Like a beaver dam of urban detritus, the piles of tires, old mattresses and heavy steel grates in Venezuela’s streets have sparked some of the most violent episodes of this tumultuous season of protest and repression.
The barricades in Caracas’ middle-class neighborhoods and swaths of opposition-governed cities aim to disrupt, frustrate and ultimately trigger a popular revolt. But like the broader, mostly peaceful anti-government movement it grew out of, the tactic has so far failed to sow wider unrest.
Indeed many in the opposition regard the barricades as a gift to embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who hasn’t missed an opportunity to highlight the hours-long traffic jams caused by the obstructions that frustrate Venezuelans on both ends of the political spectrum.
Calling them “guarimbas,” which Venezuelans associate with home base in a child’s game of hide-and-seek, Maduro has repeatedly cited the barricades as evidence that his opponents aren’t fit to govern.
He also portrays them as a small minority that wants to undo Venezuela’s socialist policies aimed at helping the poor.