27F, from East to West

A specter that haunts our public sphere

A specter that haunts our public sphere

Two articles, both published by Prodavinci (in Spanish), are the best thing I’ve read lately on the Caracazo.

The first, by Mayé Primera, tells the story of Hilda Páez, whose son Richard was killed by a soldier’s stray bullet. Páez lived with her family in a shack in Petare, in the East of Caracas. Primera tells her story, as well as what happened at the morgue. She talks of bodies dumped in mass graves, and of the legal proceedings to bring the Venezuelan State to justice. The money quote:

En 2009, la Fiscalía General de la República anunció su voluntad de continuar con las investigaciones: promovió nuevas exhumaciones en los nichos de La Peste y los restos fueron trasladados a las instalaciones militares de Fuerte Tiuna para su estudio. Pero se les niega a los familiares de las víctimas la posibilidad de revisar los expedientes de sus casos. Tampoco se les permite que expertos internacionales de su confianza participen en la investigación. La nueva política oficial consiste en que los soldados y los comandantes que actuaron en 1989, que son los generales del nuevo milenio, determinen “la verdad” de lo que ocurrió entonces.

The second is Willy McKey’s personal account of the 27F from his home in Catia, in Western Caracas, the other end of the city. McKey was nine at the time, and his tale reads like an awakening for an entire generation. Although my 27F was way different than his, I was still moved by his account. The money quote:

Más que un balcón, el ventanal del Tamarindo se convirtió en una pantalla en tiempo real donde mi familia y los amigos cercanos vimos la historia con la distancia necesaria para sentirnos a salvo de las balas…

Pero nada nos resguardaba de los hechos. Tampoco lo hacen las pantallas de ahora. Los errores de la memoria leudan justo cuando se distancian. Y una manera de alejarse de ellos es dejar que se conviertan en otra cosa, en un espejismo, en un acuerdo, en un truco.

As another anniversary comes and goes, the Caracazo is far from a memory. Twenty four years have passed, and we’re still stuck in the same day.

18 thoughts on “27F, from East to West

  1. My memories from that day are very vivid. Personally, I understood those events would thwart my dream of a professional career in Venezuela. I recall the blood on the streets, the pillaging, and the sheer ineptitude of CAP and his leadership.

    The seeds of Chavez’s electoral success, even the middle class supporting him, were sown on that day.


  2. I was 21 years old those days, just arriving to Caracas from Maracay to carry out some research for my undergrad thesis, and I remember the mobs forcing their entry into several sport and electronic stores in La Candelaria (supermarkets were initially spared, though).

    I vividly remember a woman coming out with a TV from one of those stores, and then a man hit her and robed her the stolen TV. The women, lying on the street and bleeding, sobbed and cursed him.

    I also remember a very fine but small sports store there, completely destroyed and on fire. The owner was never able to recover from this loss and years after that, the ugly, dark hole on the front of the building remained.

    And a few days after that, when on the bus back to Maracay, I could see the holes of heavy machine gun bullets on the walls of Coche and El Valle family buildings.

    Those days, as never before or after, I was ashamed of being Venezuelan.


  3. You surprise me sometimes, then you won’t mind if some those who were in control pay the price say like some jail time. Past and present.

    We are stuck in the same day because of the economics in Venezuela, the US and worldwide. In fact we are just starting our spiral here in the states big time.We were able to last so long because we live off the backs of the world and power and might but those days are ending.

    Death to capitalism, forward to real socialism.

    Rojo Rojito


    The Venezuelan opposition and the Caracazo http://www. sabinabecker.com/2013/02/the-ve nezuelan-opposition-and-the-caracazo.html …


    • Cort Greene:

      Why the surprise?. Does having an anti-Chavez position mean supporting criminals?.

      No, I don’t support criminals:

      – I don’t support the stolen TV woman, the man that hit and robbed her, nor the guys that destroyed the sport store. They are all thieves. They should have served jail time, and they won’t serve it.

      – I don’t support the policemen and soldiers and officers that, taking advantage of the suspension of the constitutional guarantees, fired indiscriminately against areas where innocent people were living. They will claim that snipers were firing at them, and in some isolated cases that was true, but such type of firing is a crime. They will claim that they were following orders, but most of their superiors are already dead, and those soldiers and officers are now comfortably installed in the Chavista government. They should have served jail time, and they won’t serve it.

      – I don’t support the policemen that went into the barrios and, taking advantage of the suspension of the constitutional guarantees, executed criminals. Extra-judiciary killings are crimes. But they have already destroyed all evidence and are covering up each other. They should have served jail time, and they won’t serve it.

      27-F is no date to celebrate: It is the day when huge numbers of Venezuelans from all social classes behaved like rabid beasts, and very few of them will ever pay for their crimes.

      But the most troubling thing is that, looking back, the issues that sparked the 27-F are peanuts comparing with the current unsolved problems left by the Chavista government. Chavez have set the table for something much, much more bloody…

      But he will die soon. He should have served jail time, and he won’t serve it.


  4. I was 25 years old back then and I have many memories from that day.
    I remember CAP announcing the new measures on TV, including the price of gas, and just few days after (or the next day?) people waking up to go to work and finding out that the bus tickets went up drastically, without any kind of warning from the sector/union. They got angry and protests started to escalate in Guarenas and La Guaira.
    Those protests quickly turned into a bigger, angry mob, thirsty of revenge of those abusers, and it was when the crazy looting started everywhere. At that point they were not protesting for “their rights” or even because of the paquete, they were robbing and stealing and creating a huge chaos all over the city.
    The confusion about this chaos was tremendous. People that were at work didn’t know what to do, if they should go back home, or what. At the end of the day, CAP announced the suspension of warranties – at the time I really had no idea what that meant – and called for a curfew at 6 pm.
    The following days were still very confusing and uncertain of what was going to happen.
    The chavistas are trying to make this day as of the “awakening of the people”, which it was not, unless you think that looting and stealing from others, without any reason or ideological purpose behind, just for the sake of taking advantage of the chaos, is a good thing.


    • This is so right. My thoughts exactly especially your final paragraph. Greed and weakness: the angry mob was also stirred up and encouraged by militants.
      This was the day that Venezuela’s future failure was writ large.


  5. I think it was Cabrujas who pointed out that the rioters did not look angry or hungry but rather like ebullient school kids given leave to enjoy themselves in wild pranks and whimsical mischief . In pre democratic Venezuela every time there was a violent change in government people would joyfully loot the fallen gubernamental bigwigs homes and other buildings with cheerful abandon , also when a natural disaster ocurrs ( as when the ‘deslave’ ocurred) , its as if they were waiting for a proper occassion to let loose their wild partying instincts with no fear of police repression . A colleage who lived in San Martin told me a strange story of a group of civilian coming in various cars to their street waiving guns and shouting for people in the building to come down and start protesting which led me to wonder whether the entire event had been popularly spontaneous. A lot of establishment politicians from CAP’s own party were unhappy with the reforms he was instituting as they hurt the patronage system and institutionalized looting they had been practicing for years. Certainly discontent was rife but much of its came from the vested interests (including labour Unions) that had had their run of the govments income with little hindrance .


      • Good article. 27F was not started “spontaneously”, but its continuation/expansion was spontaneous sacking/looting/burning. The Litoral deslave of 1999 produced real spontaneous looting, but was brutally quelled by the Chavista military, with many hundreds of bodies reputedly thrown into the sea (a tale never reported/told). Apparently, Leftist-inspired looting or killing of looters is OK in the New Left pantheon of dishonest Leftist intellectuals. The conditions for a modern-day Caracazo are much more prevalent today than in 27F; maybe it will be instigated by Leopoldo Lopez and the MUD (lol).


  6. Venezuelans put themselves down too much. This phenomenon is occurring in other cities with good social services (London, Paris) and even in cities with mediocre social services (still better than anything in Caracas) but with decade-long control of city administration by minorities (Chicago). What seems to be driving these riots (e.g. flash mobs involving thousands of young people that converge on a spot such as a shopping mall to cause havoc and rob or batter people and then disappear) is 1. frustration caused by unfulfilled desires (e.g. even boredom during the summer doldrums seems to be enough of a trigger), 2. a victim culture that justifies the perpetrators breaking the moral code and 3. a perception by the perpetrators that they can get away with anything under cover of numbers. The combination of 1, 2 and 3 is proving to be explosive. It has little to do with objective need or moral depravity of Venezuelans per se, and everything to do with human nature. Of course, 1 is ubiquitous, so one must zero in on 2. and 3. Venezuelan politicians have done quite a bit of “victimhood mongering” for political gain for decades to the point where one wonders what will happen in the future. Will political dominance by the victimized classes prove to be no longer enough, as in Chicago?


  7. LT: thank you for reminding us that what happens here often happens in many other places , that there is nothing wicked or peculiar in these social ocurrences . The thing that strikes me as maybe different (and which is the subject of a remark by Cabrujas) is the exhuberant spirit of free childish joy with which people looted and rioted , there wasnt so much anger as a spirit of play , of fun at being freed from rules and restrictions . Not everyone of course but lots who took it in a carnival spirit. .


  8. Oh, so, Cort Greene, you have so totally confirmed that you live in the comfortable country of the US, totally NOT living in Venezuela. Yet, you continue to rail against, disparage, contradict, not to mention, know nothing about, the opposition in VZ. Oh, yeah. You’re a credible source, for sure………..NOT!


  9. LT:

    1) Chicago city government is not minority-controlled. We had a minority mayor, but that was over 20 years ago. Under Daley the Younger (1989-2011) and Emanuel (2011-), whites run the city – though a lot of blacks and hispanics have a share of power. (The less important Cook County government has been headed by blacks since 1994.)

    2) there is a very great difference between the flash mobs in, say Chicago, and these new flash mobs in Venezuela.

    Chicago flash mobs consist of “minority” teens. Sometime they harass or assault non-minority pedestrians. When they attack stores, they steal luxury items: fashionable clothes and shoes, DVDs or CDs, cosmetics, or small electronics – whatever they can carry in their hands or pockets.

    These Venezuelan flash mobs are adults, and they steal groceries, including staples, in large quantities.


    • I still think Venezuela is not the exception regarding riots.

      Flash mobs used to be small affairs. Not any more. Now they involve hundreds of
      perpetrators, sometimes thousands, attacking malls, entire neighborhoods, large crowds congregating for holiday events in beaches and parks. And they take whatever is before them, including food, candy etc.

      See this:
      Louisiana Mall Evacuated After Flash Mob Gets Ugly (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

      Hundreds of black people rampaged through downtown Detroit Saturday night: Breaking things. Beating up people. Throwing chairs inside restaurants. Threatening. Fighting. Running. Much of it on video

      As to the politics of the cities where these flash mobs are occurring: there is no pattern.
      Some are run by whites, some by white-minority mixed administrations, and some by minorities. I thought Chicago was minority ruled, but Detroit is minority ruled and the flash mobs are growing there as well. Also in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Baton Rounge. There is no pattern, it has nothing to do with politics.

      That is why I think riots could occur in Caracas independently of who has political
      power in the city. What seems to matter more is whether the rioters believe they will face severe punishment for their behavior or just a slap on the wrist.

      Most participants in riots, any riot anywhere, are young people. You want to call them teens, well, I wouldn’t call a 6 foot 1 inch 200 pounder blocking the exit a teen.


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