freddy herrera

Protests and Lootings in Venezuela’s Popular Barrios: the View from Antímano

Yesman Utrera

The recent protests organized by the Venezuelan opposition have generated an unusual scenario in the lower income areas of Caracas. The so-called “Mother of all Marches” on April 19 brought with it a restless night of protests and riots in several areas of Caracas’s west side, an area that has been solidly pro-government until recently.

In Antímano, the neighborhood in which I have lived my whole life, the commotion began with an energetic “cacerolazo” (pot-banging protest) accompanied by yells and chants. “Out Maduro” (Fuera Maduro); “No more dictatorship” (No más dictadura). And this was only the beginning.

“Suddenly, it was as if the people were no longer afraid to step out to the street and protest. Before, it would have been crazy to do so in this part of the city. I was shocked when the people started to organize to block the street,” says Freddy Herrera, a 46 year-old street vendor in Santa Elena.

Residents of this and other lower income areas of Caracas, emboldened by the tumult and repression that they were subjected to during the opposition’s demonstration on Wednesday decided to block the main access routes to their neighborhoods by setting up improvised barricades of trash and lighting them on fire.

Freddy is right: a few years ago, it would have been impossible to see someone protesting in such an energetic way against the government in Antímano for two reasons. First because it is one of the areas where the socialist project of the late President Hugo Chavez had strong electoral support. Second, it is an area where radical groups of Chavista supporters known as “colectivos” live and operate.

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