These testimonials, as the others previously published here, have been collected by Roberto Mata, an outstanding Venezuelan photographer, who has spend these past weeks days in the quiet but valuable task of interviewing people who have experienced the horrible repression occurred during protests. His work was originally published in Prodavinci. (if you speak Spanish and want thoughtful, accurate analysis and testimonial of the Venezuelan situation, this is the place to go). I have received Roberto Mata' authorization to translate and publish his work in this space.
19. “It does not hurt when you are being shot. It burns. It makes you angry”, Antonio
|Antonio, 30. Law student and public service worker. Photo by Roberto Mata|
The group of the Mérida Police; broke in two parts to allow the entrance of the ten members of the colectivos (civil militias). The sound changed: from pellets to gunshots.
At night, A man out of ten, with the police backing him up, pointed and shot six time with a 9mm gun to Antonio’ body. The cabin of a public telephone was in the middle so the first three shots got in the cabin, saving his face and chest. The other shots came in and out of both of his legs. “It does not hurt when you are being shot. It burns. It makes you angry”.
The armed man did their job. Foot, calf and very near of the femur. It was three gunshots, a lot of blood, six holes. Antonio was helped in a nearby building, until he made it to the ambulance that would take him to the Medical Center at ULA (Los Andes University).
In the moment the ammunitions are over and National Guards are waiting for supplies, protesters start attacking the police. Antonio throws stones but his arm is not long enough to make them reach their goal. Most of them fall in the middle. That is why he prefers to protest using banners.
On February 12th, in front of the Chinese market “Yuan Lin” located at “Las Américas” Avenue (Mérida city), protesters where winning the match. So the National Guard required the Colectivos (Militias) to step over.
- Antonio, are you violent?
- Only in my thoughts…
Antonio assures that the barricades are being built to protect theirselves of the Colectivos.
Outside the conflict, Antonio’ work consists on regulates informal business in the city center. He does this part time. The rest of his days consist on “college life”, a life that is also part of the Colectivos.
1152 Kilometers separate Puerto Ordaz, birth city of Antonio; from Merida. One day he decided he would not pay 50.000 Bs., for a spot at the public university UDO (Universidad de Oriente). He also decided to take an admission test at the Los Andes University (ULA). He did a 28- hour long bus trip. When he was admitted, he rented a room with a shared bathroom.
Antonio is going to Law School. Paradoxically, he does not believe on denouncing his three gun wounds because if the police let the Colectivos act and the same Colectivos shot him, “what justice I can expect?
He says this and then, he remains silent.
20. “I was imprisoned. I still tremble when I think about it”, Francesca Commisari,
April 2nd, 2014
|Francesca, 35. Photojournalist. Picture by Roberto Mata|
“I was imprisoned. I still tremble when I think about it”
Even though she feels she reacted well when she had no other choice but to turn herself over, everything that she knew went through her mind: repression, Colectivos, detentions, tortures, murders. All that in just one second.
Francesca, Italian- born, was carried by two National Guards after being taken out of a large plant pot in front of the Británica Tower (near Altamira, East of Caracas) where she was hidding on February, 28th. Once she was located, the National Guards shot pellets to the floor, about half a meter from her.
Francesca felt the effects like one starts awakening of the effects of the anesthesia. She saw how her body was trembling but she did not felt it.
She resisted for as long as she could. Then she dropped her camera bag. Francesca is a photographer.
“If this were the Fourth Republic*, you all would be dead by now”, the National Guards said over and over again to the forty one people detained that night.
The interrogatory began on the same night of the detention and continued until the next day. The same questions, no scales: Who are you? What do you do for a living? Where do you live? Spell your name!”
Being a foreigner allowed her to move as photographer with certain tranquility until Chavez died. From that moment everything changed. She started feeling with more rigor limitations to the press. She felt the blocking (of the press).
- What does your photographic work reveal?
- That there are a lot of people unhappy who are organizing in a pacific way and there are also less pacific people. That there is a strong response of the public order forces and even more, from those who are not public order forces.
Francesca house’ keys, a card reader, a thousand Bolívares, a new box of Lucky Strike cigarettes and all her photographic equipment, are now in possession of the National Guard. However, (to her surprise), her camera was put on sale on an online site.
The 36 hours that she spent detained with only two meals, the same clothes and an immense desire of making photographs of what she had just lived, do not come out of her head. The Italian Consul warned her about the possibility of being deported.
Francesca wants to leave Venezuela when she wants to, not because she is forced to.
* The democratic period in Venezuelan history ranging from 1958 till 1998 is often refered to as the "Fourth Republic". Mr. Chavez' movement and political party in its early years was called "The Fifth Republic".