Reporter’s Diary: The death of a poet, and Venezuela’s middle class

Protesters flee on 23 January in San Cristóbal.

‘I still don’t get it, he had no enemies’

Luigi reminded me of my own friends here; people I’ve met over the past four years as I’ve travelled around the country for months at a time covering Venezuela’s sad, inexorable decline.

‘The screams have no echo here among the mute’

After the shooting, Luigi’s mother, Julieta Ovalles, moved in with her son’s girlfriend’s family.

‘We are alone, each on our own island’

In 2015, after completing high school, Luigi entered university. He dived into protest poetry from Peru and listened to socially critical rappers such as the Chilean, Portavoz, and the Venezuelan, Canserbero.

‘Talking to you is begging for problems’

In March, after several more weeks of digging — asking everyone who could have seen Luigi on the day of his death or who might know someone who had — I finally get the contact details of an eyewitness with an answer.

Luigi being moved shortly after being shot. He didn’t plan to join the protest, but when they passed his window singing, he changed his mind.

‘The state killed my son’

A few days after visiting the crime scene, I tracked down Carlos Franceschini, the cameraman from local TV station TRT who was at the protest and filming before and after Luigi was killed. He doesn’t believe he saw Luigi, but says there were “colectivos and police or military — and they shot at the protesters”.

In the top right photo, Carvallo, the FAES officer (on the left), has his weapon drawn as he engages near the crime scene. In the bottom right photo, FAES officers can also be seen engaging on the day of the shooting.

‘They kill us with bullets and with fear’

Three weeks after the murder, I attend a poetry reading in the capital, Caracas, one day’s drive from San Cristobal over bumpy highways with rusty billboards, past half-emptied towns and closed-down farms.



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