In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Total Collapse: Venezuela after Chávez
  • Alejandro Cegarra (bio)

photographs and essay by alejandro cegarra/native agency


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A group of children stand in front of graffiti of Hugo Chávez during a school trip to the location of the former president’s remains.

[End Page 61]


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A group of women shout slogans against the opposition during a rally in front of the national parliament.

[End Page 62]


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A man carries a portrait of Hugo Chávez during the funeral of the former president.

This is not what our leaders promised us. We were told that we’d be safe walking the streets, that we’d have jobs, that we’d be able to buy groceries from a well-stocked store.

The local media is afraid to report the obvious truths, because it could anger the government. But, four years after Hugo Chávez’s death, Venezuela is more dangerous, more unequal, and poorer than ever before.

The state has failed us. [End Page 63]


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A kid covers his face as the National Guard evicts his family. The government said the space was needed to expand Caracas’ main highway, but several months later, there was still no construction.

People queue for hours to buy subsidized food. Families are starving in the countryside and often malnourished in the cities. Markets are nearly empty. And the 526 percent inflation rate that Venezuela endured in 2016 has wiped out people’s savings. [End Page 64]


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Joffren Polanco stands beside his nearly empty fridge.


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Leandro Castillo, 14, lies in intensive care for malnutrition in a hospital near Caracas.

[End Page 65]


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An undercover police officer fights with an unarmed civilian outside a liquor store.


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A gang member who told me to call him “Johnny” poses for a photo in Carapita, a slum in west Caracas.

Amid this economic hardship, a culture of violence has taken hold. The government spends seven times as much on weapons to defend itself from a hypothetical U.S. invasion than on civilian safety. The real battles, of course, are inside the country. Every year, about 24,000 Venezuelans are murdered. Despite 27 security plans enacted over the last 17 years, violence keeps increasing, and [End Page 66] Venezuela remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Somehow the 110,000-strong Venezuelan security forces are not enough, and fearing death has become a part of daily life.

No matter how hard you try to avoid them, violence, death, and tragedy will find you in Caracas.

In the 23 de Enero neighborhood, a Chavista stronghold in Caracas, a pair of gangsters were running from the police and threw a grenade behind them. Instead of throwing off their pursuers, it exploded next to a 5-year-old named Gabriel, who later died from his wounds.


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A soldier stands watch as his partner investigates a group of kids drinking in the streets.


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Bolivarian National Police advance toward opposition demonstrators in Caracas.

[End Page 67]

During his funeral, a crowd gathered around a small hole where his coffin lay. His baseball teammates sang, and his mother—in a wheelchair because of injuries she sustained while shielding her daughter from the blast—wept. For the first time while photographing, I couldn’t help but cry, too.

Later, in Carapita, a slum in west Caracas, I met “The Johnny.” He wore a bulletproof vest, hid his face, and held a shotgun. In Caracas, Johnny is the personification of death, the person we have all learned to fear. Johnny is a malandro, a gangster like the one who killed Gabriel.


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Gabriel’s mother cries beside his coffin. Gabriel died from a grenade explosion as gang members attempted to flee the police.

[End Page 69]


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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-0924
Print ISSN
0740-2775
Pages
pp. 60-73
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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