C&B Notes

Venezuela Torn in Two

In late July, a special election is set to take place in Venezuela that will install lawmakers sympathetic to Nicolás Maduro.  This “constituent assembly” will then soon start rewriting the country’s constitution to further entrench the current regime.  The popular outcry against Maduro and the horrible direction that the chavista movement has taken the country remain immense. This story describes the brutal conundrums facing Venezuelans.

When Ana, a five-year veteran of the national police, finishes her night shift patrolling this city’s dangerous slums, she often arrives home only to pick up her riot gear and head out again to confront rollicking protests against Venezuela’s embattled government. On those front lines, she and her colleagues use tear gas and rubber bullets against increasingly desperate protesters armed with stones, Molotov cocktails and even bags of feces.  The showdowns take place in scorching heat, and she says the authorities provide her with no food, water or overtime pay.  Ana, who along with others cited in this article asked that her last name not be used for fear of official retribution, is one of about 100,000 Venezuelan security officers, mostly in their 20s, shielding the government of increasingly unpopular President Nicolás Maduro from escalating unrest.

She and many of her exhausted colleagues say they are wavering as protests enter a seventh week with no end in sight. “One day I will step aside and just walk away, blend into the city,” she said. “No average officers support this government anymore.”  The security forces’ once fierce loyalty to Mr. Maduro’s charismatic predecessor Hugo Chávez has largely given way to demoralization, exhaustion and apathy amid an economic collapse and endless protests, said eight security officers from different forces and locations in interviews with The Wall Street Journal.  Most of them say they want only to earn a steady wage amid crippling food shortages and a decimated private sector.  Others say fear of a court-martial keeps them in line.  “We’re just trying to survive,” said Caracas police officer Viviane, a single mother who says she shows up for protest duty so she can feed her 1-year-old son.  “I would love to quit but there are no other jobs.”

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