maduro's 'death squads' add a new, terrifying layer of intimidation and violence to the chaos in venezuela - red led motorcycle accent lights
The first difference I noticed was FAES.
After more than eight years of absence, a masked black patrol truck drove back to Caracas.
The dressed agents waved their arms like a warning, which was a striking threat to the streets of the city.
When I moved to Venezuela more than a decade ago as a journalist for the heyday of Hugo Chavez, this frightening new unit-known as the special operations force-did not exist.
The security forces are always repressive: I and most of the people I know have run for many times --
What the Venezuelan people call "ladrones con place "(
Gangsters with badges)over the years.
Even when I first came in 2004, it was announced on the hotel's entry form that my profession was journalism, which led to the interrogation of intelligence officers.
But FAES added a new layer of terrible intimidation and violence.
Originally created by Nicolas Maduro in 2017 with the aim of fighting "organized crime and terrorism", they have transformed into his enforcers, whose loyalty to the Socialist government has disappeared
According to Provea, a non-governmental organization, Human rights groups described them as "death squads" who carried out more than 200 killings in 2018, most of which killed as many as nine people.
The family said the victims usually only participate in protests.
A well-known dissident, Chavista, told me that they and the National Intelligence Agency SEBIN were "killers of state terrorism under government orders ".
Caracas is always highly militarized and is now crawling with soldiers and armed pro-army
A government gang known as the coelitivos.
As early as 2009, these groups were called the Bolivar circle, the most famous of which was La Piedrita.
One of the leaders was a woman named Lina Ron.
Leading the motorcycle forces harassed the famous revolutionary figures of their opponents and spilled bleach blonde hair from their helmets.
Now they are closer to criminal gangs than the militia, using violence more openly and shooting at buildings in protesters or opposition communities.
Poverty and crime have been serious, especially in areas where a large proportion of Caracas residents are living.
Ten years ago, life was unstable enough. The city was the deadliest city in the world at the time, and the national murder rate was almost four times that of Iraq.
Water shortages and power outages are already common and basic commodities are often lacking.
Even where the city is relatively rich
In the east where I live, there is only a few hours of running water a week, plenty of milk, and no sugar in the store for almost a year.
Because of the fear of hijacking, the car will run a red light at night, walking on the street is considered bold.
It's hard to imagine things getting worse.
Inflation has begun to be punished, and economic chaos under monetary control has led to four different exchange rates by 2011: three official markets and one black market, or "parallel ".
Importers rely heavily on the black market dollar, so the price of the product is far beyond the reach of the Bolivar earner-the price of a pack of cheese can easily reach $20.
Now, however, it is remembered that these are almost peaceful days.
Under Maduro's leadership, inflation has exploded unimaginably: Ten years ago, there were about seven or eight bolivas on a dollar on the black market, now worth £ 3,500-almost with me
Wages have not kept up: the monthly minimum wage is still only 18,000 bolivars ($5)
Even after three times in January
Cash is hard to get: Even government exchanges have run out of bolivars and empanada costs three times the daily withdrawal limit for cash machines.
The result is endless, painful despair.
Even nationwide power outages have pushed the country to Real
The life version of Crazy Max-still in many areas after a week-the average Venezuelan is fighting every day for survival.
In Caracas, I saw behind a moving garbage truck, almost a skinny man who took the leftovers out to eat.
I met some kids, some of them toddlers, lined up in the temporary soup kitchen with no light or running water, because for many, it was the only meal of their day.
According to the United Nations, more than 3 million people have fled the country in recent years, accounting for an alarming proportion of the population.
This outflow is evident in Caracas, and its streets are now more quiet, lending it to an already hollowed out city along with those still open businesses and bare shelves.
Even in the richer regions, the bustling restaurants and bars 10 years ago are almost empty, a luxury that can now be affordable only in government or drug deals-one
This unstoppable decline has weakened Maduro's support.
Those who watch Venezuelan TV may not know-for now, airwaves are the exclusive surreal domain of the state and professionals
But even in the former Chavista stronghold, anger spread to protests. Pro-
Maduro's rally was largely reduced to bus
Militants in the party.
Public sector staff have begun to publicly express their support for the opposition leader Juan Guado.
Parliament recognized as interim president by 65 countries.
This is done in order to incur revenge, but despair begins to overcome fear.
Nevertheless, one thing that has not changed is the unpredictable nature of Venezuela.
We sit with an old friend and meditate on the course of the crisis.
We want to know, will there be a coup tomorrow? Or will the socialist government come back from the brink again and remain in power for ten or twenty years?
"You realize we were having this conversation ten years ago," commented my friend . ".
"Yes," I remember.
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