March 5 marked exactly a year since Hugo Chávez died. The parades through the city center in Caracas and the memorial gathering at his tomb in the Mountain Barracks were impressive affairs. But the celebrations and daylong television evocations of the man they now call the Supreme Commander did not reflect the atmosphere across Venezuela.
The situation has become more complex in the last few weeks. A few days ago, on a bus I was taking into town, a man leapt on and delivered a short speech announcing “This is the end of Castro Communism in Venezuela. No more Cubans,” then he leapt off just as quickly.
In the line at the Electricity Company, an elderly woman began to shout at the people behind the desk, demanding that they shut the country down. Her outburst could be attributed to the two hours she had to wait — for no obvious reason — to pay her bill. But it reflected the rage of the middle classes.
These two fairly trivial incidents reflect the rapid development of a visceral class hatred. Up till now, the violence that has been shown so relentlessly on the global media was limited, at least in Caracas, to middle-class areas. In the area where I live, a middle class dormitory suburb for the most part, the streets are lined with posters demanding freedom and peace and an end to dictatorship. Small barricades made of burning tires and trash, dislodged concrete posts, wire fences, and (most unpleasantly) oil spread across the street appear on most nights, further angering the middle class — even though it is mostly their sons and daughters creating the barricades.