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sábado, mayo 28, 2005

Terrorists, prisoners and PDVSA

On a bright and windy morning tens of thousands of Venezuelans gathered in Caracas, in Parque del Este and Petare, in a joint march for two causes: to support the national oil company PDVSA, and to demand the extradition of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.

A few blocks away in Plaza Francia of Altamira, thousands of opposition supporters also gathered to march against Chavez under the banner of freedom for political prisoners.

Following are photos from both marches.

This banner translates a declaration that Bush made, and now conveniently seems to have forgotten: “Whoever harbors a terrorist is a terrorist.” Beneath it proclaims “No to Yankee terrorism.”

More demands for Posada’s extradition.

“The indigenous people, here with our brother Hugo Chávez Frias”. A number of women in traditional dress marched with these banners.

Interspersed with chants and declarations, a band played lively music from the stage. Lots of tunes by beloved Venezuelan folksinger Ali Primera.

Groups declaring their support for PDVSA, the state oil company, and for its director Rafael Ramirez

The revolutionary librarians, complete with truck and sound system.

The Bolivarian Force of Taxi Drivers, also demanding Posada’s extradition.

Getting ready to march

The rat represents Bush, I believe...

A number of banners reading “Reject terrorism. Defend the new PDVSA! Venezuela must be respected!” had been hung on the lampposts along San Francisco de Miranda, the route of both marches -- even near Altamira, the heart of opposition territory. I saw one that had been torn down.

The second protest had gathered in Altamira’s Plaza Francia, a long-established location for anti-Chavez protests. Off to one side of the opposition concentration, a small crowd watched an argument between a Chavista and an oppositionist. They weren’t fighting or physically threatening one another at all, in fact the tone was fairly civil, but perhaps a dozen police and as many civilians were gathered around watching. Guess they were bored.

About half an hour later the opposition march got going, with much blowing of whistles and chanting “No tenemos miedo” (we are not afraid), proceeding down major thoroughfare Avenida Francisco de Miranda. I had fallen in with a middle-aged woman who upon discovering that I was a foreigner, was eager to guide me and explain her views on the political situation.

Among other tidbits, she told me that Chavistas wear red -- red, the color of the devil – and gestured with her fingers to indicate horns. (Actually there is one leftist political party, Bandera Roja or Red Flag, that has gone over to the opposition but still carries its traditional red flags in marches.)

This is a dictatorship, she told me, as we marched down the street in a crowd of people waving signs and chanting against the President. "Chavez is a dictator. He wants to take us all back to the time of slavery, wants to make us all slaves like in Cuba."

Many people were carrying printed signs with the names and photos of several different men, all declared "political prisoners" or the victims of "political persecution". My companion was holding two, one identified as General Poggioli and other that I didn’t catch. When I asked who they were and why they were being held prisoner, he only answer was, "Because Chávez is an assassin." She couldn't tell me, didn’t know, any more than that. I did see a few with a name and face I recognized, that of Carlos Ortega [link].

Another very common sign shows prison bars and a pair of hands reaching out with the phrase “Las rejas no callarán la verdad”: prison bars will not silence the truth. Some people also wore stickers with a “no” sign over a drawing of a rifle, saying “No a la compra de armas, Sí a una vivienda digna” (No to arms purchases, yes to dignified housing) – a sentiment with which I can sympathize. However, I wonder if they were equally opposed to the arms purchases made by all the previous regimes.

Opposition marchers with a U.S. flag.

We passed by a gathering of Chavistas on the sidewalk, presumably waiting for the other march, and there was some heckling back and forth. But an impressive brigade of police and emergency vehicles had been brought out to keep distance between the two marches, ensuring that the Chavista march proper (which started further east and thus were the second march) wouldn’t run into the oppositionists.

The end of the march.

About ten blocks from the tail of the opposition march...
“The Chavistas are coming! The Chavistas are coming!”

A group of Chavista motorcyclists led the whole thing off

And here they come, with the hot sun shining off their banners.

“The Bolivarian Revolution is a revolution of love”

“We demand the extradition of the terrorist Posada
CIA agent, refugee from justice
Murderer and torturer of Venezuelan revolutionaries
No to impunity!”

“Workers against imperialist meddling”; these are more folks from the National Library

A final message in graffiti

As I walked away from the march, the voices and music followed me, and I could still faintly hear the chanting from my apartment room three blocks away.

Wow, great post with all the pictures!
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