— Cristancha (@Tanchamovil) March 23, 2014
[Update] Better yet view from a done, via Daniel,
Armed civilian gangs, loyal to the “revolution” and known euphemistically as colectivos, act as community enforcers. “The majority are criminals,” says José Quintero, an opposition activist from ProCatia, a non-governmental organisation, “and they are armed to the teeth.”
Since the conflict turned violent in mid-February, alleged members of the colectivos have been filmed and photographed using firearms against protesters. Acting in concert with security forces, they are accused by the opposition of several deaths (which they deny). Their tight grip on poorer communities is one reason the barrios, or shanty towns, have stayed quiet.
Another is the widespread fear of losing benefits such as housing allocations, employment or subsidised food, which are contingent on political loyalty. The oil boom that began in 2002 allowed Chávez to mount a plethora of clientelistic welfare programmes, known as “the missions”. Health and education were the main focus of these initiatives, which made up in quantity for what they lacked in quality. Poverty was greatly reduced. When the oil price stalled, so did social gains. The leadership of the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance has so far failed to take full advantage of ensuing discontent. Critics say it has yet to convince disaffected chavistas that it has their best interests at heart.
In western Caracas, its task is made harder by the threat of chavista violence. Lest that prove insufficient, Nicolás Maduro, the president, recently banned opposition marches in this part of the city, which is where the most vital government institutions—including his office—are located.
A recent survey by Datos, a polling firm, found discontent with the government right across the social spectrum. Only 27.1% of respondents described themselves as pro-government; 43.7% favoured the opposition. More than seven out of ten had a negative view of the situation today and over half thought it would be even worse in six months.