Christian Borys | Longreads | September 2017 | 20 minutes (4,916 words)
Recklessly driving through the sloping streets of Caracas, Diego blares “Bonita,” the bass-heavy reggaeton hit of the summer. The stock speakers of his tiny sedan pulsate as we pass block after block of buildings, each cloaked with layers of razor wire and electrified fencing. Diego (whose name, as well as others’, have been changed to protect their identity) laughs and looks at me, smiling cynically, when I ask why it seems like no one bothers to stop at red lights.
“Do you want to be kidnapped or something?”
It’s the night of Thursday, July 27. In less than three days, Venezuelans will live through one of the most defining days in their country’s modern history — and one of the bloodiest. A vote nicknamed the Constituyente is scheduled for July 30. If successful, it would be a major step in president Nicolás Maduro’s march toward dictatorship.
Tonight, the sidewalks are empty and the roads nearly barren. For the few brave enough to be out, traffic laws go by the wayside. Even the sunlight brings little comfort. Just the day before we met, Diego was driving home after making a late-afternoon withdrawal at a nearby bank. En route, three men on motorbikes surrounded his car and tried to steer him off the road. “I always knew it was dangerous here,” he explains, “and you get used to it. But in my whole life, that never happened to me before.”