April 1-30, 2002 -- Strikes, Coups, and Paupo, Oh My!

What a month this was.

It didn't start out being overly exciting. However, by the end of the month it was enough to make your head spin!

The month started well enough. There wasn't a whole lot on the agenda. Of course, there were boat projects; but there are always boat projects. Blind Date had friends that were visiting for the first two weeks of the month. Ashley and Carol wanted us to meet them, and their friends wanted to meet us as well. So, we set aside some time to get together with them.

We heard that there would be an oil workers strike, and that all gasoline and deisel would be cut off to the island. Being the ever diligent planners, and lazy to boot (we had no desire to row); we layed out our plans for conserving gasoline. Since we carry a six month supply of deisel for the generators we weren't too concerned about that. The strike started on Wednesday, April 3. We had 13 gallons of gasoline.

On Thursday April 4, we found out that the island had approximately a 20 day supply of gasoline and deisel on the island so there would not be a problem for several weeks. We were still cautious and anytime we used a jug of gas we always refilled it.

We called Ashley and Carol and let them know about the oilworker strike and told them that they should consider topping off their tanks before returning to Porlamar since they were out cruising some of the other islands of Venezuela.

On Friday, April 5, we learned that there would be a general strike in Venezuela. The strike was to last until action was taken, either Chavez left office, or major reforms were inacted. Of course, we prepared for this as well!

On Monday morning, sure enough, all of the major shopping areas were closed. This included the major grocery stores!

We watched and listened all week as tensions started mounting in Caracas. Even in Margarita, there were peaceful protests against Chavez. But they were nothing compared to the reports coming from Caracas.

On Thursday, April 11, we went out to dinner with Blind Date and their guests. On our way back to the boat, we noticed fireworks being set off over Porlamar. We also saw a Guardia Costa vessel holding station in front of the marina where the local Guardia National and Guardia Costa keep their boats. We thought that was a bit odd; however, it wasn't affecting us, and the soldiers were very friendly wishing us a good evening and a safe trip back to our boat.

When we got back to the boat, we turned on the television to learn that there was mounting pressure on Chavez to resign, and that 3 of the 4 branches of military had come out against him.

On Friday, April 12, we awoke to the news that Chavez resigned at 3:00 AM AST, more or less. He was in a prison on Los Hermanos, an island between Margarita and Los Aves. His wife and daughter had flown to Cuba and a new provisional government had been installed.

On April 13, the Government news station carried the news that the provisional government was collapsing amid pro-Chavez demonstrations, riots and looting in Caracas. Here it was peaceful, and life continued on as if nothing of importance were happening anywhere in Venezuela.

On April 14, Chavez was reinstated as president of the Venezuela. The information was kept very quiet, and so, we headed to Jake's house for a party along with Galadriel, Blind Date, Salt Whistle, and Precocious Gale. Several local friends also joined us there. It was a fun afternoon.

That was pretty much it. The coup was over, the counter-coup was over, the oil strike was over, and the general strike was over. The most affected we were by any of it was simply that we couldn't go to the grocery store for a few days, and we were concerned about gasoline. It was an amazing time.

At this point, I would say that life returned to normal. However, life was already pretty much normal anyway. So, things were quiet for about a week when we were in at Jak's about to do a new round of shopping when Sarida came to us and asked us to speak to the Guardia National because they had arrested her husband, Paupo.

As it turns out, the Guardia had seen Paupo with a part that was obviously for a boat. We had thrown this boat part (shit pump) away the day before because it was beyond repair. Paupo and Sarida often 'inherit' many things that cruisers consider unusable simply because they come up with great uses for them. Well, Paupo retrieved this pump out of the dumpster, and the Guardia detained him until they could ascertain whether he had stolen it or not.

I walked up to the Guardia station with Sarida and talked with Senor Diaz. I explained, in Spanish no less, that the pump was broken and we had brought it in as trash. Further, it was fine with us if Paupo could fix it and use it or sell it. Senor Diaz said that was fine, and sorry for the inconvenience, but his job was to watch out for us. After thanking him, Paupo, Sarida and I left. Thank God my spanish is getting better than what I learned while watching Speedy Gonzalas!

The rest of the month was spent working on boat projects. One of the major ones that was accomplished was finished on April 30 at 10:00 pm AST! Ling Ling, who hasn't run since we got here was brought back on line yesterday after we replaced her heat exchanger. This was a two day project involving removing the motor mounts, and then jacking the engine up enough to remove the original heat exchanger and fitting a new in its place. This is something we have been trying to do for a while but took quite some time to get the part!