|Laura Solórzano, 27. With a degree in Philosophy. Photo by Roberto Mata originally published by Prodavinci|
“Once the number of those arrested reaches ten, the detained lose their names. They are just a number. You must put up an emotional shield. Your emotions can be distracting.”
Laura's friend was arrested on Wednesday, February 12th. Using Twitter, she immediately began to search for him and others who have been arrested. Since beginning her search, Laura found 644 people who have been detained throughout Venezuela. Only half of them have been released.
Many families, desperate to find their lost relatives, gave Laura names, identification numbers, and descriptions of what their sons and daughters were last seen wearing.
In the first two days Laura only slept three hours. She quickly collected 350 names of people arrested during protests which have befallen Caracas in recent weeks. Laura felt responsible for each person. They were like her, 350 young people who wanted change, 350 people weren't ready to abandon their country. Laura wanted to find them and to help relieve their family's anguish.
This isn't the first time Laura has helped track those detained during Venezuela's protests. In 2007, during a protest at UCAB (Catholic University in Caracas), Laura made her first list. Four students. She kept their names on a Post-It note. Now she uses a notebook and pass all the information to a colleague, who keeps the data in an Excel sheet. Name. Last name. Date. Detention place. Transfer place. Date of presentation in court. Status. Release date. Dates of imprisonment. Extenuating circumstances. Sources. Names written in blue have been released. Names written in other colors have not.
Laura shares her Twitter login with three other people. If she is at the streets, without Internet connection and needs a new information, she sends a text message to a friend who will publish her tweet. She confirms and reconfirms. She is terrified of publishing wrong data. By publicizing the name of someone detained, she raises the profile of that person making it more difficult for mistreatment at the hands of the authorities. Laura believes in that. The “thank you” of a mother for finding her son is the fuel that keeps her going.
Laura took a short break on Sunday. She needed to sleep. She watched a movie. She picked This is The End.
10. “I am going home. I am not protesting”; Alejandro Herrera
By Roberto Mata (If you know Spanish, read the original material at Prodavinci: http://prodavinci.com/blogs/yo-me-voy-a-mi-casa-no-estoy-protestando-alejandro-herrera-por-roberto-mata/)
Alejandro Herrera, 25. Photo by Roberto Mata originally published in Prodavinci
Alejandro was upset when the paramedics cut away his pants after he was shot in the leg. He wears a size 31. You can't find it easily in stores.
He was blasted with a shotgun while driving his motorcycle. It was an accident, he explains.
Doctors removed more than twenty pellets and the wadding from the shell which also pierced his leg. They cut a ten centimeter incision during surgery, stitched him back together, and sent him home.
Alejandro is sympathetic with his shooter. Many of the young men and women who make up the National Police have not slept in days. They are dressed in thick riot gear and left to stand in the heat for hours at a time. They receive very basic instructions and, at some point, undoubtedly fail to appreciate the dire consequences of using their weapon. They have been pelted with stones for hours and, as Alejandro explains, those are the moments when “accidents” happen.
He doesn't like to imagine what his life may be like in Venezuela in five years. This is why he protests. “Last time I went to a demonstration was in 2007. We were protesting for free speech. Now I do it for my future. I want to be independent, to develop professionally. I do not want to live in my parents’ house forever”.
Alejandro was shot at close range. He lost his motorcycle as the police helped carry him to the paramedics. He may lose mobility in his ankle. The muscle he lost will not recover. He will be on crutches for two months, then therapy and recuperation. He has cramps. The wound itches and burns.
He keeps himself informed of everything that is going on through social networks. He tries not to feel depressed.Alejandro will keep standing. Only now on crutches. Just like the country.
lunes, 3 de marzo de 2014
miércoles, 26 de febrero de 2014
|José Villegas, 21. Student of Management. Photo by Roberto Mata originally published Prodavinci|
On Wednesday, February 12th, Jose did not go to the march (demonstrations), he did not felt called. He attended on his regular schedule to his classes of Macroeconomics and Math. But at night, everything changed. “To find out via social networks that other students were putting their chests for me and for every Venezuelan made me go out, join, show my face”.
Since then, he has been going to the protests for a week. He has not come back to class. He has slept little and ate worse. Even so, he is not tired. “My backpack has water, vinegar, a rag, Maalox (antacid). I feel like a Red Cross member, my role is to help”.
José helps, succors, assists.
“I have a responsibility with the country. If I do not go out, me, that I am young and I have the strength and the adrenaline, then study for what? Since I was six years old, the only government I have known is this one. I do not know any other, but I know this is not the right (thing)”
In all the demonstrations, the offer without demand is “gas del bueno”*. José returns the tear gas bombs or put it inside buckets filled with water, to neutralize them. He can breathe the gas for up to 55 minutes. Then he goes to the rearguard.
He does not know if the expired tear gas (April, 2013) that he assures it is being used against this protests, has caused him any extraordinary effect. It is an unprecedent experience. He cannot compare.
He has witnessed National Guards with tears in the eyes, after hearing students proposals, face to face. He understands that they (the National Guards) receive orders but he also recognizes that not all of them cry, no matter what the banners say.
Every time Jose goes to a march (demonstrations) he calls his parents who live in Maturín and Ciudad Bolívar. He lets them know, notifies them. From inside the country, their parents beg him not to go.
TEAR GAS: Warning: it is dangerous to use it after its validity date. MANUFACTURED: APRIL/2008, VALID UNTIL APRIL 2013. (Text taken from the cartridge of the tear gas bomb, that was collected by José in Chacao, on February 16th, 2014).
*On a televised speech back in 2009, former president Hugo Chávez threatened demonstrators with dispersing them with a lot of gas, “the good gas”, “gas del bueno” – he said. Since then, the expression “gas del bueno” is commonly used among protesters to describe these events.
8. “I would do it again, but with a bulletproof vest”; Fabián Schwaiger
By Roberto Mata (If you know Spanish, read the original material at Prodavinci: http://prodavinci.com/blogs/volveria-a-hacerlo-pero-con-chaleco-antibalas-fabian-schwaiger-por-roberto-mata/)
|Fabián Schweiger, 26. Computer Science licenciado. Photo by Roberto Mata originally published in Prodavinci|
After seeing how the National Guard caught two photographers, he did not wanted to be the third one. He put down his camera and ran. He felt the heat of the shot in his body.
His great-grandfather, in Hungary, was photographer. His grandfather, who came to Venezuela running away from the Nazis first and communism, after; was the personal photographer of Marcos Pérez Jiménez (Venezuelan president 1952-1958) in the 50’s. His father did aerial photography for the now extinct Ministry of Agriculture and Breeding.
Fabián is not a photographer. Even though he does and knows very well how to make everything related to photography of conflict, he is just trying to register what is going on in the country.
"Turn him in! Turn him in!” – The National Guard screamed to the neighbors who helped him while he was leaving blood all over the entrance of a building of Chacao (east of Caracas).
They never demanded the pictures, they wanted him.
The neighbors resisted, they did not handed him over. Gauze and alcohol.
That same Wednesday, the 12th of February but earlier in the day, Fabián was in Parque Carabobo (downtown Caracas). He photographed the blazes of the shotguns, the shootings of automatic weapons, the moment when the body of Bassil was taken out. He photograph the horror lived there.
When they screamed that would shoot against the gray sweater –guy, his sweater decided to go away. He does not have many friends in Facebook, the place where he published his pictures. He feels the responsibility of making sure the pictures get to a place where they serve as proof of what happened.
Fabián arrived wounded to Salud Chacao (municipal hospital), driving his own motorcycle. Once he was cured, he allowed himself to pass out.
- Would you do it again, Fabián?
- Yes, but with a bulletproof vest.
The bill for the medical exams was over Bs. 20,000*.
Fabián does not have medical insurance.
*Translator note: It is hard to come with an equivalent in Dollars of how Fabián' medical expenses given Venezuelan very complicated control exchange system. It is suffice to say, for the sake of giving readers an idea of the financial burden this mean, that 20,000 Bolívares is a lot of money for an average Venezuelan: about six or seven times the minimum wage.
martes, 25 de febrero de 2014
|María Gabriela, Photo by Roberto Mata originally published in Prodavinci|
domingo, 23 de febrero de 2014
1. Some People Are Still Not Getting it (Or The Same Old Plea)
|Students remember Bassil Dacosta, shot in the head by police forces on February 12th|
(Security cameras video footage from those events available here: http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140223/las-balas-del-12f, for those who have stomach to see it)
Protests keep erupting all over the country. Caracas Chronicles for example, has a testimonial piece today about protests in Barquisimeto (Lara state). Similar events are happening in Puerto Ordaz (Bolívar state), Mérida (Mérida), Valencia (Carabobo)...virtually every major and not so major city has seen a protest in this month, and they all have suffered its share of violence and repression.
I have been busy translating another share of testimonials of people interviewed and photographed by famous Venezuelan photographer Roberto Mata. His work include stories from people being shot, imprisoned, relatives of those dead, victims of hate crimes and journalists beaten. Read the first two stories here, and the next two here. Expect two more tomorrow.
Opposition march in Caracas yesterday, taken from the air.
The strongest sentence? "Nicolás is a mistake in our history, and if we do not build history from here, that mistake can last for longer than you want it to last". Capriles has maintained consistent views since this whole uprising started: claiming for moderation and a sense of direction in protests. Even those like me, who were not agree with the protests to begin with (I personally disliked the lack of direction and was not sure about timing) know for certain that this will not stop any time soon, and we do not want to anymore, because attention must be called on the horrible repression the government is giving. I trust this as a good sign in order start organizing the protests, with peaceful methods and clear motives and demands.
The concern about connecting the protests with those who are not yet convinced is even more valid: half the country still either supports Maduro or does not see the opposition as a valid alternative yet.
4. A Not-so-Peaceful Government Response
Do not take me wrong, I am trilled about the dialogue attempt. There has to be a way to stop this death toll we are witnessing, but I am not optimistic either. I guess we will just wait and see how this turns out.
5. Last Thoughts for Today
This video does not have dialogue nor does it shows any violence. It is a beautiful work showing faces of demonstrators in Venezuela.
PS: I was invited to contribute with a post at http://halfglassofwater.com/. My piece, titled "February of Horrors in Venezuela" can be read here.
sábado, 22 de febrero de 2014
|Czeslaw, 23, Student of International Studies - Photo by Roberto Mata originally published in Prodavinci|
|Angel. Photo by Roberto Mata originally published in Prodavinci|