Venezuelan Anarchist framed, detained and tortured by Maduro’s police
From Sharp and Pointed (translated from the original in Spanish)
(We received this a few days ago from our Venezuelan comrades connected with El Libertario. It begins with a note from our compañeros/as announcing a series of pieces on the current rebellion and repression — arrests, beatings, and torture — of anarchist and other protesters by the “leftist” Maduro regime, and expressing thanks to those who spread this information.
The images interspersed below showing the aftermath of the beatings are pretty large. Please scroll past them to continue reading the interview.)
Beginning on April 4, 2017, a popular rebellion has been developing against the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. We’ll shortly be sending out a series of interviews with compañeros/as who have been detained and tortured for protesting. We appreciate the translation and dissemination of these interviews in other languages.
Anonymous Rebel: “Organize in whatever way you want, with whomever you want, but don’t be complicit.”
In the first days of July, in the city of Maracaibo in the state of Zulia, an anarchist comrade was arrested by the Bolivarian [federal] National Police (PNB) with the complicity of officials attached to the public transportation system of that city. In order to protect him from physical retaliation, we’re using the pseudonym “Anonymous
We spoke with him after he was released from the detention site. He’s currently well, but he was beaten during both his arrest and imprisonment and is under an order to present himself to the police once a week. In good spirits, he spoke with us about how the popular rebellion is progressing.
Can you comment on how you were arrested and if you were tortured?
In the area where I live, the people have been protesting, and I’ve always been participating in these peaceful protests with everyday people such as medics, hairdressers, people distributing free food, everyone from kids to old people.
Everything was going fine until a group of about 30 people, some in the uniform of the Metro [public transit system], poured out of the Metro station to intimidate us. They shot at us and hurled rocks at us, and we went running, with them coming after us, accompanied by the Bolivarian National Police, throwing rocks at houses, apartment buildings, and vehicles.
My arrest was a set-up because [we had stopped] to tell a regional policeman that we weren’t shooting and that it was those who had come out of the metro with rocks in one hand and a pistol in the other.
Then to our surprise, we were attacked from behind by the PNB, in what quickly took on the appearance of a battlefield, with tear gas all over the place. We ran, but the PNB on motorcycles tried to corner me two or three times, until they finally got me and arrested me for carrying a bag. They got me down on the ground and battered me with their shields. [Translator’s note: This appears to be a standard tactic with the PNB. They beat their victims to the ground and then slam down the bottoms of their heavy plastic shields on their bodies.] Then, giving us some kicks, they threw me and some other people into a paddywagon.
Later my compañera and another arrested woman arrived, and they took us to the command post of the Guardia at 7:00 pm, where they produced planted evidence to incriminate us: Molotov cocktails, a bag with sharp wire spikes protruding, and the helmets she and I had been wearing. They let my compañera go in the early morning hours, the other woman later in the morning, and they detained me [and other male protesters].
They never read us our rights, and it was until days later that they allowed me a call, which I didn’t make myself, but rather a guard called my family telling them to bring me clothing while I was detained.
Were you in a cell with other detainees? How were the conditions?
They didn’t put us in a cell, because the jail in that command post was full. There were 40 other people there on various charges besides the protesters, so they put us on the patio and handcuffed us. At 5:00 am they woke us so we could shower. I should mention that I didn’t sleep the entire night, because of the anxiety and helplessness I felt. Five minutes to shower on a patio where there was only a hole in the ground in which to piss and shit.
At this time, an anti-mutiny squad arrived, and four of them, while we were showering, began striking us on our legs, butts, and backs, saying, “These damn anti-Chavistas, we should leave them in a ditch. I don’t know why they brought them here.”
There were two kids of 14 and another aged 17, who they also beat, one of whom, one of the 14-year-olds, when he was arrested they threw to the ground, along with other protestors, and threw the powder or crystals from their tear gas bombs directly on them and then threw water so that the chemicals would penetrate, causing allergic reactions and skin damage.
During the five days I was detained, which I passed under the sun on the patio, they only allowed us to use the toilet facilities [the hole in the ground] twice a day no matter when we ate. Our families could bring us food, but I learned after I was released that the guards had stolen one lunch and dinner my family brought for me.
Here I should thank the Centro de Atención Manos Solidarias along with the everyday people who donated to the imprisoned protesters. I had enough food, but the detainees whose families didn’t supply any benefited greatly from the aid of this social center. We were very grateful for the aid.
How did your detention affect your family and other loved ones?
My mother is 65 years old and disabled, and is in delicate health, but she was strong and was there every day. I thought a lot about her health, but my compañera is the best, and took good care of her. It’s in these moments when one realizes who your true friends and comrades are. Many of the neighborhood people supported us, some monetarily, and some with food and transport. We’re very grateful for their solidarity!
How is life in Maracaibo?
Maracaibo is a difficult city [in which to live], perhaps because the heat makes us so irritable. There’s a very noticeable discontent. The quality of life grows worse with every passing day, as everyone notices. The stereotype of the Maracaiboan is of someone paunchy, but there are [now] many skinny people who are going without necessities.
People have been protesting here since 2015. There is no apathy [in the political sense].
Why do you protest? What impels you to participate in this militant form of popular mobilization?
I’ve been protesting for several years, always anonymously. I don’t like being out front, and I don’t want any praise for doing it; I do it because I’m fed up with the situation, tired of dealing with screwed-up situation after screwed-up situation just to make enough money to buy food day after day. I’m tired of living in a militarist country where we pay taxes to feed those who treat us so badly.
I have my point of view about the protests I go to. We can’t talk about anarchism there and the people aren’t interested in it, the true rebels who put their bodies behind a placard. The majority that I’ve seen only want to get rid of this government, and it doesn’t matter to them what comes after. They only want to get rid of this band of the inept and corrupt. There’s a lot of solidarity in the protests; we’re all equal, brothers and sisters in the struggle.
Is it worth the trouble.
It’s always worth the trouble to fight for your rights, as it always should be; our discontent should be open and should be clear — we can’t remain paralyzed with fear; it’s necessary to overcome it.
Do you think that after 100 days we’re experiencing a popular rebellion?
Today, July 10, 2017, I think that each day we’re coming closer to a popular rebellion, in that every day the people become less attached to MUD [the opposition coalition] and any political party. They’re fed up with MUD. Today I can say that thanks to this government there’s a rebellious youth, with experience in the street and that, whatever government we’re saddled with, they’re prepared and ready to defend our rights and liberties.
What do you think of the cliche that we shouldn’t support the protests because they benefit the right?
That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen and heard. I don’t got out to play games with the MUD, who go out to protests and ask the people who resist which party they belong to. Every day people become less and less tied to the political parties.
How do you see the silence of many overseas anarchists about what’s happening in Venezuela?
In the end, I’ve felt with respect to the great majority of such “anarchists” who whine on social networks and say that they won’t come out [and say anything] because there are groups like the National Rebirth [Renacer Nacional] that are fascist, that are political manipulators. But that’s no reason to remain silent.
It’s necessary to fight for our ideals. It doesn’t matter who’s out there. We need to organize however you want, with whomever you want. But don’t be complicit! Don’t be critical of everything! Don’t be “anarcho” window dressing. Enough with indifference. When you see your brothers and sisters falling, it’s time to fight.
What should be the posture of anarchists in regard to the future?
It’s time that anarchists get in tune with history, get out on the streets to struggle against militarism, against hunger, against corruption, against the injustices they rail against in fanzines, songs, and the poetic fusillades of intellectuals. It’s time that Venezuelan anarchists take to the streets with a clear message and unite with the resistance.
I also hope for the creation of a serious bloc of anarchists that could become the Anarchist Network, that in truth would not consist of fanzines or music of one band or another. NO. One can’t believe in true anarchist fronts or movements advancing the struggle. It’s necessary to become involved in the barrios, the community councils, in one’s community. It’s necessary for all to say that in this moment, in this totally divided country, that’s broken into two pieces, if not many more, that we ought to take advantage of this space to say who we are and for what we struggle.