I am from Venezuela and I am not happy

The following written text is a brief recollection of the events regarding Venezuela from my perspective. I won’t go into detail in almost anything, if you want hard cold punctual facts you may go to the CNN page, they’re following everything pretty closely.

You can find the version with pictures here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/207628307/I-am-from-Venezuela-and-I-am-not-happy

I do not own any of the photos or videos uploaded or cited  in this free article. I only take credit for the textual content and probably, the grammar errors. Excuse those btw, my native language is Spanish.

For those never dying haters who may ask why this article is not in Spanish, the answer is simple, you can find more info regarding Venezuela on Spanish, this is an article for those who are not from America. And since I can’t speak Mandarin or Arabic, I thought prudent to make it in English, a language most everyone understands.

 

My name is Elianne, I live in Venezuela and I am not happy

I am writing these lines because I need to speak up and since in my country each day there are less ways of communication, I figured I needed to do something now.

Now, I don’t believe in violence, I believe in love; but in the eyes of those who harm us, there isn’t even a soul.

 

I’m Elianne

I am a Venezuelan, born and raised. I’m a twenty years old Social Communication (let’s say, Journalism) student. I’ve been raised educationally wise on the upper middle class, that’s to say I studied in a private school my whole life; but the rest of my family and some people we know have forever been lower middle class. I don’t believe money define us, but I do believe I’ve become more aware and critical because of my upbringing: I cannot judge the rich because they’re my friends and I understand how they work; and I cannot judge the poor because I know how hard the everyday living is on their side.

Thing is, I wasn’t always aware. My parents raised me to see the best of people regardless of money, and I did. My parents also taught me to help others always, and I like to believe I do. I had the perfect family, the perfect home, we weren’t wealthy but we were definitely not poor. Ten years or so later, I cannot say for sure.

This is Venezuela

It is impossible, so I won’t try, to describe to you the complexity of the social, economical and political structure and chaos of this country; but I’ll give you some examples so you can try and “get within character”:

  • When you go somewhere and you have to walk there, you don’t take your phone with you, or if you have to: you hide it in your privates. Always. That’s not because we are paranoid, but because more often than not you get robbed and they don’t just take your cell, your wallet and dignity, they also tend to kill you for the sake of it.
  • You get, let’s say, to the mall; and you would probably see some huge lines on the supermarket (there are lines and lines everywhere and for everything actually, watch this video from BBC:http://goo.gl/sw59Yi) Why you ask? Because in my country things like milk, butter, cooking oil, flour, toilet paper and soap, to name a few, are not easily found and in some cases have never been seen again, like condensed milk or many brands of products. Wanna ask why? Well, is because of government politics, they restricted free access to money, add ruining national productivity and a healthy dose of awful laws that promote laziness over work.

But ok I guess the last two you can see how came to happen, but how do you go about controlling money, you may wonder?

  • See, Government over here gets their stinky nose on every detail (our National Assembly favors the government publicly, as every Ministry, even our Army, and so on) so they got into law controlling foreign currencies. See what this made: Think of each dollar you have, now imagine for every eleven point seven (11.7) dollars you can buy just one single tiny euro or peso or any other currency. Awful right? Now add you don’t even get that one, you have to get that currency (that supports the whole world), on the black market and EACH costs you EIGHTY DOLLARS. Atrocious, isn’t it?

Healthy dose of realism: four days of work being paid the regular salary equals one panty (knickers, undies).  Appalling. Well that’s our every-day here. Most people in my country unfortunately do not see what’s wrong in this, they would say “but I don’t travel, it doesn’t affect me”. What they fail to see, is that the global market is on dollars and each day the gap arises, we are getting more and more poorer. Our work is less valuable because of inflation and other true but depressing economical facts.

  • This incapacity to realize simple economical problems is due to an unfortunate but provable mediocre education, in all levels. The government has tried for years to increase quantity in schools and universities by lowering educational standards: mortal error. And we’re paying it. Add to that a lot of war talk constantly on national TV, with a healthy dose of known impunity on the whole country and what do you get? I got anarchic criminals with degree.
  • There is no law on the streets. Only people who have been in Venezuela understand what is like to have a bunch of let’s say “bikers” take over our cities. Now, imagine the biker badasses on your country, loose the badass and add weapons they carry freely, add a lot of misplaced attitude and sense of self-importance with a healthy dose of just not giving a damn. Make that 30 bikers at each intersection (at least) coming and going without a care for traffic signals. They are usually the ones who robe you. And kill you.
  • Where’s the police? Well, imagine you can get your police uniform with just six months of half-assing going to police-school. Add that your salary is less than shiz. Throw a healthy dose of they being mostly from the worst side of the suburbs… Now, add a sprinkle of the government also has made it so that when they fire the arms they are given, they get in more trouble than the criminals. Might be why everything here is militarized, but then again is the same thing with them only on the long haul.

Yep you said it: is a fucked up chaos. We have every element needed in a complicated recipe for disaster: and we’re living it.

You may think I’m exaggerating, so here’s the perspective of an “objective” person, a foreign girl living here for a few months: http://goo.gl/GosGns

Now that was me getting you warmed up and smiley for the worst:

We are getting mass assassinated and no one is doing a thing, only on 2013 there were over 24,000 murders in a country of less that 30 million people. According to the nonprofit Venezuelan Violence Observatory a homicide happens every 21 minutes. Lovely, isn’t it?

Furthermore, the incarcerated criminals practically and it is known, rule this nation; we have water and electricity problems (as in, no getting them for hours and days, all the time); our monthly salary is half of what is needed to make a two week-4 person grocery shopping; we’re making more and more lines to pay a hell lot more, for the hell lot of less food you “can find”. We have no money to buy thing we can’t find while we are getting killed and on national tv I’m being taught how to cook, sing with a dead ex-president and am told everything is “alright”.

Breaking point

All of this hasn’t been happening at the same time, we’re not that blind at least. But is an almost unstoppable spiral of collapse that wrecks everything around it. Imagine we are Jenga and the only thing holding our tetris are one block floors six feet up. Unsustainable.

We’ve been realizing this was bound to happen years ago. But we were “too rich”, “too few”, “too annoying” “not enough well liked by the populist people” (of course) and let’s just say too everything not-sufficient to be taken into account. ~Funny, they say they are “Socialists” (more like dictatorship, communist, hypocritical jerks)~

Anyway, we’ve been getting more and more restless in our demands, more angry, more tired, we’ve become more and more people; and as we have tried to speak our minds, there is less and less media coverage. Laws, outright repression, self-censure, and many other dirty ways to destroy our freedom of information and speech, the latest of which was taking down photos on twitter because they showed what was really happening (http://goo.gl/oqxXsO); are the way TV networks, radio stations and newspapers are handled here. I had to become an amateur hacker to be able to stay informed. Thank you TunnelBear.

The oppression has been coming up steady though gradually, but ever since the death of the “revolutionary” culprit Chávez, Maduro (the current president) has taken more drastic measures to assure the only “truth” that goes on air is the “truth” the government sees fit. Hence the lack of almost a single form of manifestation on any channel of anyone who thinks differently from the government. In my naïve eyes, all I can say is: there is danger in a single story (Chimamanda, you rock girl).

Aren’t you exhausted yet? Well I am. I feel like I can’t take a single breath of fresh air, all there is, is a black dense putrid cloud of oppression above us.

 

Feb.2014

In my country it is legal to protest freely on the streets as established in the 68 article of the Constitution, which states that citizens have the right to protest, peacefully and without weapons. As so, because of the many things that just don’t work over here, it is common to see a group of people on the side of avenues or streets protesting because “nobody listens to them” or “no one solves their issue”, that no one been the State which, because they get their stinky nose in everything, it all comes down to them to resolve every issue.

No water? State’s responsibility to resolve. No electricity? State’s responsibility to resolve. Insecurity? State’s responsibility to resolve. Work related injustices? State’s responsibility to resolve. See where I am going with this? No? Well simple: those guys tried to control it all so we would depend on them and give them all the credit for the good things that happen, but since they are mostly useless, all we talk about is how inefficient they are. They are supposed to, but they don’t solve a thing. Only excuses are given, all the time, or measures that, well, don’t work either.

Anyway, point is: public manifestations of discontent are common. So when on the first days of February 12 simultaneous protest against insecurity by students happened, it was all normal.

But then the 6th of February some guys from two universities on Táchira were accused of vandalizing the governor’s house and got incarcerated. Students did not agree. And some leaders of The Opposition (or MUD, a bunch of politics that are against the government) like Leopoldo Lopez didn’t either, so they called students to “the streets” to pronounce themselves against Government measures and … well it all escalated quickly after that.

See, most students couldn’t care less about MUD’s announcements, they are just fed up with the national critical situation and took that opening as an excuse to take the streets and protest against several things they believe are wrong. Some just did because they want the Government out. Some probably did because Leopoldo told them to. Some because they were bored. What do I know? Thing is hundreds, and I dare to say millions of mostly students were out on the streets on the Youth Day.  And this whole riot issued.

Remember when I told you about the kind of cops we have here? Well, we have several forces like that, like the GNB, SEBIN, DGIM and, kid you not: several civilian-armed groups the Government (yes, again) has openly given weapons to.

See, when these multitudinous groups of people march, those armed governmental groups go out and instead of trying to preserve calm in people, help keep them safe and stuff you would think people who swore to protect are meant to, they tend to cause more riot than what they fix. But when they do it, thank you scientists, in this time and era we have the ever hated resources of cell phones with cameras: and that’s the biggest of checkmates.

We –the people who have access to twitter and follow reliable sources, everyone else living in Venezuela does not know a thing- saw that Wednesday students marched on the streets of several cities, peacefully, asking for things to be fixed and the students to be released. We also saw how inexplicably, all of the sudden, after most protesters were retreating to their homes, tens of police officers and hundreds of bikers started to beat the crap out of some civilians, they shot at them, threw tear-gases and caused a horrific panic-filled mayhem for hours.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZwciVahw2k This is the video of a woman and a guy getting beat up and robbed by police officers. They weren’t even on the march. But that day it seemed Anarchy was the official King.

The Government even took out of the country NTN24, a Colombian TV network that was reporting about what was happening. Sixty six people were hurt badly that day and three men were killed. No one has been found responsible. The President and many Ministers, as you may have guessed, have just given their normal answers: it isn’t our fault, but of those who were protesting. No love found.

As opposed to what has happened on other occasions, the students kept going out to the streets to keep protesting, now only not to pronounce against the incarceration of the still prisoners from Táchira, also because of the everyday struggles, because they want the President to resign, and because two students were killed the day before for which they blamed the government and their armed forces.

The march that day went mostly completely peaceful. With a thick tension, nonetheless; and the fuel was still there on the Friday 14 International day of Love and Friendship. Slogans stating “Today Venezuela is our Valentine” could be seen everywhere. At night, when many protesters were still at the streets they shouted shamed-faced people at restaurants “we are fighting for you too, while you are over there doing nothing”.

Everything was getting more emotional. At Caracas, our nation’s capital, repression started in the main place where protesters concentrate. Heavy Tear-Gas , heavy shots rang, and overall harassment towards the students from the armed forces was recorded on videos and photos sent throughout  the internet. This while several students throughout the country were getting arrested and at the following days released. A never ending circle.

None of this has been shown on the National TV because of an announcement our President made, stating that any channel that showed the “violent events on the streets” was going to get severe consequences. Conatel, the organism responsible for supervising and controlling telecommunications, has been found responsible by students for supporting this Information Blackout. Remember 1984 by Orwell? Well, where we see a dystopian book, they saw a manual (quoting @LuisCarlos).

It kept going. Today, as I am writing this there’s been 6 days of full-on protests on the streets. The pattern has been established: people start to gather at noon but it is at mid afternoon when most people are united to walk around places expressing their discontent, do human-chains, walk towards some Ministry to protest, they’ve painted the streets and overall just, well,  express their disapproval on how things are at Venezuela.

Unfortunately the pattern also, it has to be said, has given place so that each night some protesters stay at the streets and, though it isn’t clear if they are actually students or “infiltrados” (people who don’t oppose the Government, but instead get inside the manifestations to cause riot and have it blamed on the guys who are protesting). Those unidentified people have been breaking public property, burning things, throwing Molotov cocktails, and doing acts of vandalism and things of the sort.

Now, I’ve opposed this regimen since I’ve had the virtue of conscience, but I publicly reject every violent act and as such, I and many others (influential people, of course) have publicly asked the responsible organisms to impart justice. Not only on the civilians causing riot, but on the governmental forces that beat, kick, shoot and torture the people they’re supposed to protect.

There are hundreds of photos and videos, not to mention all the armed forces that were there, for god’s sake! (Here’s even a video that shows the investigative research done by a newspapers of one of the students killed on February 12 : http://goo.gl/iewLUQ ) But still, as you may have suspected: all that has been done, is blame the protesters and their “leaders” (USA as a whole, the CIA and Obama being some of the responsible, according to the delusional mind of the dear president Venezuela has) and no one has been found guilty.

Now, on that matter, is funny how they are blaming “leaders”, because it is in fact the lack of any political leaders the cause of great deception among those on the streets. Not only are they upset with the oppressive regimen but also they feel they have no one to turn to, to back them up because even MUD (the political party I told you who are against the Government and were the strongest in the last election) it’s fractured and useless now. This also being the reason why even though most of us defends and acts peacefully, some get restless and use methods as burning trash, throwing things at officials or yelling at them; and yes, I agree, that is not as bad as shooting point blank at students and civilians, but it is one of the main things we want to eradicate: violence.

See what I’ve been talking about? Chaos from all angles.

I can’t begin to give you every detail of what’s been going on that has such strong historical roots I would bore you even more with this text. But here is a video that explains some of it:

What’s happening in Venezuela in a nutshell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFS6cP9auDc

 

I’m not happy

So see, thing is even though my parents raised me to see the best of people, I now find it hard to see slightly a bit good on most of my sisters and brothers in Venezuela; even though they taught me to help others, the frustrated feeling you get when nothing works around you and the work you’re able to do seems always to little, never enough, makes it hard for me to keep doing community work. I used to have the perfect family, but worries, reality and “the situation” makes it almost impossible for us to rejoice in each other’s company.

Twenty years after I was born, fourteen years after Chavez and his people began taking away my youth, my rights, my future and my faith; I can say for sure I am not happy.

The problem with Venezuela is, we used to be a Great Country of opportunities, hope, mostly peace, fun and beauty and they were all taken away from us in under fifteen years. Other countries fighting for their freedom on the last years have strived to get a brighter future they have never met. They are moving forward, we’re only going backwards at a giant speed. And that threatens to break the spirit of any Venezuelan daily, even dreamers as myself. It is hard to feel clean when the air you breathe is filled with death of innocent people and no one is avenging them.

 

PEACE; Elianne Ferrer (@eliiferrer – eliannefe@gmail.com)

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