Today is the Friday before the long weekend that ends on Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, also known in Latin America as carnivals. The last big blow out before Lent, the forty day period of abstinence on the Catholic calendar. Rio de Janeiro has its samba schools with ladies in elaborate but barely-there costumes, New Orleans has its jazz parades and women flashing their breasts for plastic beads – true devil’s playground of licentiousness. Venezuelans tend to be more down to earth and look forward to spending some down-time at the beach over the four-day weekend.
With that in mind the roads and highways should be chock-a-block with cars as people take some time off and make their way to the beach. But not this year. The streets may well be impassable, not due to heavy traffic volume, but because anti-government protesters have not left their posts and are still maintaining the barricades. To have fought in the streets for weeks, losing several colleagues, and then take a break to go catch some rays at the beach would have sent a terrible message to the world, a world that is finally starting to sit up and take notice.
President Maduro even tried to entice the protesters into making the “carnivals” error by declaring yesterday and today national holidays allegedly to commemorate the Caracazo, the 1998 series of riots against the government’s planned economic reforms including the raising of gasoline prices. Who could resist six days at the beach instead of the usual four? Wouldn’t he have loved to be filmed strolling down a deserted avenue pointing out that all the protesters had abandoned their fight to lounge at the seaside, clearly indicating a lack of commitment and seriousness?
But no: the protesters were one step ahead of Maduro and began to spread the word that if they were to be taken as genuinely attempting to foster political change, they would have to forgo carnivals for this year. Bravo. There will be other carnivals and other long weekends, hopefully in a truly democratic Venezuela. Fight the good fight, God bless and Chévere!