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Seventeen-year-old Carolina Campos and her aunt got caught in the crossfire on Baralt Avenue.  Just after the armored police trucks moved up the street (with Andrés Trujillo and Jesús Capote following them), they got pinned down behind a white kiosk on the west side of the street.  The air was thick with tear gas and Carolina’s eyes were leaking water. Suddenly, she looked down and saw blood streaming out of her arm.  She inhaled with fright and started screaming at her aunt; Mílvida, in turn, began shouting for help, saying that a kid had been injured. 

Mílvida had not yet noticed that the same bullet had struck her, too.

The two looked like family.  They were just about the same size, on the short side, with brown skin and black hair, although Carolina’s was much curlier.  Carolina liked to keep it pulled back, and let a few strands fall in front of her face.  She also had attractive high cheek bones and full lips.

The two had been cleaning the apartment and watching TV when Mílvida said they should go to Miraflores to support the president.  Carolina didn’t really want to go, but Mílvida convinced her.  “It’s cool,” her aunt assured her, “they play Llanera music and nothing is going to happen.”

They took the bus and arrived at Baralt around two o’clock—before Jorge Tortoza and Malvina were hit and before the police presence on the street was so heavy.  They made it up to the Llaguno overpass, crossing in front of a line of National Guard troops blocking the way to Miraflores on the Muñoz corner. Carolina would later see how—when people were injured and suffering from tear gas inhalation—these troops refused to let people through to safety.  They just stood there with their gas masks on.

When they first arrived below the Llaguno overpass Carolina felt very nervous about being there.  Before long they began to see people with blood on them.  This was the first time that Carolina had ever seen anything like this. “Qué pasa?” she asked her aunt.

“Don’t worry,” Mílvida said, “that´s from rubber bullets.” 

Carolina had no idea what a rubber bullet was.  “But they must hit hard,” Carolina said, “look how these people are bleeding.”

Mílvida wasn’t particularly worried and wanted to go back down Baralt to get a better look at what was happening.  “Carolina, stay here because they are throwing tear gas and some people are getting injured,” she said.  But Carolina refused.  She would rather face the danger beside her aunt than risk losing her in the crowd.

As they went down Baralt together Carolina could see the police trucks and the marchers down the street.  They were hollering and shouting and throwing rocks and waving their flags.  Carolina, her aunt, and the rest of the chavistas shouted and waved their flags and threw rocks back at them.  On her left she saw a group of chavistas shooting fireworks horizontally at the police.

When they were on Piñango corner, less than a block from Llaguno overpass, they began hearing detonations.  Carolina didn’t know if they were guns or bombs but they were very loud.  The tear gas was really affecting her. She held a vinegar-soaked-rag over her nose and tried to breath.  That was when Carolina realized they were in the middle of a gunfight.  Many people fled back up toward the overpass, but Carolina, her aunt, and four or five others stayed behind the white kiosk, too frightened to go out into the open.  They were there maybe fifteen minutes before it happened.

Carolina had her back to the kiosk and her aunt was facing her when the bullet pierced Carolina’s upper arm.  It entered her triceps and passed out her biceps into her aunt’s stomach.  The trauma caused Carolina’s arm to contract violently—her hand whipped up tight to her shoulder—and the bullet would leave her with three scars: the entrance and exit wounds and a third scar where her forearm had doubled up against her biceps and her own hot flesh had scorched her skin.

The pain was overwhelming.  Horrible.  And the sight of her own blood terrified her.  There was also a strange vibration—like electricity—in her arm.  She couldn’t move it and thought it was going to stay doubled up like that forever.  She was screaming and her aunt was crying for help.  A group of Chávez supporters grabbed Carolina and took her up to the medical tents in front of the White Palace.  Because Carolina had been on Baralt all afternoon, she had no idea that any of this was up here—the stage, the crowd, the hospital tents.  She kept crying for her aunt.  “Quiero mi tía!  Donde esta mi tía?” 

The paramedics put a dressing on the wound and within about fifteen minutes they got her out in an ambulance.

When she arrived at Hospital de Lídice, she came under a barrage of questions from the doctors and nurses.  Because she was underage, they wanted to know how she had ended up in the middle of things.  “What were you doing there?  Who were you with?   Why were you walking around down there?”  They asked her which group she was with: the opposition or the government.  “I was with both of them,” she said.  When they asked her if it was a bullet wound she said, “I guess so.”  The truth was she was too afraid to look at her own arm.

She was having X-rays done when she saw her aunt being wheeled by on a stretcher.  “That’s my aunt!  That’s my aunt!” she cried.  And the nurse came and talked to her.  “Don’t worry.  She is going to be fine.”  Then they took Carolina out into a waiting room and reviewed her (and the x-rays) for bullet fragments.  Carolina kept asking for her aunt, but nobody would come and talk to her.  The pain was excruciating—her whole arm was now pulsating like her heart.  All she wanted was her aunt.  If they would just let her see her, that would somehow make it all better.

Finally, a nurse came with her aunt’s clothes.  That startled her.  Had she died?  The nurse explained that she had a bullet wound in the stomach and was in surgery.  It is very serious, the nurse told her, Carolina had better call her family as soon as she could.  After they came and injected something in Carolina’s arm for the pain and put her in a cast, she called her uncle.  She had the phone in one hand and her IV bag in the other.  But she told her uncle the wrong hospital, so it took him a while to arrive. 

Finally around eleven o’clock her uncle took her back to the house to rest, then he returned to the hospital to look after Mílvida.  The surgeons would spend four hours operating on her aunt, and thankfully, she survived.

At home by herself Carolina was very lonely and depressed.  She could feel a tension in the air.  It was as if everyone in the city were holding their breath, waiting to see what would happen next.  

Where do you want to go?

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