Venezuelan socialist leader and accused drug lord Diosdado Cabello was in the middle of a speech about the greatness of Bolivarian socialism when a 7.0 earthquake struck the country Tuesday afternoon, triggering panic in the Caracas crowd and leaving Cabello momentarily speechless.
The surreal images of the crowd experiencing the earthquake, and Cabello finally regaining his train of thought enough to celebrate the earthquake as a monument to the victories of socialism, were some of many recorded throughout the country of panicked Venezuelans reacting to what some call the longest seconds of their lives.
The regime of socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro announced Wednesday that no casualties had been recorded in the earthquake, whose epicenter was reportedly documented in eastern Sucre state.
Venezuela’s socialist government regularly stages mass events in which those who rely on the government for work or food are forced to attend and celebrate Maduro’s regime. Cabello, formerly the nation’s second-in-command and still currently believed to be the head of the Cartel de los Soles, a transcontinental cocaine trafficking operation, was hosting such an event Tuesday afternoon, applauded the “revolutionary men and women” who still support the socialist regime, an especially important rally in light of the mass confusion and panic surrounding the introduction of a new, invented currency on Monday.
Cabello appears to be interrupted as he begins an anecdote about the Maduro regime from last year. Going silent, the crowd begins to yell “sismo!” or “earthquake!”
Cabello stays silent for some seconds before asking the crowd, “Where was I?”
Cabello then promptly says the earthquake is “the Bolivarian revolution,” telling the public that good things are coming, using a Venezuelan idiom that roughly translates to “time to buy dance shoes because it’s time to party!”
Venezuelans across the country posted harrowing videos of their neighborhoods experiencing the earthquake. On the roof of one of the few remaining luxury hotels in Caracas—a city increasingly lacking stable water supplies—locals recorded a deluge dripping off the side of the building from the rooftop pool.
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Videos surfaced in various communities in the east of the nation of locals scrambling out of buildings screaming for help.
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Speaking to national outlet Runrunes, one eyewitness in Sucre, Carmen Guilarte, described the horror of experiencing the earthquake near its epicenter:
We tried to stand up and we couldn’t, the floor was shaking me so my nephew and I began to scream. The boy started crying to me that the ground was going to swallow us. When I could stand up with the boy, we ran out amid the swaying of the floor and watched the trees shake as if they were about to fall. The people were screaming hysterically and you could hear windows cracking.
The incident occured a day after Maduro announced the creation of the “sovereign bolívar,” a third currency to be used instead of the standard bolívar, whose value is in freefall after years of socialist mismanagement of the economy. On Monday, as banks distributed the new currency, Venezuelans panicked as the government failed to explain the value of the “sovereign bolívar” or provide a viable exchange rate. Many businesses around the country closed because they could not figure out what to price their products under the new system. Maduro has yet to clarify the new program, which also forces small businesses to increase the minimum wage by 3,500 percent.
Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior Néstor Reverol told media following the earthquake that there were no reports of casualties as a result.
“There are some structural failures in some buildings,” he told state propaganda network VTV, but no dead or wounded. He cited as an example a financial office building in Caracas, the abandoned Confinanzas complex, whose top floors tipped 25 percent to the side following the earthquake.
Venezuela experienced another earthquake on Wednesday morning, this one a 5.7 magnitude aftershock with its epicenter northeast of Yaguaraparo in Sucre, close to the epicenter of the first.