Guilt

(I’m not exactly well-versed in political theories or diplomatic tactics. I’m a regular citizen, like most of the world.) 

To explain the pain one feels for their native land is hard to explain. It’s a pain that needs to be experienced in order to be understood. It’s like heartbreak- if you’ve never gone through it, you can’t fully understand it.
This is the pain that I, my family, my friends, and the Venezuelan diaspora feel each day. We are here, but our minds and our hearts are elsewhere. They are home, with our families, with our friends, with the people that couldn’t get out and refuse to get out, because it is their God-given right to live and thrive in their homeland.

About a year ago I wrote THIS post about the situation my native country, Venezuela, was going through. I’m sad to say, things have not gotten any better. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. A lot.

But should you need me to backtrack, let me break it down for you: Venezuela (Veh-neh-zoo-eh-luh) is located on the northern coast of South America.

Hi!

The capital city is Caracas, which is my hometown. It’s actually pretty close to the US. It takes the same amount of time to get to Caracas from Miami, as it does from Miami to Boston. This puts us closer to the States than Iraq, Iran, Russia, and all those other crazies who seem to be a constant threat to national security.  Also, we’re fucking rich in oil. Yep. We have more oil than the Saudis. Your car runs on Venezuelan oil. All your gasoline-powered stuff runs on Venezuelan oil, most likely.
Oh, and that chocolate? Venezuelan cocoa, baby. Miss Universe? We got it down pack- we’re the country with the most crowns. You’re welcome.

But today, people have gone from saying “Ah! Venezuelaaa!”, with a smile on their faces, to “Ay, Venezuela…”, their faces now showing worry and, dare I say it? Pity.

How is it possible that greed and avarice can take up so much strength that people are willing to stay put in power? How is it possible that even though they are fully conscious of what they are doing, they can go out and show their faces and act like all is well? How can they mock us so openly, limiting our rights, goods, resources, and freedoms while they travel around the world, live a life of extensive luxury, and turn a blind eye to the problems they are propagating with their hateful discourse?
In Spanish, we have a word for it: descaro.
Cynism.

Genesis Carmona, a student, was shot during one of the protests. She did not survive the attack.

But the one thought I struggle with every day is “why don’t I just go over there?” Why don’t I just book myself a one-way flight to Caracas, to go for a cause I believe in and support with all my energy? Guilt eats at me.
I could easily fly to Colombia, and cross the border from Cúcuta to San Cristobal. I could go via Panama, via Peru. But I don’t. Why? Because I am a coward. Because I have grown soft and comfortable in my suburbian home. Because I have landed a job I wanted, because I am able to travel freely, because I can sleep soundly at night without the worry that our house will be broken-into.
Because I’m a coward.
Because I don’t have half the strength these people have.
I have only lived their oppression from afar. I have been angered, but at a distance. I have not felt the abuses myself, save for maybe once or twice (and yes, those times were at the now-closed Venezuelan consulate in Miami.)
These people back home are abused, harassed, belittled, controlled, and mocked every day of their life.

Every day there are tweets and messages: so and so got arrested for protesting in X place, so and so was mugged by the National Guard; a special-needs citizen was beaten up until he passed out by, again, our brave and respectful National Guard. Sometimes, those who are “detained” are never found alive again.

precio

Before going to bed, I “make my rounds”. I send messages to my friends in the barricades around Caracas, where they have learned to mix different ingredients such as drenching towels in vinegar, or mixing Maalox and water, to fight the effects of the tear gas they are attacked with every day.
I make sure they’ve not been detained. I don’t even ask if they’re ok. They’re not. This beautiful city that is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site is now a war zone, and no one is ever “OK” in a warzone.

Student-built barricades in Caracas.

But then, to have the “government” come out and call these fighters names, to say they are fascists, communists, niñitos de papá y mamá, to see them say they want “peace” when they themselves are the ones that launch attacks on the citizens, and say they are backed up by the CIA and the FBI is, even if ridiculous, infuriating. To add insult to injury, the Venezuelan government is closely allied to the Cuban government. Cuban troops roam freely around the country, “enforcing the law”.

Recovering from tear gas

Think about how bad do things have to be, and how desperate do you have to feel, to be to really put your life on the line? To feel that facing an armed and blood-thirsty “National Guard” is the only way out?

Protester being dragged by the law enforcement.

If you’re not aware of the situation, which I find hard to believe, I invite you to read this entry by a fellow blogger, who was an English teacher in a city called Barquisimeto. Read her ordeal.
I invite you to watch these videos done by a field journalist.
I invite you to read articles by CNN, Reuters, the New York Times, and the countless other articles you find on the internet (checking the legitimacy of their source, of course).

I left Venezuela fourteen years ago. I have not been back in eight years, and the pain is still latent.

If you feel compelled to help us, share the information you receive through social media. It’s the most we can do from far away. The world needs to know about us.

Venezuela, fuerza.

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