As soon as most children get home from school, they get to go to the park with their friends or play in the street, but I was not so lucky. As soon as I got home from school, I would rush to my room and close the windows just so the tear gas couldn’t get in.
Let me give you a short history of my country, a wonderful country that is now being abused.
Venezuela is a country in South America that borders Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, and the Caribbean Sea. What makes this country important to many other countries? It has oil. Lots of it. 302,250 million barrels* of it. And this huge supply means that it exports oil to other countries, especially the United States. Apart from that it also has reserves of gold, diamonds, natural gas, and iron ore. As a result of this concentration of resources, Venezuela is incredibly valuable, which has too often left it in the hands of selfish leaders who only seek wealth and power.
Hugo Chávez came into power in Venezuela on February 2nd, 1999, promising housing and food for the poor. But what people didn’t seem to realize is that he did this at the expense of the people who made the effort to work. And so communism took its grip on my country, decreasing the quality of goods and raising their prices, while more people went into poverty and the streets became increasingly more dangerous. The police stopped doing their job and the people stopped obeying the rules. Driving in Venezuela became, as I like to put it, a sport: you had to be able to think fast, be aware of your surroundings at every second, and have fast reflexes in order to make it to your destination alive.
(AFP Photos/Leo Ramirez - CC BY 2.0) A protest in opposition of President Nicolas Maduro in February 2014 turns deadly when gunmen on motorcycles fires into the crowd of anti-government demonstrators.
The people’s votes didn’t matter anymore--the government overwrote them in every election. But at least we still had food and medicine at this point.
Then Chávez got cancer. Which led to the worst: Nicolas Maduro was put into power, and we had no choice in the matter. Here are a few facts about him:
He is Colombian
He was a bus driver
He did not go to college
It seems he thinks all Spanish words have a male and female gender (“millonas y millones”, “libros y libras”)
He blamed Spiderman (in a way blaming the United States) for the violence in Venezuela (based on quotes from his speeches)
He believes Hugo Chavez is God (based on quotes from his speeches)
These and many other qualities make him incredibly unfit for the role of president, especially of Venezuela, since he doesn’t meet the requirements either (such as, according to articles 227 and 229 of the Constitution of Venezuela, being a Venezuelan citizen from birth and possessing no other nationality). Apart from this, he uses the money of the citizens in inappropriate ways and is incredibly corrupt in his way of governing. However, somehow he is still the corrupt leader of Venezuela.
“There is not enough garbage
for the homeless to eat.”
Now inflation is through the roof. To put it in perspective: in 2008 you could buy a car with the same amount of money you’d spend to buy a dozen eggs in 2018. As a result of this, poverty rates have increased dramatically. There is not enough garbage for the homeless to eat. And for the few who can afford it, there is not nearly enough medicine. The death rate has increased immensely and so have the emigration rates.
“We, the oppressed citizens of
Venezuela, will not be silenced.”
How could people not know about this huge issue? There’s no way they could--Maduro blocked news publications from releasing information while claiming in various international conferences that there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. However, we, the oppressed citizens of Venezuela, will not be silenced.
On February 12th, 2014, a series of powerful protests occurred all over the country, the biggest one being in the city where I used to live, the capital Caracas. Thousands of people flooded the streets with flags wrapped around their faces, shoulders, and heads, and most people carried posters with messages of anger and despair. I was 11 years old.
During that protest, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez got arrested. From that moment on, these formerly peaceful protests turned violent everyday--I couldn’t escape them, they were staged three blocks away from my house. In the evening when I was working homework, I could hear the screams coming from the Plaza Altamira**. I could hear the police shooting at the college students. I could hear the sirens of the ambulances and the cries of mothers. And no amount of tears or sobbing or music or covering the windows could keep me from hearing my people’s suffering.
(Wikimedia Commons/rumo - CC BY-SA 2.0) Plaza Francia, formerly known as Plaza Altamira, the site of many anti-Maduro demonstrations in Caracas, Venezuela
Even now, living in the United States, I am scared something will happen to my friends, since they are still in Venezuela. I was forced to grow up by living through these experiences, and so were the many kids who lived, and still live, there. Because of this, it’s harder to make friends with people who are the same age as me or who don’t know what is happening in Venezuela, since they don’t understand why I act in certain ways or how to connect with me.
“This passion is what urges me to write, so I can voice the struggles not only of myself, but of the millions of others who are struggling.”
However, these experiences also helped me see the value of being alive, and made me appreciate everyone who is by my side. I am now able to help more people and myself while being more appreciative of life. And this makes the world look so much more beautiful than before. These experiences took away many parts of my childhood, but they also made me strong and gave me a passion for experiencing life that gets me through my struggles. This passion is what urges me to write, so I can voice the struggles not only of myself, but of the millions of others who are struggling. I write with the hope of raising awareness and bringing an end to the corruption in Venezuela.