“In chess, as in life, the best moves are the ones we make.”
It was the morning of April 30. I was supposed to go to a medical appointment that had been postponed at least four times (blackouts, transportation issues, lack of money). I got up early and quickly readied myself.
“Today’s the day, Jessica,” I thought to myself.
However, as I waited for the elevator, my neighbor, evangelical and pro-opposition, desperately screamed “Where are you going, sweetheart? Haven’t you seen the news? There’s a coup!”
I offered a smirk and got into the elevator. In spite of that, when I got down I decided to check my phone. And there they were: Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López posing like characters from the Avengers movie outside La Carlota airbase in east Caracas.
“Holy shit… the old lady is right,” I whispered.
Upon getting home, I turned on the TV, fired up my laptop and started writing to those dearest to me. All that while walking in circles in my tiny apartment.
At that moment, [National Constituent Assembly President] Diosdado Cabello’s voice roared from the screen. He confirmed the news and called on people to mobilize to Miraflores [Presidential Palace].
“What are you going to do?,” I asked my partner.
“Nothing. Tottenham and Ajax play later in the Champions League,” he retorted, relaxed, as if absolutely certain that this attempt would not succeed. His attitude was radically different from the one he had on February 23, when he practically said goodbye to me because the “gringos” were about to invade us.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” was my response.
At a double pace, I changed and walked the 10 blocks between my apartment and the surroundings of the presidential palace.
There was a mix of feelings inside of me: the tension of the moment; the journalistic euphoria; the political beliefs that go beyond political party matters.
When I arrived, there were hundreds of people already gathered. “When the homeland’s bugle calls, even a mother’s mourning stops,” our Liberator, Simón Bolívar, would say.
Moments later a red truck arrived on the scene. Half the government could be seen on the roof. The scenario was completely improvised, without the typical productions that have come to characterize official gatherings.
“They think it’s so easy to stage a coup against a people that have decided to be free,” said Cabello seconds after taking the microphone.
Amidst the speeches, those present shouted “no more mistakes,” “listen to the people,” “arrest the traitors.” These people were not complacent, they were not happy with the government’s performance, but knew that the situation transcended any discontent.
As the hours went by, more and more people arrived to raise the numbers into the thousands. Then, we started to recognize each other. We are the very ones who bash each other on social media for having different readings of what’s going on, but when the going gets tough, we are always there: on the frontline of every battle.
“… the ones from April 11, 12 and 13 in 2002,” I remarked to a friend. [Note: reference to the military coup that removed Chávez from power for 47 hours before being overturned by a massive popular response]
“The ones who are willing to die for this shit,” she replied.
That’s how it was. Literally.
And so the day went on. Under an unforgiving sun, trying to figure out what was going on across town (where the putsch had started), singing the anthems we refuse to forget, hugging each other with the certainty of knowing we are not alone.
However, when I got back home, the news was different: [opposition leader] Leopoldo López had taken refuge in the Chilean embassy. But he didn’t feel comfortable and moved to the Spanish one, like someone who drags his ass from one hotel to the next. Guaidó was still free and announcing that “Operation Freedom” had different “stages” and would “continue tomorrow”. It was a sort of “You thought this was for real? Come on, man.”
“What an unusual way to end a military coup attempt,” I told myself as I tried to disconnect from everything.
The next morning, May 1st, the working class took to the streets, but our agenda (the rightful demands of those who live on 7 dollars a month) was overshadowed by this insurrectional parody.
One way or another, this always happens. When the government was about to finally shuffle the cabinet around, bam! A power outage made us forget about it.
Sadly, this epitomizes the current Venezuelan landscape: a government that spends more time trying to stay in power (having been elected) than governing. An opposition that does nothing but fuck everything up.
In the meantime, retailers took advantage of the occasion to close their blinds and re-set each and every price. Therefore, the new minimum wage was placed at some US $7.5, but a kilo of meat is already up to around US $6.
Furthermore, [on May 2] the government liberalized forex operations to install “exchange tables” that reduce the power of the Venezuelan Central Bank (the body that is responsible for the economy); and the opposition, through the National Assembly, authorized the payment of US $72 million in interest to the holders of the PDVSA 2020 bond, in order to supposedly protect Citgo, PDVSA’s US subsidiary.
“Buddy, get over here. As a result of sanctions there is more than US $4.5 billion worth of Venezuelan money held by international finance institutions. But, is it being held or is Guaidó actually using it for whatever he wants?,” I asked an economist friend.
“I have no idea,” he told me.
In our day to day lives, we Venezuelans do not feel as if we have two governments. But in truth, thanks to the international support, we have no exact measure of what power the opposition actually wields.
“The issue is that under the surface and in parallel with the dispute for the presidency, there is a multitude of processes of seizure and disbursement of our wealth going on,” a friend told me. And unfortunately he’s right.
Once the euphoria subsides, once the threat seems a bit further away, one looks at the chessboard and realizes that, unfortunately, the clarity that the game seemed to have, has vanished. The “kings” escape checkmate, but the “pawns” continue to be sacrificed.
But “pawns are the soul of chess. They alone determine attack and defense, victory or defeat depends on their good positioning,” Philidor once said.
The game continues.
Jessica Dos Santos is a journalist at Radio del Sur and a writer for the web portal 15yUltimo and Épale CCS magazine. She is the author of the book “Caracas en Alpargatas” (2018) and a university professor. She’s won the Aníbal Nazoa Journalism Prize in 2014 and received honorable mentions in the Simón Bolívar National Journalism prize in 2016 and 2018.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.
Translated by Ricardo Vaz for Venezuelanalysis.