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Tupamaro Documentary An Up-Close Look At Venezuelan Regime's Violent Street Enforcers

From 'Tupamaro: Urban Guerrillas'
Alberto 'Chino' Carias in Caracas with members of his Tupamaro colectivo, or street gang

One of the reasons Venezuela’s authoritarian regime stays in power is its street enforcers – violent gangs known as colectivos. A new documentary, "Tupamaro: Urban Guerrillas," examines the rise of the most powerful colectivo – and the film is even more relevant right now.

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"Tupamaro" opens with Alberto "Chino" Carías laying out who's on his vigilante list of people who "have no right to live," such as people who traffic drugs to kids. What they get from groups like his, he insists, is "Bang-Bang."

Carías was the leader of Venezuela’s biggest pro-government street gang, or colectivo, known as Tupamaro. The documentary about his and his colectivo's bang-bang saga debuts Friday on Amazon Prime Video. It’s a striking, up-close look at what supporters call revolutionary Robin Hoods – but human rights groups call criminal thugs who’ve terrorized and killed opponents of Venezuela’s socialist regime for two decades.

“I’m going to hell for sure,” Carías said before he died three years ago. “But violence is the only way to defend the people. … Venezuela has to be transformed by revolutionary violence.”

That dubious if not delusional claim of Venezuela’s colectivos – that they’re noble defenders of the people – is playing out in a new way during the COVID-19 crisis. They’re enforcing, often with intimidation, the regime’s quarantine lockdown orders in barrios like the 23 de Enero slum where Tupamaro is based.

“They rule these areas with their own form of justice," says Andrew Rosati, a veteran Venezuela correspondent who co-wrote the documentary. "So if quarantine were to come into play, this is just another way they’re cracking down on these areas.”

“Tupamaro,” directed Martin Markovits, marks the first time a documentary crew was able to embed for an extended time with one of Venezuela’s major colectivos.

https://vimeo.com/406988351" target="_blank">See the documentay trailer here.