Protests Rocked the Nation

Over the past year there has been unrest throughout Venezuela and it has hit worldwide headlines. Every time I start trying to write about it I hit a road block. It is difficult to express something that is so foreign and new to me. The one thing nothing could have prepared me for before moving abroad would be the rapid growth of inflation and political unrest. Things are continuing to get worse but for the moment protests have calmed down. Here are some of my experiences with the protest near my home.

During the onset of the protests I moved from a relatively small town to a much larger college town. I went from few dozen people out in the streets with signs, flags, and candles to hundreds of people closing down major roads, armed with molotov cocktails and burning cars staring down police and military in full riot gear. And this was just a fraction of what was happening in much larger cities like Caracas.

My first encounter  with the larger protests was in the early evening when a large group of about 1000 people  stood in the middle of a busy intersection. These people were something demonstrating similar to occupy wall-street. They were waving flags, dressed in white shirts, chanting, and singing. As the weeks went on the protests moved closer to home. One evening they cut off street access to my neighborhood while I was away from home. Not being able to get a taxi to my home my friend and I began the hour walk back not thinking much of the protest. As we got closer to the crowed gathering we could see that the road was blocked by a burning car and people were standing around banging their pots and pans yelling at the police across the street. Nothing was violent at this point but tension was building. As more people were showing up to protest we decided it was time to leave.

Over the next few weeks my neighborhood became protest central. The police station near my apartment was burnt down and protesters were getting more violent. I kept a close eye on Twitter because this was the only way to tell if the roads were clear of protesters. The national news channels showed nothing of the protests going on around the country. It was my first taste of living in a country where so much of the media is strictly controlled.

When I thought things had calmed down I once again got caught at the very beginning of a protest. The opposition had just closed off the road to traffic as we were heading home from the mall. I figured it was still light outside and they was several people still clearing out the area so I decided to walk through it and that I should be safe. As I walked past the protesters setting up to face off against police I saw oil thrown across the road ready to be set on fire, molotov cocktails being set up ready to be thrown, and small rocks set up to throw. There were people like me who were trying to get out of the area quickly and other people sitting on roof tops ready to watch the spectacle from a safe distance. The most tense moment was when a motorcycle came through and all the protesters were yelling "Activo" ready to attack the guy on the motorcycle if he proved to be threat. When guys caring guns are known for riding on motorcycles you get pretty nervous when they drive up next to you. At this point I was thinking it was a bad idea to walk through but luckily this guy on the motorcycle was just trying to get past the protesters and no one did anything stupid.

Since then things have seemed to calm down but it is still tense. Every day there are new reports on the internet of arrests and deaths or kids or the elderly getting caught in crossfire. Roads are still being blocked, tires being burned and people being shot at. The news channels here show nothing of any unrest happening. Instead it is a constant bombardment piece rallies held by the government showing dancing and music and all the happy people dressed in red shirts and life goes on.