Venezuela Resistance Tactic: The Guarimba

The “guarimba“, in the simplest sense, is a makeshift barricade, partially a (well-justified) defense against the paramilitary police units and violent pro-government motorcycle gangs, partially an area-denial measure, and partially a very visual statement of defiance. On the tactical level, the word also refers to the methods of using the barricades to their maximum effectiveness.

Guarimbas are usually erected at an intersection, in order to block traffic and provide residents with advance notice if government troops are coming. Guarimberos (people who build the guarimbas) usually live near the barricade, so they can observe its status from a safe distance, and quickly rebuild it if the government troops manage to take it down or clear a passage.

After the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez by officials of Nicolas Maduro’s government, the protests in Venezuela have transitioned from mass demonstrations in the streets, to barricade tactics. The hashtag #GuarimbasHastaQueSeVayaNicolás (“Guarimbas Until You’re Gone, Nicolás“) ascended to #1 in Twitter Trends for Venezuela on February 19, 2014 – and is still in use today (February 22).

The DiccionarioLibre website offers this explanation of “guarimba”, useful even after Google Translate mangled it:

Location shelter, preferably one’s residence, building or complex, which is used for non-violent mass demonstrations, no mass demonstrations, held without confrontation to the bodies of the order or violent government henchmen, the event in question resolves Target barricade right in front of the house itself, in the streets, burning rubber or some element that achieves hinder the free movement of vehicles, in order to preclude the activities paralyzing the entire country and leave the government without power, forcing him to cease to function as soon as warning signs for protesters are detected, they only have to enter their homes or “guarimba” then go to refurbish the barricades again and again, that is part of the Derivative Actions logically Article 350 of Venezuelan constitution of 1999 as a civic duty exposes the lack of any authority, scheme or legislation that undermine rights and items contained therein and help restore the rule of law.

Barricades, located close to one’s home so they can be easily maintained – and as a side bonus, the choice of location provides plausible deniability to the protesters – “I just happened to walk by here, Officer, I live right across the street”. Here are a couple of photos sent to me by a Venezuelan citizen who wishes to remain nameless, showing the barricade erected & maintained by the residents of the high-rise apartment complex next to the intersection (EXIF data removed to avoid disclosing location):

NOEXIF_IMG-20140218-01222

NOEXIF_IMG-20140218-01223

Guarimbas can be made from any available materials – stones, concrete, bricks, construction debris, trash containers. Discarded tires doused with gasoline and set aflame provide a visual signal as well as a smoke screen in daytime.

Guarimba at Avenida Central, Palo Verde, Caracas, Venezuela. Approx. 7:40 PM February 18, 2014.

Guarimba at Avenida Central, Palo Verde, Caracas.

This photo was taken at Avenida Central in the Palo Verde City neighborhood of Caracas (GMap), at about 7:40 PM on February 18, 2014. H/t @AlejandraBravo.

In addition to physically barring passage, homemade caltrops easily constructed from garden hose and nails can effectively prevent motorized and even light-armor vehicles from entering the area:

Improvised caltrop.

Improvised caltrop.

Multiple fiery barricades turn the night-time view of a city into a surreal war theatre. This photo (h/t @DavDaz) was taken at Avenida Carabobo, in San Cristóbal, which is the capital city of the Venezuelan state of Táchira, located approximately 810 kilometers (500 miles) from Caracas (GMap):

Avenida Carabobo, San Cristobal, Tachira, Venezuela.

Avenida Carabobo, San Cristobal, Tachira, Venezuela.

Guarimbas don’t have to be huge or impressive – even a small line of burning debris in the street sends a visual message of defiance:

Guarimba at La Granja, Naguanagua, Carabobo, Venezuela.

Guarimba at La Granja, Naguanagua, Carabobo, Venezuela.

Small guarimba at Calle 174, La Granja neighborhood of Naguanagua, Carabobo state of Venezuela, approx. 175 km west of Caracas (GMap). H/t @Aliciabermudez.

In conjunction with signs, the guarimba can really drive home the political message (h/t @fachu83):

"Attention! Street Is Closed - Country Under Construction"

“Attention! Street Is Closed – Country Under Construction”

…or, without any signs or notes, just close off a bridge (in this case, Puento Libertador, between Tariba and the Colinas de Carabobo neighborhood of San Cristobal – GMap). H/t @MMinghetti.

Puente Libertador bridge  between Tariba and Carabobo

Puente Libertador bridge between Tariba and San Cristobal

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7 thoughts on “Venezuela Resistance Tactic: The Guarimba

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