By: Gabriela Corredor Romero, University of Virginia ’19
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” – Anne Lamott
In December of 2015 the streets of Venezuela were overflowing with joy, because for the first time since 2000, the opposition had gained majority in the National Assembly. With 112 opposition representatives versus 55 government representatives, the national assembly became the only concrete and official medium through which the opposition could voice its concerns. However, on March 30th 2017 teardrops of anger ran through the faces of many Venezuelans as we watched how the Supreme Court Justice of Venezuela stripped the Congress, dissolving the power of the National Assembly, and thus the voice of its people. The decision of President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party (The Revolution) outraged Venezuelans all over the world, as they were reminded by their desire to merely survive in their own country. Although the ruling was physically revoked on April 1st, it scarred the country, and the damage has not been reversed till this day. March 30th represented the final drop of a long, exhausting battle, “they took everything, even our fear.”
For the last five years, the norm had become waiting hours in line when going to the grocery store, driving with the windows closed and the doors locked, or speeding at night just rushing home in fear of a potential robbery. What is today regarded as “the norm” in Venezuela, mimics, what could be considered rights against humanity in any other country in the world. When this norm was altered four weeks ago in Caracas, over 2.5 million people of 6 million rushed to the streets with one goal in mind: to give the word democracy, a meaning again. This capital which once was wealthy, prosperous and powerful is now watching its people live in constant pain, anger and an undeniable sense of hopelessness. Students, workers, and even my own grandmothers are risking their lives to fight for the country they want to reconstruct. In response, the military has been going out into the streets, oppressing the population by targeting tear gas bombs against the pacifist protesters. “If we want to change our country, we must show it by going out to the streets,” mentions my grandmother as she heads to the protest.
From afar, through the news we try to conceptualize the situation, and use social media as the main driver for awareness. Within the country, the major TV channels fail to accurately represent this war for democracy and freedom, leaving the population of its owns country and the world at a great disadvantage. We keep hearing the facts backed up by numbers: the food supply is declining, the medical supply is declining, the number of homicides is increasing. As a Venezuelan individual living abroad, I cannot continue to listen to our story as one told by statistics, the world must not become numb to the Venezuelan crisis, one that began two decades ago.
When Hugo Chávez came into power in 1999, there was hope and certainty that the “The Revolution” would guide Venezuela towards its full potential. As The Revolution gathered strength and trust, the government began drafting special economic policies that would import and export goods at subsidized prices below market price. As a result, this negatively impacted the private sector where it could not keep up with such low prices and thus, collapsed. As the government began expropriating firms, incentive for foreign companies to invest in Venezuela decreased and there was also a lack of means for Venezuelan companies to invest abroad. The lack of stability and transparency within the exchange rate system has also been a factor for the lack of investment. The downfall became a snowball effect and when the prices of oil fell, Venezuela being the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, felt the shock. The prices kept rising, and with hyperinflation reaching 800%, and expected to increase to 720% this year and 2,034% by 2018.
The velocity at which prices are rising seems absurd, where in 2017 minimum wage has already doubled once and increased a third time by 60%. Now, with a monthly minimum wage of BsF 65,021 equivalent to $46.70, enables a person to barely obtain the necessary supplies where for example, a carton of eggs (36 eggs) which is BsF 11,000 takes up almost 15% of a person’s minimum wage, and the prices of food are expected to rise.
Initiative by Gabriela and Learn How You Can Contribute
We want to stop being the country of “what if’s” and prove to ourselves our great potential. On Monday April 10, 2017 I received a call from a Venezuelan friend at our university, she said, “get a box, we cannot stand and watch, doing nothing.” Immediately with another friend we began researching what is currently lacking in the country. Medicine. We saw how the group Primeros Auxilios Universidad Central de Venezuela were going out into the streets during the protests, helping those wounded, regardless of their political affiliation. In Venezuela, superheroes don’t wear capes, they wear white helmets. They needed our help, and we needed them to feel at home. After receiving cash, venmo and physical donations, two weeks ago we sent our first shipment. The boxes represent the community and their support, and together we want to see Venezuela under the light once again.
We have not stopped, this fight is going until the end. The people back home are standing tall and so are we. We have our Facebook Page “Hoos For Venezuela” which we regularly update with videos, news articles and pictures, and are still receiving donations through venmo @SOSVENEZUELA. With the monetary donations we are physically buying the medical supplies to send to Primeros Auxilios UCV, ensuring that they are receiving the essentials that lack in the country. We will fight and we will prevail. As Simon Bolivar once said, “when Tyranny becomes the law, rebellion is a right.”
This is the first time that I have sat down and tried to express myself with all these feelings. I can no longer keep them bottled up, and understand is my duty as a Venezuelan to share with the world. Special thank you to the Andover International Review for providing such a powerful and intellectually stimulating platform for individuals to learn and raise awareness of the world. We are the generation faced with the challenge of reuniting and reconstructing our beloved country.