Posts Tagged 'Daniel Lozano'

A report from the rebel Venezuelan city of San Cristóbal

The following is my translation of  a report by Daniel Lozano,  from the  city of San Cristóbal.

“Welcome to this land of pain”, tears well up in Graciela’s eyes because her country hurts her. Táchira, a state that borders Colombia, has for three weeks been leading a popular rebellion against President Nicolás Maduro. It seems like the field for a battle to come.

The spark that started the blaze appeared without warning in San Cristóbal, the state capital, in the form of an attempt to rape a student of the Universidad de los Andes,  in the Botanical Gardens, used  both as a short cut to classes by students and as a  favored hunting ground  by criminals.

A few hours later, on February 5, the students took to the streets, sick of the insecurity that has made  Venezuela the second most dangerous country in the world, with almost 25,000 homicides in 2013. And they protested the following day as well, armed with the faith of those who are convinced that they have had enough.

Then came the first clashes with the authorities and the detention of five students, who were taken to a prison elsewhere in the country.  Even when four were set free there was no backing down. Maduro ordered the militarization of the state and two combat aircraft made low passes over the capital. He even threatened to impose a state of siege.

Today  San Cristóbal has changed and nothing will ever be the same again in the República Independiente de Gochilandia, as they themselves call it. “Gocho” is a legendary demonym in Venezuela; the bravest and most stubborn. The dictator Pérez Jiménez and the social democrat Carlos Andrés Pérez were born in this courageous land.

The bastion of antichavismo doesn’t want the “son of Chávez”. In last year’s presidential elections beat Maduro by nearly 26 points (62.8% for Capriles, 36.9% for Maduro). In San Cristóbal the difference was more than 46 points.

The daring of the rebels has shown no respect for the principal symbol of chavismo, Hugo Chávez himself. The statue of the “comandante supremo” in San Antonio, a municipality bordering the Colombian town of Cúcuta  was found with its head broken off and several meters from the body. The authorities immediately removed it.

“The people’s blood boils and our blood is gocha”, says  The Resistance (“that’s what we call ourselves, there are 20 of us here at  this barricade”) in the Santa Teresa district of  the capital. “When Maduro’s  war planes flew over the city we went out on the street banging pots and pans till we shut them up”, says the leading voice, his face blackened with soot after a night stoking  bonfires. In this district alone there are 21 roadblocks with 2000 people keeping them in place.

Districts such as San José Obrero, Pueblo Nuevo, Los Teques and Sucre have multiple roadblocks built from rubbish, old furniture; rocks and barbed wire. Some of them conceal traps, like steel bars embedded in the ground with the aid of a jack hammer or opened manholes

There are not only students and angry young people in front of the improvised anti-chavista murals, there are engineers, teachers, taxi drivers and housewives too. Not even being a foreign correspondent guarantees being let through, “Are you one of the good journalists or one of the bad ones?”

Slogans are transmitted by WhatsApp, BBM and Twitter, and by walkie talkies in the case of the more organized. “Proud to be a guarimbero”, another local term for those that confront the authorities on the streets.

The city is paralyzed. Few shops dare to open and those that do have little to sell. There are shortages of food, cooking oil and sugar. Banks haven’t opened for days and ATMs have run out of money. There is no public transport. Only a few service stations sell petrol and then  only sporadically.

A few hours of truce yesterday [Tuesday] led to some barricades being lifted and miles long queues at places like the state market, where it was necessary to have registered previously.

At the Baratta supermarket there was a 200 meter queue. “We are here for an hour and a half, and we are still waiting”, Reitty Zambrano is 34 and wearing a Barcelona shirt, smiling in spite of everything. This lawyer has become the spokesman for the group he is queuing with.

A dialogue between a journalist and those looking for food, “What are you going to buy? Whatever there is, mate. And how long is this going to go on? We have to go on; the government has to be pressured. We won’t bow down to them”.

Carmen González is not going to bow down to them either, despite her vacant look as she walks behind the coffin of her son.  Jimmy Vargas died on Monday as he fled from the National Guard  while they fired rubber pellets and tear gas. He tried to jump down from a roof and fell.

“They killed him. He couldn’t breathe, he tried to come down and fell. When he was on the ground they kept firing tear gas”, says González while those around her shout, “Maduro, murderer!”



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