Anyone viewing the horror of the typical oppression borne of a Socialist regime may have noticed some of the kit utilised by the Maduro regime. The Caracas chronicles gives us a run down on the major pieces:
Military-style gear is one thing the regime’s never scrimped on. The trend started by Hugo Chávez in 2005 renewed Venezuela’s military gear, supposedly to prepare for battle against the countless imaginary enemies chavismo created through the years. But really, we always knew who the real target was, because it stared back at us from the mirror each morning.
Even as the economic crisis hit hard, forcing the Maduro government to reduce its military expenses —by more than 90% compared to the Chávez years, according to some NGOs, — they continued the “Eternal Commander’s” tradition. That’s why, in a country where food and medicines are nowhere to be seen, there’s a squad of armored personnel carriers (APCs), fully equipped with tear gas canisters and rubber pellets, waiting for every march and protest to reach them.
Armored Vehicles: APC’s (a.k.a., “Tanquetas”)
Its official designation is the VN-4 armored vehicle, manufactured in China by the Chinese Defense Company, NORINCO. Unlike most people tend to think, they are quite modern and versatile, able to carry two drivers and up to eight soldiers inside, reaching up to 115 km/h and being able to go for about 700 km. without refueling.
VN-4s can do a lot of damage. The original, warfare-oriented units have a central turret that is usually armed with a 7,5 mm. heavy machine gun. The units deployed in Venezuelan protests, however, have been modified for riot-control purposes with the machine gun being replaced for a more “friendly” tear-gas launcher. The little white beasts can also be equipped with several Bond-like gadgets, including an infrared night-vision system and a central tire inflation system that prevents them from being disabled by a flat tire. These perks, however, are optional, and we doubt if Baduel sprung extra for those.
The ABV-1, better known as el murciélago (“the bat”) is a really peculiar vehicle. It was named after bats because of their two “wings” —a pair of about 3-meter tall barriers that can be deployed laterally from both sides of the truck, creating a cover for officers behind them and solidly blocking people from going beyond a certain point.
In Caracas, they have been used to literally divide the city in half.
Remember Freddy Guevara’s already famous video in which he lent his parliamentary immunity to an almost-captured protester by hugging him while some GNBs tried to separate them? It all happened right in front of a couple of these things.
Water cannon trucks, or “whales,” are one of the most storied machines of riot control. Unlike the “bat,” they’ve been around since the 1930s, widely used around the world. They became infamous during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. They are no less new in Venezuela; police forces have been using them for quite a long time, even before chavismo’s rise to power. Their usage, however, has been dramatically reduced lately in most parts of the world, mainly because under certain circumstances, they may cause death or severe trauma.
Venezuela bought 10 of these things a few years ago from —who else?— China. The model is NORINCO’s WTC-1 and most units are also currently deployed in Caracas. Now, 10 water cannon trucks might not seem like much of a threat, but countries like the UK have only six of them and strict limitations restrict their use. As with most of the Government’s deals, the price of these trucks is unknown, but similar versions might cost as much as 1 million USD in Europe.