The Venezuelan routine between bullets and gases
Chronicle of the resistance faced by the military dictatorship of Nicholas Maduro
Protests in Caracas. Photo: Manuel Acosta
The hope looms forcefully between the tear gas, it is as vivid as the bottle that spits fire and collides against the repressive shields of the National Guard in Altamira, it feels as solid as the stone that a child throws from the street against which it shoots it’s to the crowd, it is possible to narrow its ties as much as that of that child with its mother who guards it , expensive shoes beside barefoot full of blisters and wounds, the social frontier disappeared, we are together in this and unite us a common goal, freedom.
This is the Venezuelan revolution, 2 months of intense protests in which the Venezuelan people are determined to die from being necessary to achieve freedom, in a country where there are no food, medicines, public services are deficient, the level of insecurity leads the list of most dangerous places in the world and where a month of work reaches only to buy a pair of shoes.
It is the people tired of lies and abuses, the Venezuelans do not want more promises or dialogues to deal with the conflict with the government, there is a history that demonstrates the failure of this way, so they have been forced to manifest in the streets in the face of the danger of being killed by the police force, military and paramilitary of the dictatorship, a sea of brave people who fills freeways from end to end, is the Venezuelan people and their desire for freedom.
Opponents march on the highway Francisco Fajardo, Caracas Venezuela. Photo: Karina Páez
My name is Ricardo, I am 18 years old and I am a student of agronomic engineering at Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), human rights activist, student Leader Commissioner for Guild claims, active member and local resistance leader, pursued by the Government of Nicolas Maduro and his armed groups.
Do not know another system of government, I was born after the advent of socialism, since Hugo Chávez took power in 1999 (my year of birth) Venezuela fell into a bottomless abyss, day by day it was getting worse and losing that joy and good life that characterized this tropical destination, until it ended up becoming a hell, where our dreams and goals become ashes under the corrupt military boot and the delinquent government.
Universidad Central de Venezuela – Maracay Campus
With socialism not only were the thefts and murders, the food, the medicines, the luxuries and the possibilities for recreating disappeared, common, the high cost of life and a timely barrage of bullets in the night-time product of crime hit Venezuelan tranquility, kidnapping young people against an uncertain future, where education has also lost course.
My university, like the rest of the study houses, it goes through a crisis of budget and other problems since the year 2007, when the first protests for the freedom of expression began when the government decided to close a television channel called RCTV, the students of the public universities went to the street to protest their rights, the result was repression and freezing of resources for higher education.
It is more than 13 years in which the budget of the universities remains the same, taking into account that from that moment until today inflation has been enormous (more than 1200%) it is logical that services like transport, food, educational materials, internships, payment of scholarships, teachers, workers and administrative personnel are totally deficient, leading to the reduction, closure and stoppage of activities in many study houses
I joined the university 3 years ago, exactly when a wave of student protests in rejection of the government of Nicolas Maduro ended up taking all the social sectors, with high balances in deaths, wounded and detained at the hands of state repression. In Venezuela being a student is difficult, the government is bothered by knowledge because it costs controlling a study society, so it bets on mediocrity and ignorance.
From the moment these protests ended, without effect on government more than the acceleration of socialist misery, the demonstrations remained constant, but few, the result was always brutal repression, I participated in several of these and the fear was visible, we were not sure if we could return home alive, when the National Guard arrived, the clashes were brief and they finally scattered us.
Gas bombs launched by the National Guard. Photo: Ricardo Rattia
Between few protests and confrontations for specific problems every time a new economic measure or government abuse was announced, it was three years after the whole country joined the fight for freedom. An atmosphere of apathy and resignation became general and threatened to enslave us forever, so we limited our strength of protest to basic problems that were within our reach.
One such problem occurred at the beginning of April this year, the national government eliminated the public transport subsidy for students at the end of 2016, with the promise that in January would return with greater advantages and a more modern operation, this system never started and the general rate increased, since the enormous cost of the spare parts and their difficult search forced the drivers to charge more expensive the passage , no student can move to college like that because it simply does not reach.
I was in charge of disseminating information for social networks and motivate my colleagues to require what was promised 5 months ago, it was beginning to notice the absence, it was very scary to think that the university would be without students because of the high cost of living, we had to do something, it was time to go back to the streets.
On April 4 we went to the avenue in front of the campus a group of just 10 students, demanding the restoration of the student passage and rejecting the increase in the general rate, it did not take 5 minutes when a national police patrol arrived and shot us to kill, fortunately did not hit, we knew that onslaught was not normal, there was a lot of police force deployed and something was going on that we still did not know.
9 mm projectiles fired by GNB to students of the UCV. Photo: Ricardo Rattia
On the same day, the Supreme Court of Justice published the confirmation of 2 sentences that left the actions of the Venezuelan Parliament without effect and granted absolute powers to Nicolas Maduro, the dictatorship became official and was ready to out against the opposition, deployed thousands of security forces to respond to what was to come.
The streets began to warm up once again, the people, indignant and about to explode roared, the government knew and embarked on a fierce persecution with media campaigns and various raids nationwide against political leaders and students, among them, I, I was designated by a state-owned company led by Tupamaros (Venezuelan paramilitary group) of terrorism, vandalism and to receive financing from abroad with other partners.
Spread the truth, explain the intentions of the dictatorship, summon to protest to claim rights, and even report on the government’s abuses through social networks can have a high cost in Venezuela, debate between prison and death, lose the possibility of sleep and a permanent alert state is part of that, was prepared and decided, would not let me take the fear, stop kneeling and shut up, it’s time to fight.
Caracas, the Infernal Paradise of Latin America. Photo: Karina Páez
I decided to go to Caracas for security and to join the Venezuelan revolution completely; I can feel when the glass overflows its limit and the drop that spills is about to fall, was happening and would not let the failure of 3 years ago recur. The opposition began to be organized and called for a big protest on April 19, a date that would start the greatest civic and courageous sign of the libertarian desire that has this paradise turned into hell.
That date came and everyone knew that the scale was changing, a deafening murmur could be heard in every corner claiming democracy, and hope and faith were coming back stronger than ever, the giant Venezuelan people woke up determined not to be more afraid, to break their chains and to rise up against the military boot that trampled the future.
The highway Francisco Fajardo, the main thoroughfare of Caracas was quickly filled with people, all social classes, without distinction of sex, age or condition were gathered in the asphalt to show that the fear now belonged to the past; A masterful scene that bristles my skin, strong and sovereign avalanche, armed with their faith and conviction to recover the perfect country that our heroes released 200 years ago, the street trembled, was the town.
Powerful and rebellious, a people with marks of malnutrition and disease marked in the skin, worn factions and deep dark circles, perhaps of tears, perhaps of insomnia or because simply the sustained loss of weight cannot be simulated, the people let hear their reckless roar between the 40º centigrade of a tropical land in summer at noon, were eyes lit in fire, the inner flame of primitive necessities, surviving or dying in the attempt.
Highway Francisco Fajardo, April 19, 2017. Photo: Karina Páez
On the other hand, the criminals, worn uniforms and broken boots of a troop that blindly obeys their bosses, overflowing commandments and neat because they are not hungry or need more than defending a coward named Nicolas Maduro. It is this mediocre attitude that the Government urges, is to see that the needs are the product of an enemy that does not exist, is to manipulate the ignorant to the point of forcing him to confront his brothers with blood and fire, then reward with crumbs and a couple of decorations.
The egomaniac effect of medals and the sense of authority suffices for these criminals to raise their arms against the people, they forcefully tighten their shotguns and gas bombs because they forgot what it feels like to gently shake the hand of their children, lost the warmth, have no emotions, are men made machines, programmed to suppress and obey without contradicting.
They were confident that the custom would be repeated, with only shooting several times and stopping a few demonstrators people would have a panic attack and flee, at least they imagined it, but they were wrong, they strongly hoping to achieve the goal, the reaction made them shudder, those decorations did not shine as much as the courage of the people.
Venezuelan resistance to the front on the highway. Photo: Karina Páez
They certainly made that great mass receded a few yards, but within a few seconds it stopped, amid the rain of tear gas The sovereign village recalled the reasons that led him to take the street as his only hope, so many dead to remember, so many abuses, so many violations of dignity and life, so much fear spent between bullets and repression, that was enough.
As an big tsunami that collects its advance, and then is preparing to recover it forcefully taking everything in the middle, the village was compacted in a solid block, the youth, baptized as “the Resistance” to the front, we learned from the past and we know what we appeased so many times, we were prepared, we waited for this moment for a long time, with shields of wood and brass to the front, we tie handkerchiefs to the neck and we spray antacids in the mouth, we kiss our rosary and we move hard together.
The asphalt roars, the highway trembles in its supports, a deafening scream of freedom shivers Caracas between shots and explosions, rains tear gas, buckshot, stones and Molotov bombs that seem to ignite in the air under the scorching sun, which shines more strongly to witness this epic clash between masses. When hunger and need touch the door, other worries like death and fear cease to exist.
Inhabitants of poor neighborhoods with evident malnutrition.
Photo: Karina Páez
The resistance retracts several blocks to the repressive forces, the government brings reinforcements and the violence increases, the paramilitary groups join the strife and shoot at points of concentration at national level to disperse the revolution that is being born in Venezuela; The people stay in the streets until nightfall, it has been a different day, we have discovered the power of the Union, over the next few days we will advance to breathe freedom.
The Government meets with urgency, cite the military and Police high command, the order is to attack with all the resources to the protests, and play the last letters to impose totally socialism or die in the attempt, is when Nicolas Maduro decided to announce that he would change the constituent, without universal choice or consult his approval, the tyrant is cornered, international pressure is enormous, the streets burn and feel like their days in power are over.
Between marches, rallies, protests and long days of combat in the streets of Caracas against the forces of the dictatorship, the days passed, each more violent than the previous one, the National Guard increased its deployments, sent complete divisions with formations of up to 15 armored vehicles to attack the resistance, fire at point-blank range with pleasure.
My friend shows the shotgun shot at point-blank range that almost took his life. Photo: Ricardo Rattia.
The feeling that it feels to be in the frontline of combat is an unreal feeling, a total discharge of emotions come together with the body, one becomes a hero and takes the attitudes that in normal circumstances would not have, the unity in resistance of the Venezuelan revolution has shown the best of each, there is space for the light in so much darkness, solidarity and protection among all, we are a family with millions of brothers.
Armored Division of the National Guard. Caracas. Photo: Karina Páez.
The armored ones are shockproof and fire-proof, their tires are practically impossible to damage, so many horsepower make the earth tremble when advancing on the march, but here we are, in front and without fear, each side raises its shields, those reinforced against bullets and fire, ours clad in wood and brass with edges of hope.
Cry to those who are behind to advance to the right, a small hand perches upon my shoulder, I turn my gaze and it strikes me a lost innocence between violence and stolen dreams, in Venezuela there are a lot of homeless children, they survive on the streets as they can, they don’t have time to play, this revolution is also for them.
9 years old boy protesting in Altamira, Caracas. Photo: Manuel Acosta
The events are constantly varying, but they are based on first-time review of the Terrors that the night left in other states of the country, prepare my backpack with food, antacid, helmet and gas mask, I dressed in thick clothes and sports shoes, my mother begins to reprimand me with hysteria outside the room and I have to ignore it with a knot in the throat, because getting my freedom does not have time for scolding.
I organize the team; we support ourselves and embark on the path again to the feeling free of fear but equally tense, without a doubt part of the unknown. We arrived to another day, I am worried about my partner, I write a message with trembling hands hoping that it is well because it does not escape from this violent reality, they spend a few minutes while the police picket begins to form in front of me, the hands sweat and the tension increases, does not respond, but I need to concentrate on where I am and keep the phone.
Arrival of resistance to protest. Photo: Manuel Acosta
The military came in their trucks, the megaphone of that armored National Guard bristling our skin, threatens to run over us and also insults and curses several times to protest, the shiver under the sun’s own inclement Caribbean is a difficult feeling to explain, but I know how the environment feels seconds before the shots start and bombs gas rain, threatening to hit my head and kill me.
No one regresses, here there is but brave, blood warriors of our heroes libertarians pumping quickly from the heart, blood together with an adrenaline discharge that prepares us to withstand the criminal onslaught that will begin in a few seconds, we can already hear how the transmission of the armored truck is put in advanced position, they will take ahead to whoever it is regardless of anything and we know it.
Highway resistance: Photo: Manuel Acosta
We put to the front our improvised wooden shields, they carry patriotic symbology, they are tattooed with the nationalism and love to Venezuela that they lost in their disease of power, we adjusted the hull that during the first days weighed and now is part of our slight sense of security, but we do not deceive, nobody is safe from the infamous bullets of the dictatorship, I have a fleeting thought, “Did my mother bless me when I left home?” It’s decisive, my faith is the only thing that drives me now to face those cold cannons ready to fire, and not turn their backs as I did 3 years ago.
I hear a huge libertarian scream on this side, as if it were an invisible connection that unites us, I also scream without noticing, drained by my body the revolutionary story that went through Venezuela to become republic, the timid dinner that this rotten system forced me to eat last night is enough reason to have superhuman strength in me, not because of its few nutritional contributions, but by the conviction of notwithstanding hunger any more.
National Guard shot behind an armored truck. Photo: Manuel Acosta
“I see that uniformed felon lift his shotgun, me directly and at the same time the megaphone rumbles once more,” “Move forward” as if hunters in front of rats, the onslaught is huge and disproportionate, shoot us to kill and the military boot is stamped against us, we do the same and with shields to the front, resisting the impact of marbles , screws and other projectiles inserted in the barrel of the pellets we positioned in front of the truck that launches water at 750 psi, capable of stamping against the ground the most robust of us in its minimum pressure.
We line up as if we were brothers of the same blood, the bombs are not just raining on us, also directly impact the shields, my partner gets an impact on his helmet and falls lying next to me, this is criminal, cannot be Venezuelan soldiers, it is not possible that they are formed to kill their own brothers or shoot unarmed people, I do not fit in my head that so much hatred can be injected through official propaganda of government and indoctrination of barracks.
The National Guard fires bombs directly. Photo: Manuel Acosta
The alignment is fractured by the panic and the thick cloud of gas that invades us, we charge our wounded, calling it that because we do not want to believe the obvious, I swear that is dead, the helmet was useless and that bomb tear struck a direct blow to the head. The uniformed do not care what they just did and continue to shoot without stopping their advanced, we run in search of help to our fallen and pray on the way to convince me that I am carrying a wounded and not a corpse.
My friend’s helmet after being hit by a tear bomb. Photo Manuel Acosta
When projectiles of all kinds pass over your head, you take out a force of Olympic runner that does not match any other need, using that impulse we came together to the sea of people who were several meters behind, our heroic companions of the Green Cross are there, the time is slows between the bombs furrowing the sky and the panic cries of the crowd, today is not compared to previous days, it is a deadly trap.
The girl who receives US checks the pulse and as if she did not believe it, screams in a mixture of emotions, my friend is alive. We attend a more specialized medical center, is collapsed by so many wounded of the highway and other points, but they care and stabilize, has been saved by a miracle.
Paramedics of the Green Cross UCV. Photo: Manuel Acosta
To the site came another warrior who received a bomb tear direct to the head, is conscious and repeats that is well, he asks to be treated quickly because he needs to return to the front to support his brothers without realizing that he is throwing a lot of blood and the mark of the impact was sunk in his helmet tricolor, come several suffocated and wounded escaping the gas cloud , is a dangerous situation set by a violin that cries the notes of the national anthem in the hands of Wuilly Arteaga.
As in the battles that review the history books, are present drums of war to motivate the liberators who still resist the front, I see this Titanic hero, my companions and those who help us, we are not over 20 years, we do not choose to live this system, but we give everything to recover the rich and prosperous country enjoyed by our parents and grandparents.
Wuilly Arteaga, the violinist of the resistance. Photo: Manuel Acosta
We retire and leave custody to the partner with their relatives, we expect new news as we update through social networks to know what happens in the rest of the country, and contact our colleagues, I take my phone, Stephania answered me, his residences were attacked but he is well, I call and talk a moment, near where I am there are shots of paramilitary groups , there is no rest for the resistance, I ask you to pray for those who are exposed and count part of the day.
It’s the end of another day, I’m still alive and ready to leave tomorrow again, this time with another strategy to avoid similar ambushes, my mom resigns to think about what happened today, rebuke me for the 18 calls I did not answer, sorry mom, was a little busy out there, please give me the blessing, I love you, tell me how was the day.
May 3 was one of the most tragic days in these months of resistance, several dead, comrades run over by platforms, hundreds of wounded and detained at the hands of the brutal repression that paramilitaries and state security forces launched nationwide, social networks do not cope with all the facts that happen in Venezuela, a multitude of photos and videos record The horror endurance crosses, paying with permanent scars and even life the price of freedom.
Gas bombs of the National Guard shot in the Caracas paradise.
Photo: Ricardo Rattia
No one gets used to the loss of a relative, friend, acquaintance, without knowing many of the 80 mortal victims that so far are told, each one of them hurts, the youth in Venezuela is dying meanly and all we can do is pray for all, protect ourselves and make sure that impunity will not continue to be law, and that these deaths will not be in vain.
It’s been over 60 days and everything has gotten worse, statistics increase fatally, among which many have not been officially listed by the public prosecutor, several comrades have been arrested and others are injured, there is no return, or we conquer democracy or we will be condemned to die as slaves without a future.
Helmet marked with names of the martyrs. Photo: Manuel Acosta
I see in full combat the names of our heroes, courageous martyrs who gave their lives to recover democracy in Venezuela persecute me, I fight for them, their ideals are more alive than ever and are inspiring to the resistance, we are willing to face the hell in which they converted the country to recover our earthly paradise, dream with that free and prosperous Venezuela, I imagine it with details and I plan my future in it.
Constantly ask me why not emigrated and seek to start a new life, do not understand, I have a loop impossible to break with this land, Venezuela is everything to me, like so many young people I am willing to die for it, I am convinced that we will end up succeeding, the resistance will celebrate, and this beautiful nation regains peace, but for now I hear gunfire and the engine of an armored approaching, I must go, it’s time to resist and fight.
National Guard at the rally under a road dealer. Photo: Manuel Acosta
This story was submitted by Ricardo Rattia, and has not been independently verified by Australia Unwrapped. Opinion work only.
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