Archive for March 2012
La Piedrita, founded over 20 years ago in the 23 de Enero barrio by Valentin Santana, calls itself a “Social Collective.”
Social collectives are “…popular (people’s) socialist revolutionary movements that work to improve the lives of their members, all peaceful family men and women and children of all ages striving together cooperatively to create a socialist republic through the Bolivarian Revolution led by President Hugo Chavez,” according to a group that calls itself the National Revolutionary Secretariat and claims to speak on behalf of all social collectives in Venezuela including La Piedrita.
In fact, La Piedrita is an organized crime gang/urban terrorist organization that is armed, funded and officially protected through the black channels of the Chavez regime.
La Piedrita is known to cooperate closely with some of the Chavez regime’s worst hard cases, like PSUV National Deputy Freddy Bernal.
The group’s leader, Valentin Santana, has an outstanding arrest warrant for homicide since at least 2008. But law enforcement officials who know Santana’s criminal career say his unofficial rap sheet goes as far back as the Old Testament. Yet Santana roams Caracas freely, by all accounts.
La Piedrita has about 300 armed members, three of whom were charged with homicide this month by the Attorney General’s office in connection with the murder of a government security official and the theft of his sidearm.
There are close to 60 “social collectives” in the greater Caracas Metropolitan Area – defined roughly here as the region that extends from Caricuao/El Junquito to Petare/Guarenas-Guatire, and from the coastline of Vargas to the Tuy Valleys.
I won’t dispute that most of these “social collectives” probably are engaged in legitimate grassroots social work in the barrios where they have their headquarters. They are active in all of the Chavez regime’s “social missions,” and interact directly with many entities at all levels of the regime. They feed daily at the trough of the direct/indirect cash subsidies that the regime dispenses to its red congregation of faithful street-level revolutionaries.
But the “social collectives” are also President Chavez’s street-level shock forces. There’s a lethal strategic/tactical dimension to the “social collectives” that the Chavez regime and the homicidal leaders of the collectives deny – but it’s public record, thanks to La Piedrita’s unchecked and recently expanding depredations against the general public.
Bernal is one of the president’s top liaisons with groups like La Piedrita, Tupamaros, Alexis Vive Carajo, etc. Freddy, who back in the 1980s commanded the Policia Metropolitana’s (PM) Special Tactical Support (CETA) group before betraying his country by taking part in one of the failed coup attempts of 1992, has an old personal history with these groups.
Bernal was personally involved in deploying some of these gunmen in downtown Caracas on 11 April 2002. They only succeeded in murdering 19 Venezuelans and wounding over 100 more that horrible day because they were not well armed at the time.
But La Piedrita and other social collectives nowadays own arsenals of full-automatic assault rifles, hand grenades and other explosives.
La Piedrita also has official National Guard and police uniforms, credentials, even motorcycles and vehicles with official license plates and markings, according to news reports and multiple sources who live in 23 de Enero and along the San Martin Avenue and Nueva Granada Avenue areas where La Piedrita operates two furniture and home appliance stores in properties that the group reportedly seized by force. Readers in Caracas are free to check it out for themselves: La Piedrita’s name is displayed prominently at both “comercios.”
There also are persistent reports/rumors – which the Chavez regime has always refused even to acknowledge – that some collectives like La Piedrita, Tupamaros, etc. even have Russian-made Dragunov sniper rifles, large-caliber machine guns, mortars and shoulder-fired rockets stashed away against the day they’re needed to “defend” the revolution by slaughtering people indiscriminately.
La Piedrita and other social collectives operate with near-total impunity. The cops are terrified of these groups, and President Chavez supports these groups without reservation despite his occasional public criticisms of La Piedrita, in particular.
Sure, the arrest of three La Piedrita members on murder charges this month indicates that the regime does make some effort to control the criminal activities of these groups – but only when it absolutely has to do so.
The evidence against the three La Piedrita gunmen charged with murder during March reportedly is so strong that the case couldn’t be buried by chavista judges and prosecutors. But no one should be surprised if the three arrested gunmen are set free eventually because witnesses in this case almost certainly will recant or disappear, and other evidence will be lost, likely resulting in all charges being dropped.
But President Chavez doesn’t have effective total control over La Piedrita and the other armed social collectives. These groups are faithful to the revolution, but they also are fiercely independent and very protective of their own economic self-interests.
This was obvious recently when La Piedrita publicly labeled Mario Silva a “sapo” (informant) after Silva criticized the group on his “La Hojilla” program that is televised by state-owned VTV. Silva is one of three “journalists” – the others are Vanessa Davies and Alberto Nolia – who form part of the political situation room at Miraflores Palace. When any of this trio takes a position on anything, you can be sure it was vetted first by the Miraflores situation room.
Silva criticized La Piedrita because that’s likely what he was ordered to do by Miraflores, but La Piedrita bitch-slapped Silva immediately, basically sending the man in Miraflores an indirect message that La Piedrita supports Chavez but that Chavez should never try to impose his will on La Piedrita.
La Piedrita reportedly has been very active during the month of March in the neighborhoods near 23 de Enero. News reports, citing multiple eyewitnesses, report that over a two-week period during the first half of this month, at least four “pensiones” were raided by La Piedrita’s gunmen; one person was shot dead, a second was wounded, six were taken away by force, and several dozen roomers at the “pensiones” were robbed of their valuables and even their electronic and electric appliances including refrigerators.
La Piedrita’s gunmen arrived late at night on motorcycles and in National Guard vehicles in groups of 20 to 30 persons dressed in black, wearing masks, armed with assault rifles and accompanied by up to six individuals who wore National Guard uniforms and official credentials. They fired indiscriminately at anyone who protested. The shooting could be heard several blocks away, but not even one cop arrived on scene to investigate the gunfire until long after La Piedrita’s gunmen had consummated their criminal/terrorist raids and escaped into the night.
La Piedrita’s gunmen could have been involved in a hunt for rival gang members or informants. The group also could have been engaged in criminal activities to raise funds. But it’s just as likely that La Piedrita was conducting nighttime field training exercises under live-fire urban battlefield conditions. The cops probably were wise to stay away, since any patrol vehicles that showed up at the “pensiones” likely would have been shot to pieces in seconds.
But field training exercises for what purpose?
First, some numbers: La Piedrita has about 300 armed gunmen it can deploy rapidly anywhere in Caracas. However, there are about 60 armed social collectives spread around Caracas, including some two-dozen just in 23 de Enero, according to the National Revolutionary Secretariat.
Assuming that each of these collectives can deploy, say, 150 gunmen, we’re looking potentially at up to 9,000 gunmen positioned strategically throughout greater Caracas, who possess an arsenal that includes assault and sniper rifles and explosives, and whose main deployment vehicles are motorcycles and “camionetas” (SUV’s and pick-ups) equipped with official license plates and markings that identify them as National Guard, Sebin, PoliCaracas, etc.
Imagine the hellish chaos that these groups could create at numerous locations throughout Venezuela’s capital city by using tactics that likely would include armed roadblocks where vehicles and their drivers/passengers are abducted; targeted assassinations of the regime’s “enemies;” shooting their way into private single-family homes and multi-family apartment buildings where regime enemies reside with their families; attacking installations that are occupied by members of the political opposition; seizing physical control of strategic assets like large food warehouses (eg. Makro); random drive-by shootings; firing indiscriminately at anyone moving in those areas of Caracas that are not solidly pro-Chavez, but also attacking poor Venezuelans who dare to criticize the Chavez regime.
I’m writing two new posts, one looking at the armed revolutionary social collectives like La Piedrita (Red Pebbles), and the other speculating hypothetically about what could happen if Fidel concludes that Chavez is more valuable to the revolution dead than alive (Hugo and Che). But meanwhile, two of my favorite swing bands.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
“A few days ago I received some information that they want to make an attempt against the governor of Miranda, and it’s not the Government,” President Hugo Chavez announced during a telephone call to “Dando y Dando,” a staunchly pro-regime program broadcast by state-owned VTV television.
Law enforcement and national security officials of the CICPC and Sebin intelligence service already “have met with the campaign command of the candidate of the right, because the State must be the guarantor of the security of every citizen,” Chavez said.
“…(h)ere the government is the first guarantor of security and tranquility of all Venezuelans, it is very regrettable that the dirty war laboratory, like the opposition, is launching this media campaign (that the regime is provoking all the recent political violence),” the cancer-ridden Chavez added.
It’s not the first time that President Chavez has publicly announced an alleged assassination plot against an opposition presidential candidate. During the 2006 presidential campaign, Chavez declared, without ever supplying even a shred of proof, that his security services had discovered and stopped a plan to murder Manuel Rosales, the former Zulia governor now in exile.
What is Chavez up to? The president likely has several objectives in mind.
1.Chavez is attempting to intimidate and frighten presidential candidate and Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, perhaps to discourage the young governor from walking boldly into the “barrios” of Caracas and every other city and town in Venezuela.
2.Chavez is establishing the foundations of plausible deniability. Notice how quickly the regime’s mouthpieces started to parrot Chavez’s theme of “it won’t be our fault if the opposition kills Capriles.” Within an hour of the president’s call to “Dando y Dando,” a presidential adviser on Arab issues who speaks Spanish with an odd accent, and a National Assembly Deputy who associates with illegal armed groups like La Piedrita, gave televised inteviews in which they declared, basically, that the Chavez regime is never violent, that all of the political violence denounced by the opposition MUD in reality is manufactured by the opposition right-wing fascists, and that if anyone kills Capriles it certainly won’t be the peace-loving, law-abiding Bolivarian revolution.
Here’s alleged “internationalist” Raimundo Kabchi, who reportedly is the president’s senior adviser on policy issues related to the Arab/Muslim peoples:
And here’s National Assembly Deputy Robert Serra, who recently was photographed alongside children armed with assault rifles at a political rally in 23 de Enero organized and hosted by La Piedrita chieftain Valentin Santana:
Chavez and his gangster associates need to have plausible deniability solidly in place, because…
3.Chavez’s public warning of an alleged plot to assassinate opposition presidential candidate signals that he has authorized the killing of Capriles Radonski if that’s what it takes to preserve the imploding and increasingly desperate Bolivarian regime’s hold on power.
Capriles Radonski, and his senior campaign managers including his security people presumably know, and have no doubts, about the huge risk that Capriles could be assassinated at any time. Also presumably, Capriles Radonski is getting the security he needs from professionals. But if someone really wants to whack Capriles, it can easily happen anytime, anywhere, regardless of how many security personnel surround him.
Capriles Radonski could be killed with a bullet or a bomb, or it could be made to look like an accident.
It could be done by a lone gunman who gets so close to Capriles that he can’t possibly miss his target, or perhaps it could be a sniper who busts a cap in Henrique’s head from a considerable distance.
It could also happen in a sudden outbreak of street chaos created by PSUV gunmen like the ones who fired at Capriles recently in Cotiza with weapons supplied by known PSUV officials.
It’s also possible that an aircraft in which Capriles is a passenger crashes due to a mechanical failure. After all, Venezuela has a horrible reputation for not maintaining anything in good operational condition. Remember Renny Ottolina’s death on the Avila in an airplane crash which to this day has never been clarified satisfactorily?
At least a couple of international news agencies have given their foreign staff in Caracas one-year open airline tickets – just in case they have get outta Dodge in a big hurry.
A number of multinational companies with operations in Venezuela (including oil companies) are updating contingency plans to pull theit expatriate staff out of the country quickly if there’s a sudden eruption of social and political conflict.
Sure, all MNC’s and foreign embassies always have contingency plans, just in case something happens.
But a leading banker, a very courageous and impeccably honest man, tells me that he fears that a major social and political eruption is just around the corner.
When the explosion happens, it will eclipse the rioting of the Caracazo of 1989 by several orders of magnitude, he adds.
“Everything is broken and collapsing, there are no institutions, the violence is getting much worse and even Chavez cannot control it,” he said.
Indeed. Daily power outages, contaminated water, crumbling roads and highways, shrinking agricultural and livestock production, homicidal criminal violence, and much more…all of it growing worse by the day.
“But my wife and I are staying put if there’s an explosion, no matter what happens. I believe we will be safer simply staying inside our home,” my banker friend added.
Good luck with those one-year open airline tickets if they’re needed in a violent national crisis that triggers the mass flight of foreigners and Venezuelans with money and visas.
I witnessed mass panic at the old Maiquetia International Airport terminal in November 1992, less than 24 hours after the second failed coup attempt that year. I watched crowds of frightened foreign tourists and visiting business executives shoving and literally climbing over the people around them at the airline ticket counters, fighting for seats on departing flights to anywhere.
Some of the panicked tourists that day in November 1992 were Gringos who had spent the previous day (during the second failed coup attempt) cowering in the hallways of the Eurobuilding and CCCT hotels while the windows of hotel rooms facing La Carlota were shot into glass shards and Bronco OV-10’s in rebel hands attacked repeatedly, firing salvos of rockets at the loyal troops defending the base. I lived in a penthouse apartment in Las Mercedes at the time, with a large terrace where I stood drinking coffee the morning of the failed coup while several Broncos in the skies above swooped down at La Carlota, firing 7.62 mm machine guns mounted on wing pods. Dozens of spent brass shells ejected from the machine guns fired by the Bronco pilots rained upon my terrace.
But that bloody failed coup in November 1992 lasted less than a day and was concentrated mainly around La Carlota, the presidential palace and other government buildings.
Now… close your eyes for a minute and imagine an eruption of social and political violence several orders of magnitude greater than the failed coup attempts of 1992; a city-wide explosion continuing for several days or even weeks, with spillover in oehr cities around the country, with potentially thousands of heavily armed “red” urban militants on the orowl and committed to preserving their revolution at any cost, targeting individuals who are known to oppose the regime and who therefore are “legitimate military objectives.”
If the “pueblo” (meaning the armed irregular groups fostered and encouraged/tolerated for over 13 years by the Bolivarian regime) does “take up arms to defend the revolution” – as Diosdado Cabello threatened barely one week ago – the Caracas-La Guaira highway could be shut down at many points by irregular groups that already hold the high ground and the strategic/tactical advantage over the highway.
How many other routes are there for traveling from Caracas to Maiquetia International Airport?
I know a couple or maybe three alternative routes – the old Caracas-La Guaira highway, the longer and steeper route that begins high up in El Junquito, or over the Avila in a four-wheel-drive SUV – but travel times are longer and they still traverse through the barrio badlands where the regime’s civilian gunmen and professional gangbangers reign.
If Maiquetia International Airport is cut off, the closest fallback airport would be Valencia International. But the Autopista Regional del Centro is a natural shooting gallery at dozens of points en route from Caracas to Valencia. Longer alternative routes to Valencia also could be interdicted easily.
Do I think there will be the kind of violence that compels the pell-mell flight of foreigners in Venezuela? I certainly hope not.
But Venezuela is collapsing, imploding, after over 13 years of the most incompetent and sorry government in Venezuela’s entire history as an independent republic. It’s difficult to “see” the full extent of the country’s collapse when one lives 24/7 in the midst of the rubble because it is a steady, incremental process. People also are reluctant to connect too many dots.
As an old friend in the media business in Caracas said very recently: “If I start to consciously connect all of the dots out there, I’ll probably panic and leave Venezuela with my family forever. But I don’t want to get to the point where I become convinced that there’s no other option except to flee Venezuela, so I’m deliberately ignoring many of the symptoms of Venezuela’s imminent collapse.”
But over 19,000 confirmed homicides nationally in 2011 compared with less than 5,000 homicides nationally in 1998 is only one – of many – indicators that confirm that Venezuela’s violent collapse is gaining momentum.
My banker friend is right. If Venezuela for any reason suffers a violent social/political eruption over the coming year, the safest option in Caracas would be to stay put, lock one’s doors and stay away from the windows.
But staying put might not be an option for many indviduals, particularly if the regime makes good on its frequent threats that if anything ever happens to President Hugo Chavez the “pueblo” will hunt down the revolution’s enemies and deal swift popular justice.
I see death around the corner, gotta stay high while I survive
In the city where the skinny niggas die
If they bury me, bury me as a G nigga, no need to worry
I expect retaliation in a hurry
I see death around the corner, any day
Trying to keep it together, no one lives forever anyway
Strugglin’ and strivin’, my destiny’s to die
Keep my finger on the trigger, no mercy in my eyes
In a ball of confusion, I think about my daddy
Madder than a motherfucker, they never shoulda had me
I guess I seen too many murders, the doctors can’t help me
Got me stressin’ with my pistol in my sheets, it ain’t healthy
Am I paranoid? – Tell me the truth
I’m out the window with my AK, ready to shoot
Ran out of endo and my mind can’t take the stress,
I’m out of breath
Make me wanna kill my damn self,
but I see death around the corner…
The pissing contest between the PSUV’s most senior
officials gangsters and Monaga state Governor José Gregorio “The Cat” Briceño gets more interesting by the day.
I’m with the Cat.
The governor of Monagas is doing what he is supposed to be doing: looking after the interests and wellbeing of the citizens of Monagas regardless of their individual ideological convictions.
Vice President Elias Jaua yesterday held a press conference, surrounded by the usual grim-faced Boli-stalinist “majunches,” to announce that Governor Briceño’s suspension from the PSUV and his “pase a un tribunal disciplinario” (i.e. political lynch mob).
The Cat is officially charged by the PSUV senior national leaders with horrible ideological crimes including, but not limited to, alleged repeated transgressions of party discipline, alleged repeated personal attacks and insults against party comrades (i.e. Diosdado Cabello), and for making public statements to opposition news media.
The PSUV has been looking for an excuse to can the Cat for years. The Governor got his start in politics as an Adeco, reportedly; of course, this allegedly makes the Cat forever suspect among true Bolivarians as a likely Fourth Republic infiltrator. Even worse, the Cat is too independent.
The Cat’s expulsion from the PSUV yesterday was set in motion by the pipeline break almost six weeks ago at Pdvsa’s Jusepin complex that spilled a large amount of crude oil mostly into the Guarapiche River. Caracas Chronicles and Setty’s Notebook reported on the Jusepin oil spill extensively.
The oil spill befouled the city of Maturin’s water supply, forcing Briceño to shut down the waterworks until the river and reservoir could be cleaned up, and until tests proved beyond any doubt that the water is once again suitable for human consumption.
The regime’s view, advanced by its top Environmental
Czar clown Alejandro Hitcher, is that the water is once again fit for drinking – but I haven’t yet seen Hitcher demonstrate to the nation personally that Maturin’s water is drinkable. Have you?
About two thirds of Maturin has been without water for almost six weeks, since the pipeline ruptured at Jusepin. People in Maturin are hugely pissed off with the regime in Caracas and with Pdvsa. Maturin has been suffering almost daily power outages for years, but now the water has dried up too – thanks to Red Pdvsa’s incomparable incompetence.
Even worse for the regime’s negligible credibility, from the start of the crisis it was local officials in Monagas and the private sector that joined forces to contain the oil spill and provide water to Maturin’s residents. For example, the Polar Group that the regime so loves to hate was distributing ample supplies of bottled water to Maturin’s residents days before the nimrods running Pdvsa started trucking water to the city.
Governor Briceño also rejected orders from the PSUV’s senior bosses in Caracas – Jaua, Cabello, Adan Chavez et al – to turn on the waterworks three weeks ago when Hitcher, a congenital but unpersuasive liar, was assuring the country that the regime had cleaned up “95% of the oil spilled.”
The Cat is on the ground 24/7 in Monagas. He knows the truth of the situation. The water tests that the Monagas governor has commissioned confirm that as of today Maturin’s water supplies remain unfit for human consumption. People who drink and cook with the tainted water are at high risk of falling gravely ill.
In effect, Governor Briceño is doing his job responsibly, which is what the citizens of Monagas who voted for him (and those who did not) expect from their state governor.
But the PSUV’s top leaders in Caracas don’t see it that way. Screw the people of Maturin. In their view, Governor Briceño is rebellious, undisciplined and defiant.
President Chavez cannot countenance a governor that cares more about the citizens of his state, regardless of their political affiliations, than about obeying the president’s will.
Worse still, Briceño’s independent actions are supported by a majority of the PSUV mayors in Monagas. In faraway Havana, the paranoid president smells the first faint stench of mutiny.
If Briceño’s disobedience goes unpunished, other regional and local publicly elected PSUV officials could be encouraged to also act more independently, and in line with the needs of their state and/or municipal constituencies.
Independence of thought and action is a mortal sin within the Bolivarian Revolution and the PSUV. Chavez is God, omnipotent, infallible, the ‘masta’ of the Bolivarian
Republic Chavera of Venezuela. Guys like Briceño cannot be tolerated, ever.
With Chavez rotting from cancer and the issue of a succession very much in doubt, the regime’s top figures – Jaua, Cabello, Maduro, Ramirez, General Rangel Silva, and the omnipresent Adan, among others – are desperately determined to crush every hint of dissent within the ranks of revolution.
The red elites at the top aren’t going to share any spoils of wealth or power in a post-Chavez era, after the Supreme Leader goes to his final rest in a suitable revolutionary mausoleum where street vendors undoubtedly will make a nice profit selling Chavez dolls to practitioners of Santeria.
But they will surely fail. The Cat’s expulsion from the PSUV makes him a more likable and viable regional leader politically. He might lose the gubernatorial race to the opposition candidate, but it’s a safe bet that the Cat will easily defeat any candidates that the PSUV fields in Monagas.
Does it appear that these bozos are auditioning for the top dawg’s job?
Elias can’t make a speech without tripping over his own tongue, even when reading from a prepared script; but his Francisco Miranda Front is 6,000 strong, with about 3,000 seen as committed urban shooters – if it comes to that.
Cabello is all menace, intimidation and threats of violence. He has strong ties to the Army, but his Military Academy classmates all reached the highest rank of general this year.
Adan appears front-and-center at every press conference and public event held since cancer literally bit his little bro’ Hugo in the ass again a few weeks ago. Adan faithfully bangs the drum for his little bro’ Hugo, but his political ambitions are visible; after all, he is a Chavez, always true to Cuban-style Marxist revolution, and considering that the Bolivarian revolution is his brother’s (mostly plagiarized) creation, by rights Adan thinks that he ought to be the designated hitter if cancer strikes out little bro’