“OUT. OUT. OUT. CHAVEZ. OUT!”
There is the banging of pots and pans. Metal cooking ladles are run forcefully across the bars covering windows.
The uproar lasts more than an hour.
R and I lay under our mosquito net covered mattress and listen.
People are silhouetted in their windows. The banging of pots is to voice solidarity and opposition to Chavez. The noise crashes throughout the neighborhood. Penetrating, unignorible, and deeply unsettling. There is anger to the banging. And fear. Yet it is the sound of the minority. Most of Caracas is peacefully asleep.
The clanging makes me nervous. Irrationally, I wonder if the sound can shake the buildings. That seems to be the intention. But even if the buildings fall, would it matter? The opposition has banged pots for years.
Chavez only grows stronger.
Today the opposition is holding marches to protest the closure of opposition television station RCTV.
The demonstrations will peak with what is described as a massive surge on May 27, the day the station is closed.
At one march, a government helicopter hovers low over the demonstrators. They jeer and give the pilot the finger.
“It is as if we are not citizens in our country,” a woman named Angela says.
Many of the demonstrators are dressed in spandex and Adidas clothing. They look like they should be at some exclusive club playing tennis instead of protesting in the streets.
The situation is critical enough however that they have left their gated communities and tall apartment buildings to march through Caracas.
“This is wrong,” one man says to the people standing around him. “This is not democracy. What he is doing is wrong.”
RCTV has spent fifty-three year on Venezuelan airwaves. The station’s programming revolves mostly around news, making fun of the current president (not just Chavez), and telenovellas, Venezuela’s infamous soap operas.
The marchers say they are concerned that if Chavez is now closing down an opposition television station, what will he do in the future to the individuals that speak against him?
The energy for these demonstrations has been building since January when it was first announced that RCTV’s broadcasting license would not be renewed by the government and that the station would have to close.
Though the opposition has mobilized around RCTV’s closure there is not the energy of previous years. Most members of the opposition have given up trying to overthrow Chavez.
All attempts to do so have only made him stronger.
On Alo Presidente Chavez warns of possible violence amid the upcoming opposition demonstrations. It is announced that sniper rifles and molotov cocktails have been found with members of the opposition. Even Chavez admits that seventy percent of Venezuelans disagree with his decision to close the station, but he is going ahead anyway.
The closure of RCTV is a major blow to the opposition. It is their voice on the public airwaves. The other opposition channels are on cable and satellite, inaccessible to the majority of Venezuelans.
Chavez makes it clear that the decision to close RCTV is his. He refers to the station’s soap operas as “a danger for the country, for boys, for girls.”
Along with anti-Chavez news shows, RCTV is famous for broadcasting the soap operas that are so loved by Venezuelans. Even if they do not agree with the station’s political stance, many people tune into the station to watch the overly dramatic soaps.
And not just Venezuelans.
Months later, in Finland, the Virtanen twins tell me that they had watched Mi Gorda Bella, one of RCTV’s soap operas and laughed over the show’s overly dramatic characters. When they heard that RCTV is going to be closed, they wondered why? What had a station that broadcast such ridiculous television done to be shut down?