Terror in Latin America: Five Countries, Five Great Translations

Jim Fonseca
10 min readNov 29, 2022
Photo of violence in Caracas from timesofisrael.com

Here are five brief reviews of translated novels about political terror in Latin America. There’s a lot of terror to go around, so we’ll look at stories from Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia. I’ll give a short review and provide a link to my more extensive review of each book. Got your plane ticket ready? (Some spoilers follow.)

1) Terror in Venezuela: A Review of It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo

Stephen King would be hard pressed to come up with a story more terrifying than this one because it’s based in reality. Our story begins with a young woman, an editor who works online. Her mother has just died. We follow her as she deals with the daily violence, chaos and societal disintegration that’s been going on in Venezuela since 1999.

The woman lives in an apartment in the heart of downtown so she has a bird’s eye view of the street demonstrations and daily violence.

She’s used up most of her money buying her mother’s medication on the black market. Now she’s alone. Her father was always absent and she only has some elderly aunts in a distant rural town. She had a lover, an older man, a journalist, but he’s no longer with us, thanks to the government.

Crime is such that no one can go out after 6 pm. Kids can’t leave their house to go to playgrounds. She hears gunshots every day and bursts of fire from automatic weapons. Anti-government demonstrations are so frequent that she has taped the edges of her windows to prevent tear gas from getting in.

Of all this terror, most frightening to me is her description of the role that the paramilitary types play. The government encourages these semi-official armed motorcycle gangs to come out and kick ass during anti-government demonstrations. They are free to kill and torture people. The government pays them with crates of food which they can sell on the black market. They set up roadblocks and charge ‘tolls.’ The military cannot control them.

A gang of paramilitary biker women — wives and girlfriends, who knows — take over the apartment that she owns. Should she call the police? Let me tell you about the police. They raided another apartment in her building a week ago ‘looking for someone.’…

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Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.