What is a “Gocho”, and why are they laughing at Maduro? / ¿Qué es un “Gocho”, y por qué se están riendo Maduro?

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Táchira is one of the 23 states of Venezuela, located in the western part of the country, bordering Colombia. Due to its location beyond the Venezuelan Andes, it has remained somewhat inaccessible until the start of the 20th century, and as a result, developed cultural differences from the rest of Venezuela.

VZ Map - closeup of Andean States

Gocho” is a term used to refer to people born in Táchira. Their cultural differences and phonetic accents are noticeable among inhabitants of other states, just as a Texan would stand out in the middle of New York. “Gocho” is used as a term of endearment among Tachirans, but carries a distinctly negative connotation in almost all other states of Venezuela, implying that Gochos are clumsy, naive, and easily fooled – i.e. “Country Bumpkins”.

What many people do not understand is that the folks born in the Andean Mountains have the particular characteristics of being respectful, patient, tolerant and calm or quiet compared with the people who are born in the rest of Venezuelan states. Part of it is due to the traditional way of life and strong family ties, and part of it is due to the weather factor: when it’s cold outside, you tend to spend more time indoors, thinking or talking to family, and before going outside, think and re-think and re-think a 3rd time, before committing to an action. It’s the same characteristic that can be observed in lumberjacks, coal miners, and other people who constantly have to deal with a harsh and unforgiving environment. There’s a Trujillo proverb – “Gocho pendejo, se muere chiquito” – “a naive (stupid) Gocho, dies young”.

“Gochos ruled Venezuela since the begining of the XX century to 1958 when dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez ran away because he didn’t agree to attack the soldiers and cadets involved in the coup d’etat (by the way, he’s considered the best president in the modern history of Venezuela despite his crimes)” (H/t Marcos Gonzalez).

But, during the recent unrest (sparked by the violent repression of a peaceful student demonstration in Caracas on February 12, 2014), the Gochos have distinguished themselves by not only offering the greatest levels of resistance to the government thugs, but apparently relishing the challenge and having a great time. Remember the famous Gocho patience and calm? Well, they’ve had 15 years to think and re-think the situation facing the country. And now they ACT. Oh, do they ever act.

A picture is worth 1000 words, so I’ll just let the images do the talking…

 

EVEN! MORE! GOCHOS!!!

Latest Gocho joke: Venezuelan government has just banned marriages between Gochos and Ukrainians… for the safety of the planet.

Prohiben Matrimonio

Image via @27Lucille, joke via h/t @EngerlyP & numerous E-mail tips.

This Gocho is so “arrecho” (meaning “angry” and “badass”, depending on context), that he deserves a whole article all to himself – check out the story of General Angel Vivas on “Another Day, Another Gocho Nightmare for Nicolas Maduro“.

Gocho Arrecho - Nivel Leyenda (Badass Gocho - Legendary Level)

Gocho Arrecho – Nivel Leyenda (Badass Gocho – Legendary Level)

Gochos don’t mess around when it comes to barricades. “Gochos working – Venezuela under construction” (referring to the ongoing political opposition). Image via @DanielKrdns.

Gochos don't mess around when it comes to barricades.

Gochos don’t mess around when it comes to barricades.

The government never did get around to finish the water-supply system here… but they left these giant concrete pipes – let’s put them to good use!

tuberias

After the death of Jimmy Vargas, Gochos fortified their barricades with shipping containers. I wish the best of luck to the GNB battalion that has to clear this particular barricade:

Pueblo arrecho del #Táchira comienza a fortificar barricadas ante asesinato de Jimmy Vargas.

Pueblo arrecho del #Táchira comienza a fortificar barricadas ante asesinato de Jimmy Vargas.

Pueblo arrecho del #Táchira comienza a fortificar barricadas ante asesinato de Jimmy Vargas.

Pueblo arrecho del #Táchira comienza a fortificar barricadas ante asesinato de Jimmy Vargas.

Molotov Cocktail Sniping seems to be a pastime in Tachira. Here’s a video tutorial in how to nail a passing GNB armored vehicle with ONE Molotov shot:

The award for “Best Use Of Fake Testicles In Political Protest” goes to… *drumroll* *opens envelope* – this Gocha girl who has more balls than Maduro’s soldiers!
“Soy Gocha y tengo de sobra lo que a algunos de ustedes les falta” – “I am a Gocha, and I have plenty of what some of you are missing”. Image h/t @Rpolicial, explanation h/t @Pirouette_G3.

Gocha with balls

Why throw rocks by hand when you can rig a giant 3-man slingshot? Angry Birds, Gocho-style. Original image h/t @lucho3008, captions mine.

Angry Birds - Gocho-Style

Angry Birds – Gocho-Style

When Nicolas Maduro sent in military troops and engineering equipment to destroy the barricades, instead of being upset, Gochos saw the humor in it. “Los Gochos somos tan arrechos, q pusimos a los militares a barrer nuestra calles…!” – “The Gochos are so badass, we even get the military to clean up our streets!”. H/t @Pirouette_G3.

Los Gochos somos tan arrechos, q pusimos a los militares a barrer nuestra calles...!

Los Gochos somos tan arrechos, q pusimos a los militares a barrer nuestra calles…!

…and another version, this one talking about getting the GNB (Guardia Nacional Boliviarana) to clean up the streets. Image via @Orlandoguidicci:

Arrechos-GNB

Somos tan arrechos que ponemos a la GNB a barrer las calles – We’re so badass that we get the National Guard to clean up our streets!

Iron Man, Gocho Version… Loki: “Tengo tanquetas” – “I have tanks” … Tony Stark: “Tenemos Gochos” – “We have Gochos”.

Loki: "Tengo tanquetas" - "I have tanks" ... Tony Stark: "Tenemos Gochos" - "We have Gochos".

Chuck Norris can rest easy – Venezuela is in good hands. “Chuck! Venezuela needs your help! – What for??? If you have Gochos!!!”. Image & translation h/t FB: ViktorOm.

Chuck! Venezuela needs your help! - What for??? If you have Gochos!!!

Policeman: “Play dead! The Gochos are coming! :(“. H/t Gladys Hoyeck via @Mmorin_Informa. Thanks to commenter Mari for clarifying the meaning!

"Hazte el muerto...vienen los gochos 😥"

“Hazte el muerto… vienen los gochos 😥”

Nicolas Maduro gets desperate and sends in helicopters to detect protests and barricade crews – Gochos respond by making “Heliport” markings on roadways. It may seem like a threatening gesture (“land here, see what happens”), but combined with other slogans – “Venezuela Ya Desperto (Venezuela Is Awakened)” and “Tachira Se Respeta (Tachira Respected)”, I think it’s more of an appeal to the chopper pilots’ consciences. The Maduro Mustache (TM) is a nice touch. H/t @geraldinehl.

Helipad, Gocho Style

Helipad, Gocho Style

View of the same helipad from the apartment building:

Gocho Heliport - from the building

Another message to helicopter pilots – “Tachira No Se Rinde” – “Tachira Does Not Surrender”:

Tachira No Se Rinde

Tachira No Se Rinde / Tachira Will Not Surrender

Another message “welcomes” the G2 (Cuban Intelligence Directorate) operatives to Tachira. The joke here is that Maduro keeps pretending that he’s not importing thugs from Cuba – but the Gochos know better! Image h/t @VzlaSinMordaza.

Bienvenidos A Tachira, G2 Cubano // Welcome to Tachira, Cuban G2

Bienvenidos A Tachira, G2 Cubano // Welcome to Tachira, Cuban G2

Maduro sends in tanks – Gochos steal them and use them to block streets. Recycling – Al Gore would be SO proud!

Gochos steal a tank

“Venezuela would be better if these Venezolanos (major part of the country) were more like these Venezolanos (pointing to Tachira). In Tachira beats the true heart of Venezuela”:

Venezuela would be better if these

Practicality. “If we’re all going to hang out here, and we’ve got fires going, hey, might as well make something good to eat.” Where else in the world are you going to see a street blockade – with a STEW POT in the center? Only In Tachira (TM)… I’ve been told that Gochos love their “hervido“, this seems to be proof positive:

Stew pot

Regular people use broken-down pallets & assorted boards to build barricades – Gochos cut down entire trees:

Gochos cut down trees

The “oversizing” trend isn’t limited to arboreals. Here, a couple of dozen Gochos drag a humongous rock toward a blockade position. I’d love to watch the GNB try to clear THAT obstacle!

TEAMWORK!

TEAMWORK!

"If you take this away, I will try again, I'm Gocho"

“If you take me away, I will put again, I’m Gocho”

A street blockade in Tachira reads: “Si me quitas / me pongo otra vez / soy gocho” – “If you take me away, I will put this again, I’m [a] Gocho”. Well, that’s the literal translation. A commenter points out that “when they say “If you take me away, I’ll put myself back”, they are referring to the gochos presidents in the past, since government’s motto is “No volverán” (“They will not come back” – to rule the country)” – ‘they’ referring to the Spanish Empire’s rule over this land before Simón Bolívar successfully fought for Latin America’s independence. Tachira has produced 7 presidents, so the Gochos are proud of their state’s contribution to Venezuelan history. Image h/t @NotaSinCensura.

If you take this away, I will start again, I'm Gocho 2

Another shot of the same blockade, h/t @JohanJurado.

En Tachiro Estamos

“In Tachira, we’re waiting for the Navy down by the Torbes river… we look like we’re shaking (with fear)… HAHAHAHAHAHA”.
Image h/t @AnonsVenezuela, translation h/t @lugoadvertising. UPDATE: The joke here is that the Torbes River is very shallow and full of rocks, so even a small boat would be unable to navigate it, much less the Navy. Also, Rio Torbes is very representative of San Cristobal because of its red color – Gochos are very proud of their river! [Thanks to Marcos Gonzalez for the explanation!]

To build barricades, most Venezuelans use motorcycle and car tires. But not Gochos. Oh no. They take it to a whole new level:

Burning Rubber: Gocho Level. Quema de caucho nivel Gocho.

Burning Rubber: Gocho Level. Quema de caucho nivel Gocho.

A group of Tachira opposition fighters bring a giant tractor tire to use in barricades. Original image posted with rhyming caption “quema de caucho, nivel Gocho” – “Burning Rubber: Gocho Level”.  H/t @Alesaotesi.

Concrete blocks, rebar, and construction debris – Gochos don’t mess around when it comes to guarimbas. H/t @yorsegabriel.

Gocho Guarimba in Tachira.

Gocho Guarimba in Tachira.

Gocho barricades are used as examples to others. H/t @soylindsay.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out that this is actually in the Ukraine. However, it’s still in the spirit of the thing!

Barricade, Gocho style. Guarima, estilo de Gocho.

Barricade, Gocho style. Guarimba, estilo Gocho.

Another “Gocho Guarimba”, this one employing a crane used for building skyscrapers.
Image h/t @Percy_Michael, explanation h/t Marcos Gonzalez.

Guarimba in Las Vegas de Tariba, Tachira, Venezuela.

Guarimba in Las Vegas de Tariba, Tachira, Venezuela.

For comparison, here’s a typical street blockade:

guarimbas_index

It’s not just the streets that get blocked, either. If you’re going to close off a bridge serving one of the largest highways in the region, you might as well do it right. Another Gocho construction:

Puente Libertador between Tariba and Carabobo.

Puente Libertador between Tariba and Carabobo.

But it’s not just the construction skills and the penchant for oversized barricades that earned this group their own distinctive hashtag #GOCHOSARRECHOS (“Angry Gochos”). It’s the combination of ferocity, cavalier attitude in the face of imminent attack, and a refreshing touch of insanity… for example, while normal people hide behind barricades, Gochos bring out a couch and put on a Batman mask:

Gochos hanging out. Avenida Pueblo, San Cristobal, Tachira, Venezuela

Gochos hanging out. Avenida Pueblo, San Cristobal, Tachira, Venezuela

Image h/t @jsideregts.

…and in between repelling GNB attacks, apparently they like to watch TV:

Gocho TV.

Gocho TV.

Image posted by @choisy91 with caption “Los gochos son otro nivel” – “The Gochos are on another level”. Marcos Gonzalez adds that the “Maduro-in-crossed-circle” image on TV is forbidden by the government (shocker!), and its usage in this context means that people want to see TV that’s not ruled by the government.

Apparently, the current exchange rate is 1 Gocho : 5 Araguans:

Trade 5 Araguans for 1 Gocho

“I’ll trade 5 Araguans for 1 Pissed-Off Gocho”. Image h/t @pettybooshwah.

And there’s plenty of Gochos to go around:

Tachira: yes, the protests are super-sized too.

Tachira: yes, the protests are super-sized too.

Massive demonstration in Tachira, with the crowd fading all the way into the horizon… Image h/t @ReporteYa, with caption “Mi TACHIRA grande! Dando ejemplo! Caraqueño te falta espíritu GOCHO!” – “My great Tachira! Giving an example! Caracas, you lack the Gocho spirit!”

Gochos aren’t very big fans of Nicolas Maduro, either:

Gocho Art

“Maduro metase su felicidad suprema por el…” – “Maduro can shove his ‘supreme happiness’ right up…”. Image h/t @Sangarccs. Thanks to commenters “Miguel” and “Vannessa” for the translation!

G-2 is the Cuban intelligence agency (the equivalent of CIA).
G-8 usually stands for the “Group of Eight” (world’s largest economies), but in Spanish, “8” is “ocho”, so this becomes a pun: G-OCHO.
So, while the “sellouts” consort with the Cuban G-2, the Venezuelan patriots count themselves alongside the Gochos. (H/t

G-OCHOS

G-OCHOS.

Un Mensaje a los Militares Venezolanos en Servicio Activo /// A Message to Venezuelan Military Officers on Active Duty

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Este es un mensaje que un militar Venezolano me pidió publicar. El oficial desea permanecer anónimo, por razones que son obvias para cualquiera que esté familiarizado con la situación en Venezuela. /// This is a message that a Venezuelan military officer asked me to publish. The officer wishes to remain anonymous, for reasons that are obvious to anyone familiar with the situation in Venezuela.  [ Click here, or scroll down, for English text ]


Flag_of_Venezuela.svg

Queridos y siempre recordados hermanos:

Como todo buen hermano mayor, responsable y preocupado por sus hermanos menores, he considerado apropiado hacerles llegar estos 3 mensajes (links anexos) que tienen palabras directas y específicas para ustedes, quienes hoy portan el uniforme militar, ese uniforme que ha servido de eslabón sanguíneo entre nosotros y el cual por años ha distinguido a los miembros de nuestra familia, y a la vez ha sido la envidia de quienes nunca tuvieron la suerte de dignamente ponérselo. Ustedes, aún lo llevan puesto, y son ustedes quienes hoy tienen una responsabilidad profesional y funcional con el país, acompañada de una obligación legal y moral con sus compatriotas Venezolanos y no con extranjeros invasores.

Lo reconozcan o no, lo quieran o no, todos somos miembros de la misma familia militar… unos fuimos primero, ustedes llegaron después, y otros hermanos menores vendrán después de ustedes… ¡Pero a todos nosotros, la sociedad y el mundo nos medirá con la misma vara… particularmente con la última, la más reciente y la más sangrienta vara que ha conocido nuestra querida Venezuela… lo dijo nuestro libertador Simón Bolívar:

“Maldito el soldado que vuelva las armas de la república contra su pueblo”

Todos nosotros, los militares retirados y los activos, somos parte de ese pueblo que conforma la república libre, soberana e independiente de Venezuela, y en consecuencia no podemos ser parte de un país sometido a una dictadura extranjera. Yo hace mucho tiempo elegí la clase de soldado Venezolano que yo quería ser…  ¡Y la mantengo!

Pero como miembro de nuestra familia militar, me pregunto sí mis hermanos menores han decidido ser “malditos soldados” que no cumplen ese juramento que hicieron ante la bandera tricolor, que no respetan ni defienden la patria ni sus instituciones, y que por el contrario vuelven sus armas contra su pueblo, y en consecuencia merecen ser medidos con la vara que los identifica como “malditos soldados“. Éso me duele profundamente, porque nadie quiere la deshonra de su familia, ni el escarnio público para ella, mucho menos el repudio mundial para sus seres queridos: ustedes.

Abrigo la esperanza que mis hermanos menores, aún con uniforme, se conviertan en “hijos pródigos” de una misma y muy querida madre, Venezuela, y de un único padre – valeroso defensor de la libertad y los derechos ciudadanos – nuestro común padre: Simón Bolívar.

Me despido con un abrazo sincero, como hermano mayor, pidiéndole a nuestro Dios en los cielos, que los ilumine, los colme de sabiduría y les perdone sus errores, porque eso hará que me sienta feliz y orgulloso nuevamente de mis hermanos menores con uniforme.

Este es mi presente para ustedes:


Flag_of_Venezuela.svg

My dear and always remembered brothers:

Like any caring big brother, responsible and worried about his younger brothers, I considered appropriate to present to you 3 messages through the attached links below. All of them have direct and specific words for you, those who today wear the military uniforms – a uniform that has served as a blood-link between us, and for years has distinguished the members of our family. At the time, it has been the envy of those who never had the possibility of proudly wearing it. You still wear it today, and it is you who owe the professional and functional responsbility to the country, accompanied by a legal and moral obligation to your fellow Venezuelans, not to foreign invaders.

Whether or not you recognize it, whether or not you want it, we are all members of the same military family: some of us arrived first, then you joined the family, and yet other younger brothers will come after you… but all of us will be measured with the same yardstick by the world’s societies… especially with the last stick, the most recent and bloody stick ever known by our dearest Venezuela. Our father of the country, Simón Bolívar, once said:

“Damned is the soldier who turns the weapons of the Republic against his own countrymen”

We all, retired and active-duty military officers, are a part of that people that makes up the free, sovereign and independent Republic of Venezuela; therefore, we can not be a part of a country under the subjection of a foreign dictatorship. A long time ago I picked the kind of Venezuelan soldier that I wanted to be … and still maintain it!

But as a member of our military family, I wonder if my younger brothers have decided to be the “damned soldiers” who do not meet that pledge they made to the tricolor flag, “damned soldiers” who do not respect, nor do they defend, their country and its institutions. Instead, they turn their weapons against their people; therefore, they deserve to be measured with the yardstick that identifies them as “damned soldiers“. That would hurt me deeply because nobody wants the disgrace of his family or the public derision of it, let alone the world’s repudiation for his loved ones: you.

I still have hope that my younger brothers, yet wearing military uniforms, will become so – called “prodigal sons” of the same and very dear mother, Venezuela, and of the same father – valiant defender of the citizens’ rights and freedom – our common father: Simón Bolívar.

I say goodbye to you all for now with a warm and sincere hug to you from your older brother, but asking to our God in Heaven that He be the light in your hearts and through your darkness, that the light of wisdom enlighten you all, and that all your errors be forgiven because all that will make me happy and proud of my younger brothers again.

These are my presents for you:

Message to the Brave People of Venezuela // Mensaje al Bravo Pueblo de Venezuela

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Joel Frewa delivers the National Weekly Tea Party Address. A special message to the brave people of Venezuela, the Tea Party, and a special message to president Obama.

Nicolas Maduro’s Ongoing War On Journalism – The Story Of Francesca Commissari

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The regime of Nicolas Maduro is trying hard to limit and/or distort what the world sees regarding the continuing crisis in Venezuela. This includes propaganda broadcasts, disinformation spread via interviews with international media, and repression of foreign journalists operating within Venezuela. The degree of distortion is so great that even people who are not affiliated with journalism are expressing their concern.

As previously reported here, on the night of February 28, 2014, over 40 protesters were arrested in Altamira Square of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, by the GNB (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana).

Protest in Altamira Square, Caracas, February 28, 2014

The protest in Altamira Square, Caracas, February 28, 2014

The prisoners were taken to a temporary detention center, from which screaming was heard shortly thereafter, according to the concerned neighbors (details + list of names: “Human Rights Violation Alert!“).

Temporary Detention Center at Plaza Altamira, Caracas, Venezuela.

Temporary Detention Center at Plaza Altamira, Caracas, Venezuela. One of the many concerned neighbors who heard screaming, suspected torture, and alerted the social media.

Later, the prisoners were transferred to the military base of Fuerte Tiuna. Initially, the prisoners were not permitted any communication, but eventually the authorities bowed to pressure from the social media outcry and allowed pro bono lawyers to make contact with the prisoners, collect information, and assess their condition. At 12:45 AM, the nonprofit organization “Asistencia UCAB” reported that their lawyers were still in Fuerte Tiuna, gathering information and providing assistance:

One of the detainees was Francesca Commissari (@FrancescaCommi), an Italian photojournalist who was covering the protests for the newspaper El Nacional. Although Francesca was cleared of all charges, she still had to endure several days in horrible prison conditions, and the health consequences of being exposed to tear gas, which the GNB used indiscriminately in area-saturation quantities. Francesca’s mistreatment is not an isolated case. As CaracasChronicles points out:

The saddest part is that her case isn’t the only one. According to the National Press Workers’ Union (SNTP), there are 22 cases of journalists that were robbed of their equipment by the authorities.

Paraphrasing a quote from James Bond author Ian Fleming: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Twenty-two times? That’s definitely a deliberate strategy, no question about it.

That Friday, Francesca and a Portuguese friend, also a freelance photographer, decided to go to Altamira and photograph the protest there. They knew that the demonstration would likely last a while, so their plan was to take some shots and return. When they arrived at the scene, they realized that the situation was far more tense than previous protests. “There were many more barricades, more protesters, much more National Guard and the shock was stronger,” Francesca said in an interview with ABC Color.

The confrontation turned violent, with the demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails…

Altamira - female student throwing rock at GNB

Altamira – female student throwing rock at GNB

…and the GNB responding with tear gas and water cannons.

Altamira - protesters resist water-cannon attack

Altamira – protesters resist water-cannon attack

Francesca and her friend were watching the confrontation, when suddenly, several dozen motorcycles carrying GNB officers showed up next to them, with the troops firing buckshot and tear gas shells. The photojournalists started running, and took refuge in a service station nearby, where there were several people hiding. Despite her eyes burning from the tear gas that by then completely saturated the area, Francesca continued taking photos of pro-government agents shooting at protesters.

Altamira, Caracas - saturated with tear gas.

Altamira, Caracas – saturated with tear gas.

After the motorcycle troops passed, it seemed like the manhunt was over, when another group of agents appeared, this time on foot, doing a detailed sweep of the area. One of them spotted Francesca and the other stow-aways, and ordered them out. Her bag with the camera and documents was taken from her by force, and she was loaded up onto one of the GNB motorcycles and carried away.

When they arrived at the temporary detention area, she had to kneel next to the other detainees, all of whom were “very young, in the 20-year range”. Some of them were bleeding, others had multiple bruises – evidence of rough treatment during the arrest. Eventually, an officer came around to take a tally of minors and women; when Francesca raised her hand, he mocked her appearance, questioning whether she was a woman. The officer’s visit was followed by a general who assured the detainees that “all he wanted was to safeguard their human rights”, and called in a paramedic. The paramedic inspected the detainees and took photos.

The detainees were questioned over and over again. (Repeating the same question is a well-known psychological pressure tactic, designed to destabilize the prisoner, as well as possibly reveal inconsistencies in their answers. It was perfected by Stalin’s KGB interrogators; seems that Maduro’s forces have studied the Soviet playbook extensively.) Francesca’s ID was in the same bag that contained her camera, and which the GNB agents took away from her upon capture. She had no way to prove her identity, and had to answer the repeated questions, over and over again. Even her nationality was questioned, until she started speaking to them in Italian.

After the detainees were processed into the temporary detention facility, Francesca asked to contact the Italian Consulate. The request was denied. However, she managed to send a Twitter message to her roommate, using a phone borrowed from one of the other detainees.

A couple of hours later, the Altamira detainees were transferred to Fuerte Tiuna, the most significant military complex in Venezuela. Fuerte Tiuna is the workplace of the Ministry of Defense and functions as the headquarters of the National Guard – the Venezuelan Pentagon.

At Fuerte Tiuna, the women were separated from men and remained in a narrow room, leaving only to use the bathroom, for which trip they were handcuffed. The men were handcuffed all the time and had to sleep on the floor. Women were given at thin mat, but it hardly made a difference. Through the night, the prisoners were not given any food or water. Saturday at noon, they were served some rice and an arepa. From there until the next morning, the GNB again left them with no food or water.

At 7 PM on Saturday – almost 24 hours since their arrest – the prisoners were finally taken to the courthouse, where they heard charges against them for the first time. Throughout the process, all the detainees were handcuffed to each other. The Italian Consul informed Francesca that the Venezuelan authorities would most likely deport her. The entire group was tried en masse, with a charge of terrorism leveled against everyone. Mass arrests and collective judgments are a common occurrence in crisis-torn Venezuela, as authorities grow more desperate to quell the rebellion, and as a result, abuse their power more and more.

The lawyer assigned to Francesca informed her that her arrest record did not show her carrying any photographic equipment at any time. Of course, in the best tradition of tyrannical regimes, the record did show her carrying a Molotov cocktail. For a moment, Francesca was terrified that she would be imprisoned in a Venezuelan jail. In her interview with ABC Color, she admitted thinking – “My God, if I have to be put into one of those prisons, let them kill me instead.”

Finally realizing that they were dealing with foreign nationals, and with the various consulate representatives and lawyers present, the 3 prosecutors immediately asked for “full freedom” for Francesca and a 56-year-old Portuguese man who was among the detainees. In other words, the State recognized that their arrest was “a mistake”. However, they did not admit that the interrogations were performed by SEBIN agents (“Scientific Police”), and could not be used in evidence at trial since there was no lawyer present during the interrogations. But, the rule of law means very little in today’s Venezuela.

Francesca was released, but her camera and lenses were not returned to her.  To add insult to injury, the stolen camera was discovered being posted for sale on an auction website. The cherry on top of the insult cake was the listed price – only 80 bolivars, equivalent to about $ 1. Yes, a Canon EOS 5D, which retails at approx. $ 1,900 for the camera body alone, not counting the 3 lenses, was sold for a BUCK. Welcome to Venezuela.

The camera is no longer listed on MercadoLibre, and the link posted in Francesca’s Tweet doesn’t work. But a screenshot has been preserved:

Francesca Commissari's Camera On Auction Website

Francesca Commissari’s Camera On Auction Website

This is the only part of the camera that was returned to Francesca. Yes, just the lens cap. Image via @PirelaJimmy:

Commissari - only lens cap returned

Francesca says that her case did have an immense impact on the international press, with many photo/journalists now being much more careful to avoid any contact with Venezuelan security forces. In addition, she mentioned “at least 50 examples of professionals”  who had been beaten while covering the demonstrations, and/or had their photo/video equipment stolen by Venezuelan law enforcement, military, or security forces.

“There is no freedom of expression and, for a foreigner, especially a freelancer, it’s very complicated because there is no one to protect us”, Francesca added at the end of the interview.

In closing, I’d like to cite one of my favorite quotes from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian dissident and author of the multi-volume epic denouncement of the Soviet regime “The GULag Archipelago” – forever etching the term “gulag” into the mass consciousness:

“Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method, is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.”

As the regime of Nicolas Maduro grows more and more desperate, unable to control the nationwide uprising that has just passed the 30-day mark (February 12 – March 12), it is expected, and inevitable, that the man who took violence as his method, will continue taking lies – and suppression of truth – as his principle.

Caracas – New York
March 13, 2014


Sources:

Venezuela’s Image Crisis: Clarisa Explains It All

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[Video En Espanol + English Text] // Understanding the importance of international support, the regime of Nicolas Maduro is working hard to misrepresent the crisis in Venezuela – to its own citizens as well as to the world. Inside Venezuela itself, the mass media is limited to broadcasting state-sponsored propaganda, creating a distortion in the minds of the politically unaffiliated and the chavistas alike. Foreign journalists are routinely assaulted by Venezuelan police/security forces, and have their equipment stolen, like the case of Italian photojournalist Francesca Commissari.

What little news does reach the foreign lands, is also heavily distorted by a government bent on presenting the opposition as a tiny group of unsupported rebels with an appetite for destruction, as well as whitewashing its own crimes (such as the 22-minute-long rant, I mean, interview granted to Nicolas Maduro by CNN). If it wasn’t for social media, very little information would reach the international community.

Maduro chasing Twitter

This situation is cause for concern among many Venezolanos on the side of opposition, as well as journalists and political figures, including the famous General Angel Vivas. I’ve come across a video which perfectly explains the need to present information about Venezuela in English in order to avoid the communication breakdown. Clarisa Mogollón (LinkedIn) is not a politician, journalist, or a political activist, but she hits the nail on the head in a way that would do any of those professions proud.

Los que entienden español – haga clic en el “juego”. Those who don’t speak Spanish – scroll down & check out the translation below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSNL9EtlwvI

[BEGIN TRANSLATION]

“Hi Venezuela … this is Clarisa Mogollón from Stockholm, Sweden, to ask you to do your best and report in English what you are uploading and sharing through the Internet because those who want to write about what is happening in Venezuela DO NOT UNDERSTAND SPANISH, nor will they have the patience to translate it, besides if they did it, the information would not be correct.

Please, there is nothing better than original videos with description in English . I have been talking to journalists and other persons related to the Government here and they all are asking for information in the Swedish language. Those in Venezuela who are documenting what is going on there shall do that in English.

It is not enough to publish information only for those who live in Venezuela while you are asking for support and assistance from the international community. In addition, it is being said that the International Media will not move a finger as long as what they see they labeled as “subversive acts” since and according to them, one thing is to defend oneself whereas it is something completely different to attack others.

They also suggest that it be necessary to inform the whole world about THE REASONS for what seems to be “subversive acts by students” and why people are blocking and barricading the streets in their neighborhoods because persons out of Venezuela are looking at those actions as simple brawls, rows or rackets.

Inform – in English – about tortures and human rights violations.”

[END TRANSLATION]

Thanks go out to Clarisa Mogollón for the original content, and to my friend “Zorro Vengador” for the tip & the translation!

Stockholm – Caracas – New York
March 11, 2014

 

P.S. Si alguien tiene una transcripción del video (en español), me gustaría publicarlo. Por favor, hágamelo saber (commentarios / E-mail).

P.P.S. For readers outside the Norteamericano cultural sphere: the title is a humorous reference to “Clarissa Explains It All”, a popular kids/teen show that aired for 65 episodes, 1991 – 1994 (Wikipedia).

Trapped

johneastborough:

Agree or disagree, this is a real concern. The Maduro mass-media machine is doing an (unfortunately) effective job of convincing the world that the opposition is a bunch of wing-nuts. Obvious parallels to the way the USA’s Tea Party was portrayed aside, this is a serious concern that threatens to derail the entire movement. Guarimberos must NOT become Occupy Wall Street.

Originally posted on Caracas Chronicles:

whitemaze It’s now been five weeks since the protest in San Cristóbal that set off Venezuela’s latest revolt. Time to take stock.

Outside the Andean states, protests remain largely confined to the better-off areas of the larger cities. Are there exceptions here and there? Certainly. But they’re just that: exceptions. The sites of ongoing unrest remain solidly concentrated in the middle class enclaves of the bigger cities, i.e., precisely where the government wants them.

Large, peaceful daytime demonstrations are followed every night by running battles around makeshift barricades, or guarimbas. This night-time ritual of improvised road-blocks, burning garbage, plastic pellets, tear gas and armed bikers in plain clothes involves many fewer people than the daytime protests. And yet, inevitably, the guarimba has come to define the current protest movement, giving it its flavor, its distinctiveness, its identity.

The peaceful daytime marches have broad public support, but only when they’re seen as…

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An Open Letter From Venezuela To The World

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Hello, America, hello, world.

I’m from Venezuela, and my name is… well, I’d rather keep it anonymous because I don’t want to be prosecuted by the government. So many of you may be wondering, why do we Venezuelans act with so much violence? Or, why are there so many deaths? Or, how did a simple demand of “We want security” turn into an irreversible demand of “Maduro MUST GO!”?

Well, I’m a college student, studying law, almost ready to fight against the lies and defend the truth, which makes me feel like the “giant” Mr. Vivas, who had the balls to say that the one who is governing Venezuela isn’t Maduro – it’s Cuba. I believe in my national anthem, I believe in independence. Venezuela, believe it or not, has an amazing Constitution, it’s younger than the Constitution of the US – established in 1999, but it’s beautiful for admirers of law, like myself, who understand the context.

I can tell you exactly when I started hating this government – in the 1998 elections. Trust me, it’s nothing like the elections in the USA, where the President speaks with both the Republicans and Democrats, and the people gather for debates (very interesting, by the way!). Let me clarify, I’m not “pro-Yankee”, just in case you might think that I want an intervention of another country in the affairs of Venezuela. We’re dealing with Cuba already, and it’s not nice at all. What I mean is, I know the history and how the United States works! But, let’s leave that topic for another letter…

Here, the campaigns for political office are “made in the streets”, shaking hands and listening to what people need. The people of Venezuela are very warm and humorous, and we know how to solve problems. We’re resilient, we will keep looking for a solution no matter how few resources we have, and will become stronger for it. But we also have a bad side – we have a tendency toward setting up what we call a “Mother Government”, a term native to Latin America but no doubt recognized in the rest of the world. It’s a government that promises to give you everything, to provide for every aspect of your life.

Spain had the same problem, it elected a president who said “I will give you more”, and when the economic bubble burst and the Euro-Zone crashed hard, they couldn’t afford to give everything to everyone. Now, they have a lot of people who are sitting and doing nothing, and it’s getting more desperate. And of course, because Venezuela is a former colony of Spain, just like most Latin-American countries, our governments have the tendency to be overprotective as well.

When the economy crashes, the people who suffer the most are the poorest ones. In Maduro’s speeches, he says: “I support the poor, and the rich hate you”. Our government doesn’t want the poor people to rise into the middle class, because when people live in poverty and ignorance, and beg for food, it’s very convenient to the bosses. We’re living in hate, on both sides of the political and economic spectrum. Led by Maduro, the Chavistas call the opposition “little Yankees” and “fascists”.

The economic situation here is desperate. We can’t even keep the lights on all the time, because in 2009 or 2010, the government started rationing electricity. The official explanation was that the El Nino weather phenomenon has reduced the flow of water to the hydroelectric dam that powers all of Venezuela, but the real reason is that they couldn’t maintain the machinery, and it started to break down. The end result is that now we have power outages that last up to 12 hours – or even more.

Electricity is not just a matter of convenience. My old grand-aunt died in her apartment, and my uncles couldn’t even take her to the hospital for her final hours (after the doctor told them that she’s close to the end), because there was no electricity, so the elevators weren’t working, and they could not get her bed down the stairs. She couldn’t die in a comfortable, air-conditioned hospital, because our inept government can’t even manage electricity production! She died in San Cristobal, 2 years ago. (Yes, although I was born near Caracas, my family is Gocho!)

We’re running out of options, we don’t have medicine, we don’t have access to information, we don’t have access to travel – not only are the tickets incredibly expensive, but the government only allows you to exchange a very limited amount of Venezuelan currency for dollars – only about $ 100 per day of travel. That’s just not enough to pay for the hotel and food, not to mention souvenirs or entertainment. Of course, you can buy dollars on the black market, but it’s about 8 times more expensive, so again, nobody can really afford it. Most businesses don’t have the option to legally trade in dollars either, so everything is expensive.

We’re running out of opportunity. The minimum wage per month is around 3500 BsF (around $ 300 in “official” dollars), with an inflation of 30% to 60% per year, according to the official number given by the central bank. Some economists say it’s more like 70%. That $ 300 loses over 50% of its value in a year, so we buy less, eat less… you can imagine how the poorest survive: theft, kidnapping, robbery, murder, etc.

[J.E.: to put this level of inflation into perspective: in 2008, 95,000 BsF could buy you a new Toyota 4Runner… in 2014, 95,000 BsF can buy you… an iPhone. From a CAR to a PHONE, in 6 years! The price of a new 4Runner in 2008 was $ 28,000 to $ 39,000, the price of an iPhone is $ 550. You do the math. Image via https://twitter.com/aleomana87/status/440949671758815232/photo/1%5D

I don’t blame Chavez, but under Chavez, the crime increased so much! I’m scared to go out, but I don’t even feel safe in my house, because the Tupamaros (biker gang armed with guns given to them by the government) run rampant, they break into houses and do whatever they want. They’re not authorized by the Constitution, but the Tribunal Supremos de Justicia says nothing at all.

We don’t have a right to bear arms here, the laws have been changed so that even people who had guns legally would have to give them up. Of course, not everyone complied, but still, if they catch you with a gun, there will be a problem. The only exceptions are for those who use guns for professional sport, and even they’re limited to 100 bullets per year. You would think that strict gun control would put an end to crime, right? I don’t think so! In a dangerous neighborhood, a guy told me that you can rent a gun, do what you have to do (killing or kidnapping or whatever) and then you return the gun.

Maduro says people like me are “capitalists”, but that’s so untrue. I don’t have the opportunity to travel, I can’t buy food, I can’t have a car, I can’t buy a house. They’re killing my friends whose only crime is saying “I want freedom! I want Maduro out!”. Our so-called “President” is a scam too – Maduro didn’t even present a birth certificate to prove he’s eligible to lead the country. According to all the rumors he’s from Colombia, but the Colombian government doesn’t want to say anything about it.

You know what really hurts me? That people here are dying every day! That I can’t find food, that our people live in ignorance… The “Peace Conference” that the government organized a few days ago was such a complete sham. How can they discuss something that, from the beginning, they don’t want to solve? This government doesn’t care about what happens to us. Over 80% of the country didn’t even go to the Carnaval, which is like the Mardi Gras in the United States but bigger. We cannot have fun while people are dying!

I pray for an end to these deaths. No more aggression against our human rights, our Constitutional rights. I’m just a student, I want to learn, I want the opportunity to travel, to have a car, to have a house, to own a business. I want an opportunity to LIVE! I hate this war, but even more than that, I hate the lies. Every night, I’m scared that I will not wake up, because someone might kill me. There are tens of thousands of homicides in Venezuela every year. Caracas, our nation’s capital, is 1 of the Top 3 most violent cities on the planet.

People of America, people of the world – please, speak for us, pray for us.