Translation of Caracas, 15-F: Impressions from the street (Humberto Decarli, in El Libertario)

A lot of folks have been trying to follow what is going on in Venezuela; unfortunately, much of the discussion in U.S. radical Left and anti-war media has been heavily dependent on reports from government-controlled media, or limited to information from the English-language press; and commentary has been far too much dominated by simplistic binary narratives that present U.S.-supported politicos and the Bolivarian revolutionary government as the only alternatives. Over the next few days, I hope to translate and post some of the news and commentary being put out by Venezuelan anarchists. This article is a short commentary by Humberto Decarli, published in the Venezuelan anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. Because of the rapid development of events in Venezuela, you should be aware that I’m trying to produce these translations relatively quickly, and while I read Spanish fluently, what I’ve studied has usually been either Castilian or North American Spanish; so I’ve tried to consult friends who are native speakers from South America where I was unsure about what seemed to be idioms or local references peculiar to Venezuela. I apologize in advance for any mistakes or mangling of local idioms, which are of course solely my own responsibility. (If you notice any ambiguities or mistakes in the translation, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here.)

Caracas, 15-F: Impressions from the street

15-F, 9 p.m.: repression of the protesters in Plaza Altamira

Humberto Decarli

I was in the Plaza Altamira today, February 15, until about seven[1] thirty p.m. I observed that, it being a Saturday at that hour there were many students, youths and motorizados, from about the Hotel Caracas Pálace up to a quarter south of the Torre Británica in Altamira Sur. There was an atmosphere of combatividad but without organization. No flyers, few banners, few papers and hardly any agitation. The few chants were: “Este gobierno va a caer,” sung (“This government is going to fall”); “No me da la gana, es una dictadura igualita a la cubana” (“I don’t want it, it’s a dictatorship exactly like the one in Cuba”); “El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido” (“The people, united, will never be defeated”); “El pueblo, arrecho, reclama a sus derechos” (“The people, arising, are taking back their rights”) (these last have been around since my student days against the Acción Democrática / COPEI governments.)

They are students without experience in politics or the struggle in the streets but all the same they have come out to challenge the bullets of the government’s “tontons macoutes-C.D.R.”[2] The National Guard is ready to intervene and every second they are making feints to frighten the people that runs but also comes back. What also sticks out, interestingly, is the non-existence of manipulation by the political parties or national leaders, which is highly satisfying. Neither, fortunately, are there electoral slogans, because there’s no election-carnival this year. There is initiatve because folks feel indignation at the scarcity, shortages, inflation, insecurity and frightening repression exercised by the “patriotas de los colectivos,”[3] a type of gang of thugs financed and armed by the government’s politico-military committee.

It pleases me to see the capacity for mobilization, but the question is, can it last? Are we in the presence of another Arab Spring? Is this the awakening of the Venezuelan people? It would be aprioritical to answer at this moment. What’s certain is the continuation of inflation, repression, scarcity, shortages, insecurity, etc. And the State’s got no answer because, being an import economy, it has no hard currency, because they arranged for dollars to come in bypassing the Central Bank; when the foreign currency that entered the country and was liquidated through CADIVI,[4] the government’s cronies carried off a third in their briefcases[5] — Giordani[6] dixit — without anyone, no matter how low on the totem pole, facing justice for it. To make matters worse, Iran has made an arrangement for its conflict with the West, to accept supervision of its nuclear program, and they are now dismantling the economic sanctions, and will go ahead with exporting 1.6 million barrels daily for the month of may, which will knock the market off its bench. Difficult moments for the militarist regime in Venezuela. All they have left is the exercise of force, appealing to what Foucault called the disciplinary power, or direct enforceability.

— Translation of Caracas, 15-F: Impresiones desde la calle by Humberto Decarli. Translated by Charles W. Johnson, with some extremely helpful assistance from Sergio Méndez.

  1. [1] [six: originally mis-written as six, due to my careless error. Thanks to Joe in the comments below for the catch. —CJ 22.Feb.2014]
  2. [2] Tonton Macoute, an infamous force of paramilitary death squads formed by the Haitian dictator François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, which murdered more than 60,000 Haitians from 1959-1986. CDR, Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, a Cuban network of Communist paramilitary/neighborhood snitch organizations initiated by Fidel Castro in 1960 to monitor and suppress “counter-revolutionary” activity.
  3. [3] Patriots of the collectives.
  4. [4] The Comisión de Administración de Divisas, “Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange”), the agency in charge of legal foreign currency exchanges in Venezuela.
  5. [5] Literally, “una tercera parte se las llevaron las empresas de maletín.” “Empresas de maletín,” lit. “briefcase enterprises,” are politically connected firms, which typically get government contracts by means of political preference or corruption. They are often “ghost” enterprises, which snag the government contract and then subcontract all the work to other companies.
  6. [6] Jorge Antonio Giordani Cordero (b. 1940), the current Minister of the People’s Power for Central Planning in Venezuela, responsible for most of Venezuela’s monetary policy during the current crisis.

10 replies to Translation of Caracas, 15-F: Impressions from the street (Humberto Decarli, in El Libertario) Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-02-21:

    […] anarchist paper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. The same caveats apply as elsewhere; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and […]

  2. Joe

    “hasta aproximadamente las siete y media de la tarde/noche” = “until about seven thirty in the evening”

  3. Joe

    It’s interesting that in “El pueblo, arrecho, reclama a sus derechos” the word “arrecho” has multiple meanings. If you look it up in DRAE you’ll see that in Venezuela, as well as other Central American countries, it means someone who’s angry and also someone who is brave. It’s also notable that it means “aroused”, which has the same dual connotation as in English.

    • Charles Johnson

      Right. I settled on “arising” in this case (even though the progressive is not strongly supported by the participle form arrecho) because from context I was thinking of it in terms of political excitement or agitation, and “arising” suggests that in activisty political English; and aroused could be used of crowds in much the same way in Victorian writing (say), but “aroused” is now dominated by … the other connotations.

      I guess “roused” might also do.

  4. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-02-22 – Translation of Message from CDH-UCAB: on torture and cruel and inhuman treatment of the detainees from 12-F (Centro de DDHH de la UCAB, reprinted in EL LIBERTARIO):

    […] anarchist paper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. The same caveats apply as elsewhere; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and […]

  5. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-02-22 – Translation of “Quick Overview of the Situation in Venezuela for the Curious and Ill-informed” (Rafael Uzcategui, El Libertario):

    […] changes I’ve made, after the headline, are explicitly noted.) This one is not mine, but as with previous translations, if you notice any issues with the translation feel free to point them out in the comments, and […]

  6. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-02-22 – Translation of “One comrade sounds off: What’s happening now in Venezuela?” (Victor Camacho, in El Libertario):

    […] EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a quick and nervous translator, this is a working draft, if you notice any mistakes or […]

  7. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-02-23 – Translation of “From Chile, a pitch for the foundation of anarcho-Madurism” (Armando Vergueiro, from El Libertario):

    […] is another translation from Venezuela. This was a controversial one. As I mentioned previously, many writers on the left looking in on the Venezuelan situation from outside of the country […]

  8. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-02-26 – Translation of “One comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh I’ve got the desire” (Viento sin Fronteras, in EL LIBERTARIO):

    […] EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a nervous translator trying to keep up with a lot of regional references that I don’t […]

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