What is a guarimba?
A “guarimba“, in the simplest terms, is a form of protest barricade popular in Venezuela. But the meaning goes much deeper than just a pile of rocks across a highway. Guarimbas are erected in response to elections that people feel are unfair, as well as to protect the citizens from government forces carrying out reprisals, and the criminal gangs that inevitably accompany them. It’s an act of nonviolent protest, accompanied by defensive measures such as burning tires and garbage to create a visual deterrent / smoke-screen, placing homemade caltrops and improvised oil slicks on roadways to deter aggressive motorized troops.
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 Nicolás 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 typical guarimba looks something like this – more of an annoyance than a blockade:
Of course, this isn’t good enough for Gochos. Where regular people use rocks, Gochos use concrete slabs & construction equipment.
Regular people use broken-down pallets & assorted boards to build barricades – Gochos cut down entire trees:
The “oversizing” trend isn’t limited to arboreals. Here, a few dozen Gochos drag a humongous rock toward a blockade position. I’d love to watch the GNB try to clear THAT obstacle!
Construction equipment works too – here’s another “Gocho Guarimba”, this one employing a crane used for building skyscrapers. Image h/t @Percy_Michael, explanation h/t Marcos Gonzalez.
Gochos are shutting down more than just the streets. Here’s Puente Libertador, situated between Tariba and San Cristóbal, off of the Pan-American Highway, one of the largest transport routes serving the region: