Between the pest and the beasts by Anthony Ascer Aparicio

And now who are we? Where are we? Where do we go? If the last trace of innocence disappeared as life was transformed into survival. While fear intoxicated our human condition and duel consumed our calendars.
A special police unit enters a slum during a security operation in Caracas. In its attempts to curb organized crime the government has ordered the militarization of citizen security through a series of surprise operations against gangs.

And now who are we? Where are we? Where do we go? If the last trace of innocence disappeared as life was transformed into survival. While fear intoxicated our human condition and duel consumed our calendars.

Fury flows through our blood. The same blood that does not stop spilling, forcing us to dig our most primitive instincts. There is no option, only necessity. More than a right, living has become a feat. Now we are all both, hunters and preys. Sick of hate. Waiting for the next blow. Waiting for the next travelling bullet like a shooting star, and watching it pass, begging for a single wish; not to be the next to fall down.We are between heaven and earth. Where the beasts kill each other. Where the pest infects us. Where justice ignores, impotence strangles, revenge is oxygen and remorse scarces. We go walking in circles stumbling over un-memorized obstacles. Running after a peace that we never knew. Assuming our existence, regardless of others. Surrounded by witnesses and accomplices. In the middle of chaos; we are, exist, and go “Between the pest and the beasts”.

My project is titled “Between The Pest and The Beasts”. It’s an essay in which I try to address a phenomenon that has been an inspiration for many Venezuelan colleagues, and that is still a reason for work and research over the years.

And it is that nobody is safe when you live in the city that over the last years occupies the first place in the violence index. We have all been victims or victimizers, either voluntarily or by splashing. And it is precisely that personal vision that has motivated me to document this conflict.

From the members of the special forces without morals or ethics, devastating the slums population, criminalizing his social status without differentiating guilty from innocent. From the police officer who exerts all his strength on a young man who manifests himself in the middle of a protest violating his human rights. To the criminal gangs at the top of the slums, recruiting more and more young people and force them to grow with a gun in their hands to control the territory, the sale of drugs, robberies and kidnappings. Passing by the most affected, ordinary citizens, who are in the middle of this silent war, being witnesses and the worst case scenario, accomplices.

Based on this reality, I adopted this metaphor as a starting point. Incarnating in the role of “The beasts” the opposing sides, the law and those who are in the margin of it, killing each other. “The Pest” as that hatred, impotence, mourning and thirst for revenge that sickens the direct mourners. And in the middle of everything, the conscious and reasonable human being, who is part of this reality, is not exempt from contamination by this social bacteria called violence.

About Anthony AsCer Aparicio

My name is Anthony AsCer Aparicio, I’m a 25 years old Venezuelan photographer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During the last two years, I’ve worked as an independent photojournalist for local media in Venezuela, I’ve also collaborated with the international press and NGO. In the year 2017 I took the 4th place of the POY LATAM in the category News (individual), and this year 2018 I got the 3rd place of the Lens Culture Exposure Award in the category (individual), I’ve also been published in the book “The Best of Lens Culture Vol.2”. [Official Website]

Venezuela will be ranked as the most violent country in Latin America by 2019, according to the NGO Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia (OVV). This Caribbean paradise, with a homicide rate of 81.4% per 100,000 inhabitants, seems to have no ceasefire. Due to the economic and social crisis that crosses the nation governed by Nicolas Maduro, the population can only cling to one of the most primitive instincts: survive.

Night falls on a slum in Caracas. Often these slums become a war zone when gangs and security forces clash, even amongst themselves. Overcrowding and socioeconomic conditions of these places generate a perfect breeding ground for crime.

When night falls the streets remain deserted, only a few dare to wander the city. A kind of curfew has been imposed amongst the inhabitants. Due to the lack of police presence and public lighting is not safe to stroll Caracas at night.

A special police unit enters a slum during a security operation in Caracas. In its attempts to curb organized crime the government has ordered the militarization of citizen security through a series of surprise operations against gangs.

A police official walks through an alley in a slum in Caracas during the deployment of the PLO (People’s Liberation Operation). This policy of security and repression focuses on treating slums as military targets and criminals as direct enemies. Since its implementation, human rights defenders have pointed to these operations as the criminalization of poverty, abuse of authority and excess of force.

The lifeless body of a criminal is moved by a group of police officers. The subject had kidnapped a family inside their home. After the negotiations failed, the police opened fire, ending the life of the fellon. Violence is common in Caracas, even the point of becoming a habit.

A man is arrested after he attempted to steal a cellphone from a female police officer who was not wearing her uniform at the time. Often, these kind of situations end with the death of the victim. Luckily this wasn’t the case.

A group of teenagers is stopped by the police during a security operation. They were catched inside a house where they kept guns and drugs.

A group of people protest in from of the General Prosecutor’s Office. The demand the end of the security operations that have  killed their family members. As collateral damage, these operations tend to kill innocent people that got caught in the crossfire.

A group of people try to lynch a man accused of stealing a cellphone from a woman during a religious event. Lynchings have become the citizens last resource due to the lack of confidence that they feel for the security forces.

A Bullet hit the billboard of a clothing store east of Caracas. Outside military zones, in the city there’s not a safe zone. Anywhere, anytime, an armed conflict can take place.

The forensic police take a look at the interior of a vehicle stranded in the middle of the highway to the east of Caracas, where an old man was shot to death by criminals on motorcycles. The victim was a doctor and was hit with a bullet in the head for resisting the theft of a few dollars he was carrying.

The emergency room of one of the main hospitals in Caracas. During the late hours of the night and the first hours of the day, these rooms become a war triage, prepared to receive people wounded by firearms and knives. Most of people arrive dead.

A woman cries during a tribute to a deceased family member. The victim was a popular coach of a children’s basebal team in one of the largest slums in Caracas. One morning, criminals knocked on his door, when he answered it, he was shot in the head without explanation.

A young man is arrested after being accused of hitting a police woman during riots in Caracas. A few days later the innocence of the young man was verified, achieving his freedom. Even so, the viral images in the social networks of the moment of their violent capture are a reflection of the abuse of authority and excess of force by the security forces. During the anti-government protests, the police focused on suppressing the demonstrations, while the criminals took advantage of this distraction to act with even more impunity. In the midst of this saturated and hostile climate, peaceful citizens are the most affected. The consequences of the social conflict that Venezuela suffers will be evident in the next generations, even during the next decades.

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