterwards, some social networks were partially blocked for users of state-run companies Cantv and Movilnet. Despite all the repression that the National Guard has exercised against Venezuelan citizens, Cotiza neighbors took to the streets to support the insurgents, to protest against the usurper and to encourage the rest of the community to join the protest.

“Enough dictatorship!”

The GN didn’t take long to repress Cotiza neighbors, who had already set up barricades in the streets adjacent to the command where the insurrection had taken place. The slogans changed throughout the day, but these stood out among the first: “Guard, friend, the people stand with you!” and “Don’t turn yourselves in!”. The most repeated word in the testimonies was exhaustion: of this government, of the living conditions, of the diaspora that separates us, of the uncertainty about what they’ll eat tomorrow. “Everyone, all the people must go out and join together, enough fear. If we don’t go out and fight, this will never end,” said a Cotiza neighbor, while other neighbors around her chanted the word “freedom”. Agents from the Special Actions Forces (FAES), the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence (DGCIM) and the National Guard itself repressed the neighbors with tear gas and rubber pellets; later, paramilitary armed groups joined repressive actions. There was also indiscriminate gunfire against houses.

The first version

Long before the Defense Ministry issued its official statement about the uprising, Diosdado Cabello wrote his version on Twitter, claiming that the Armed Forces managed to subdue “a small group of assailants and traitors who stole some weapons to cause violence and fear”; that once the action had been detected, they started “the counterattack to neutralize” and the rebels “were subdued and apprehended in record time.” According to him, the insurgents were already confessing the details. Half an hour passed between his first messages and one where he claimed that the detainees’ human rights were being respected. He closed each tweet with a curious mantra: “We will triumph.” Why use the future tense, huh?

The military version

In an official statement, the Defense Ministry was more emphatic to describe “the treason” of the rebels than the operation for which they were arrested. I don’t know how they investigated it so quickly, but before 9:00 a.m. they dared claim that this group’s actions “were surely driven by dark, far-right interests.” In their versions they omitted the fact that the neighbors rose to support the rebels and to demand Nicolás’s resignation, with no opposition but security forces, meaning that there was no other representative of the parroted revolutionary people’s power to defend their usurper.

Guaidó’s reaction

National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaidó reacted to the events and wrote on Twitter: “What’s happening in the GN command in Cotiza is a show of the general feeling within the FAN. Our soldiers know that the chain of command is broken due to the usurpation of the Presidency. The AN promises to offer all necessary guarantees to FAN members who contribute with the restitution of the Constitution. We don’t want the FAN to be divided or fighting each other, we want them to stand as a single man beside the people, the Constitution and against the usurpation.”

Reporting news isn’t a crime

The censorship imposed and fiercely monitored by Conatel contributed to the way traditional outlets silenced the protest in Cotiza. The information circulated on social media thanks to the coverage by digital outlets, even with the blockade on Twitter and Instagram in place. NGO Espacio Público denounced several actions of state officers against journalists: they withheld the equipment of NTN 24 and EFE, forcing them to erase their material; they detained and took Caraota Digital journalist Joan Camargo’s phone and despite the security deployment, a biker took VPITV journalist Ana María Rodríguez’s phone. The National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) reported that Unión Radio journalist Luis Carlos Prada was injured in the leg with a pellet.

Third version

The official balance of the National Guard uprising wasn’t offered by any military authority but by Diosdado Cabello, who repeated his version of the incident, confirmed the arrest of 25 officers and said that they won’t hesitate to impose themselves with violence because, of course, it sustains them. Without evidence, he attributed the action of the rebels to the opposition, saying that “they want to strike fear in chavistas,” because in his imagination, fear is also discriminated. He exaggerated and said that Nicolás “led” the operation (he called him at 3:30 a.m.) and it was unnecessarily cruel to compare this operation with the one where Oscar Pérez and his team were executed. Although he said he’s not interested in what Juan Guaidó says, he invested a lot of time responding to his statements. He disregarded open assemblies and babbled: “See you in the street on January 23, we can meet whenever you want.”

They only need you

Juan Guaidó told the military in a video: “We’re not asking you to revolt and even less that you rebel, on the contrary, we’re inviting you to help us recover constitutional order (…) we’re not asking you to shoot, on the contrary,” reminding them that, as soldiers, they witnessed the stark differences between the electoral processes in December 2015 and in May 2018 and saying that none of them could live well with their salaries. Guaidó equated the demands of citizens with those of the families of soldiers, explaining that the decline in the Armed Forces’ reputation is the responsibility of the group that currently usurps power and uses the example of his kidnappers as a show of official loyalty, since they went from a “false positive” to scapegoats and that’s why they’re in jail without a trial. “Let the democracy that you once swore to uphold be the compass that marks this country’s political destiny again,” said Guaidó before exhorting them to defend the Constitution, protect freedom and life. “We only need you,” he repeated several times.

At least three people were injured in Cotiza, in addition to those asphyxiated by the effect of tear gas that also caused the evacuation of the Luis Razetti Oncological Hospital. There have also been protests in San Bernardino and Los Mecedores. People took to the streets to support the uprising. People attended open assemblies yesterday afternoon to capacity. People found other routes to beat disinformation. The uprising wasn’t the actual news and chavismo knows it: the people rose in protest and they met repressors, but not a single soul that would defend the usurper.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.