(Part II) A life cut in two half: The "cacerolazos" during the General Strike

During the strike, some days, special political demonstrations were planned: the biggest ones that I have ever been so far. But other days, I had no choice but wait with illusion the current “cacerolazo” at 8 Pm.A “cacerolazo” is a form of protest very common in South America, I think you can track back its origins to the Argentinean crisis of 2001 but the origins are not important for this story. The “cacerolazo” consist on making noise by hitting metal made kitchen tools. It mainly symbolizes hunger, because we are hitting empty tools instead of cooking with them. But it can further symbolize the lack of other things too. So to symbolize mainly the lack of freedom, I went out walking every night, till the main avenue of my neighborhood, hitting a spoon against a sauce pan under the rhythm of a famous consign for those days “Ni un paso atrás” (Not even one step back)
The cacerolazo could extend for one or two hours. The number of people attending every night varied. Sometimes, since the people have nothing to do but worry about politics during the strike, the cacerolazo turned into a street party; and the houses around the street where the people were gathered, used their electricity to play some music. But other nights, especially if we had heard of violent events in other areas, the sound of the kitchen tools expressed an anger that made your whole body trill with it and you could feel your eyes almost swelling into tears. The people used to become absorbed with the sound of the hitting without even looking or talking to each other.
My neighborhood is located a little bit distant from the city madness and is very quite and calm. When someone asks me how it was possible to live incredible violent events on those peaceful streets; I point out to the people some marks in the main avenue that are still there, no one has touched the paving ever since. You can still see some defects, which are the result of some stuff we burned there to “defend ourselves from the Chavistas” (Chávez supporters). An action I do not have a choice but to admit that it was more part of a crazy paranoia than a real danger. Those marks speak to me about the days when my neighborhood was not peaceful at all.
One night, after a horrible military repression of another political demonstration in Caracas; my neighbors decided to make a “cacerolazo” at the doors of the house of a guy from military that was pointed as responsible of that repression. The military defended himself from the actions, I think, in a very strong and not justified way. The soldiers, who were commanded to guard the house, dropped many tear gas bombs in this residential area, without measuring where the bombs were falling. I heard many shots. Not exactly gunshots: A different sound tells you that a tear gas bomb has been dropped.
Two seconds later the smell came. It’s right there when you have to do something or you’ll lose control: the bombs makes you feel tired and dizzy, I usually have headache and my throat also hurts after smelling one but I’m not sure if they are the same effects for everybody. In addition, obviously you have the main effect in the eyes: a deep burn that makes your eyes jump into tears.
I could not keep the count of how many bombs were dropped because before I noticed the people were running away next to me and screamed asking me to do the same. Everyone used to go to the “cacerolazos”, kids and grownups, and old people that could barely walk and they all had to manage how to run from the terrible tear gas smell. The kids ran holding the hands of their parents who were trying to relieve them, by giving them a handkerchief filled with vinegar or just tooth paste (those things calm the effects of the tear gas smell).
One of my neighbors holds the most terrible story about it, she ran with her mom and some soldiers followed them to her house. When she and her mom entered, the soldiers throw tear gas bombs upper the roof, to the front yard of the house. What those guards didn’t knew was that my neighbor had twin little brothers, of only 7 months of age for that time, who were seriously affected by the gas and they had to take them to the hospital. If I remember correctly, her grandmother or her grandfather (I do not remember well), also lived with them and were damaged by the bombs.
I also saw a man wounded because of gum bullets (pellet) all over his body. Those wounds look pretty much like measles: many red points. It was common that the military did not use the pellet, as they should, I think, shooting to the ground, just to scare people a little. They did not throw the bombs to the ground either. They throw both things, as they were real gunshots: directly against the people.
My house was located a few blocks away and when I finally get there, tired as hell not only because of the running but because of the smell, I could still sense that unbearable smell. For me to sense that smell from such distance there had to be many tear gas bombs dropped.
A few hours later a scandal began: the people picked up the tear gas bombs in the streets; they checked the expiration date of those bombs. They were expired. Who knows what that gas contained. A gas everyone in my neighborhood smelled that night.