domingo, 29 de abril de 2007

The seek for understading: 4 things you must know about this blog

The following paragraphs could be useful in order to answer some of the questions or concerns the reader might have about this blog, her author and the process of writing it.

1. A NON-NEWS BLOG
Venezuelans and foreigners make blogs about what’s happening in Venezuela by commenting news and speeches, by talking about things that the people already know. But in a more "subjective" way, Do the people really know how the Venezuelans live this process? Beyond the news, beyond Chavez speeches on TV? Do the people know how it’s our daily life, how we feel about the events and how those events affects us directly? I don’t think many people know that. And that’s why I took the courage and started writing. That’s why many things that happen on the news don’t even touch my blog.
My blog is very personal indeed, as personal as I can make it without putting my identity into risk.
So my blog is not about news, there are many, many blogs about news and they are awesome blogs indeed. My blog is a testimony of someone who witnessed this crisis, who's living inside this crisis. And when you live here, you cannot be commenting the news all the time, or you will die of desperation. That’s one of the things I wanted to make people understand by writing this blog.

2. A NON OFTEN UPDATED BLOG
For several reasons, I don’t have time and inspiration to update this blog daily as I would want it in ideal terms. I write when for some reason, the stories came back to my head, or see something, live something, have a discussion and then feel the need of writing (another reason of why this blog is not about news). This blog can’t be written under the commands of a certain schedule. So I ask in advance, excuses to the readers who might wait too long before seeing the next entry.

3. THE LANGUAGE(AND THE PEOPLE WHO I'M WRITING FOR)
I want to provide to the people who is interested in any way about the current Venezuelan situation something different, something that makes them easier to put themselves in one shoes. And those people are foreigners, Venezuelan people even if they are abroad know about the things I write, for them my stories are like the bread they put on the table every day, quite obvious. But foreigners read about my country and no matter how concern they are, some of them are living in a free world, in a comfortable world, with no fear, where they take many things for granted, and because of that (and this is completely natural) they see our situation as something very distant.
That’s why I write in English, even counting that its very, very hard for me to write in English, and I could express so many things, and say so many things better if I could write in my language: Spanish. But I know that if I write in English I can reach to the people I want to reach to.

4. A BLOG WITH A NEITHER "LEFT" NOR "RIGHT" IDEOLOGY (THE AUTHOR'S STANCE)
I don’t know if I’m on the right side of this battle. And in this world, where the left consider as suspicious anyone who is not with them and the right closes their eyes to the fair demands of the ones who don’t have as much luck as they have, and they just don’t even sit for a minute to wonder why; its hard to even think about taking sides. I don’t know if the history will be fair to me and the ones who are going through this situation in the same way I’m living it. I even wonder who is going to write this story: the story of the Bolivarian Revolution, and based on what and in the name of who is going to tell the story of this events that will pass as history as far as the world concerns.
Because on those pages I could easily pass as a heroin or as a sheep of the imperialism, depends on the hand who writes it. And the funny part is, that I’m not neither or at least, I don’t feel like neither of them. I don’t think that Venezuelans can easily adjust their feelings to the labels that who ever writes or speak about this, journalist or politicians, put to us if we support one side or another side of the fight.
We are not sheep of the imperialism, or real committed and passionate fighters for democratic ideals. We are just people, people like anyone else. I’m just a Venezuelan, by birth, not by choice. From the middle class, again by birth, not by choice, who happens to be in the middle of this events and who for several reasons, that might be good or not (I’ll let the reader judge that) happens to not like the track that my beloved country is taking. Again a track that I’m living not because I choose to live it, but because I couldn’t choose. The reader must know that when Chávez won the first elections in 1998, I wasn’t old enough to vote, still missed 4 years to do that; and I don’t think I ever had the chance to vote in the same conditions that my parents did before 1998.
And since then, I have put all my energy on changing the course that the vote of others dictated when I was too young for being quite aware of the consequences. And I have not only, not succeed, but in fact; I failed enormously. And that’s because despite of my birth, and the conditions I have to live with, I have chosen now to at least, write about it. Because I have to give it a shot so that the history someone will read in some years about my country; tells not only the version of the winners.
I do not any longer seek for changes. I have lost the hope and throughout my writings, the reader will notice why I lose it. Now, I seek for nothing less and nothing more than understanding. And that’s the challenge I give to the reader.

sábado, 28 de abril de 2007

(Part III) Passing by Altamira

The center of the square brings me back to a much more developed political memory. A few months after April 11, a very weird phenomenon began. It was called the “civic military resistance” or something like that. Basically consisted of a huge group of very important military people gathered on Altamira square and saying that they were against the president; and in a civic way they would make Altamira square a “free territory”.I never quite understood the movement that surprised me in my first years of the university, but after that and for a few months in a row, some days more than others people went to that square to show support to those soldiers. They even installed a clock that kept track of the days the “resistance” was there.
I decided to go one day after class, like three days after everything started. Took the subway, reached the square, and stood a few meters away from the platform hearing the speeches. In one pocket of my bag pack, along with some books and stuff, I had my cell phone and my wallet. Since I was so distracted hearing the speeches, I did not notice that someone opened my bag and took stole my cell phone and my wallet under my nose.
After I got tired of hearing the speeches, I randomly walked throughout the square, lost in my thoughts.
Then, in one side of the square I found my mom and my sister crashed into tears next to a police patrol. They looked at me as they would look a death person coming back to life. Some strange woman also approached and asked me if I was ok. I didn’t got what was going on until my mom told me that she called to my cell phone and a man picked it up and he said he kidnapped me and he was going to kill me, since he hated “oligarchs” (mainly a word used by Chavez to call the people against him since the very early years of the regime). My mom ran to the police and gave them her cell phone, the police called again and the guy told them the same story.
Then, the police sent a message to the ex- military standing on the platform and they started to call me from there. But between the noise and the fact that I was very distracted, I didn’t hear anything.
When the man who had my cell phone realized of the gravity of his joke, he said he didn’t steal my cell phone; he only found it and that he started joking because he was a “chavista” (Chávez supporter) and he had a girlfriend who lived just near by the square; so he was tired of the traffic and the noise caused by the protest of a bunch of “oligarchs”. After that he gave us his address. My mom, after arguing with me obviously, for being so naïve and distracted, threw away the address.
I felt very angry afterwards: my cell phone was very cheap and old, I couldn’t even write text messages with that cell phone. And I didn’t have much money in my wallet. Not more than what you could use for buying a bottle of water or something. But I had other things: a picture of my grandmother and what was even more important: my old Venezuelan ID, with my 10 year old face and signature and the inscriptions above “República de Venezuela”. Sigh… when my country was only República de Venezuela and not República Bolivariana de Venezuela. When my country was truly mine. And I don’t even have the ID that proves it and I still don’t know if I was a victim of common delinquency or of an incipient political resentment.
I wouldn’t be paranoid if I choose the second hypothesis. Two months after that, the meetings at Altamira square stopped being peaceful and the square became a very dangerous place as we never pictured it before. We saw on TV, how a man entered the square and just started shooting against the people, leaving three people dead and many more wounded as a result. So the woman I called “the woman of the shape”(read the first part of this story), wasn’t the first, nor the only one who spent their last hours there; but she’s the only who has “a shape”. Those victims were the light that kept turning on the fire of three long months of the recent political history of my country, what it has been called The General Strike.
As the bus arrived, the man with the deep look and rough face because of the people passing by over the shape and myself, forgot a little bit about it and paid the bus ticket, going back to our routines. The square looked calm and beautiful from my window: always clean (something unusual in Caracas), with a huge obelisk in the center, and the Avila (a big mountain, national park and very meaningful place for the “caraqueños”) above. The elegant stairs that leaves you to the subway couldn’t tell me about the people who hide there many times from the shootings. And the many events in my presence (cause I only told three stories so far from much more) during my political socialization, that is has been developed in that square. I couldn’t tell if it was really a place for freedom, or has lost a lot of the old political magic but it is certainly a place for trying to be free while a devoted husband spends two years so far, carefully marking the place where he lost his wife; that could be my mom, or even me. And even knowing that: People just pass over the shape and keep moving on with their lives as they normally do.
Ps: Sidenote made on October, 2008: the sidewalks of the square were repaired, so the trash can it’s in the same spot but not the shape of the woman that made me write this three part story in the first time.

(Part II) Passing by Altamira

On the other side of the square I stood over a tiny roof to watch the colonel Soto speech, in the very first political demonstration that I attend to; I think, just two months before April 11 – 2002. I haven’t heard of the man who made me jump to the streets for the very first time in quite a long time.It was a normal day like no other, in that time the Revolution had done many crazy things already; but my family’s major frustration was that the people around us were still agreeing with the president and they didn’t notice the danger of his measures. It was too early to notice anything; it was still another Venezuela indeed, a blinder one, a more naïve one.
Then something happened, in the middle of some congress, a Coronel called Jesús Soto started talking bad about the government. I wish I could just remember what he said, I remember there were words of democracy and even the weird request, considering he was part of the military, of asking for a civilian to be the next president of Venezuela. I remember the feeling a little bit better: no one ever dared before to talk like that against this government, even less (and this was the most important part) someone from the military.
The government immediately ordered to put him in jail I think, and my mom and I watched on TV a very unusual image for that time: some people were stopping their cars at the exit of a main highway of Caracas “If they put the Coronel Soto in jail, they will have to put me as well” – A man screamed. “And me too!” – Heard another scream in the back.
Soto was going to speak to the citizens in Altamira square that night (means, right away), as the TV host announced. My mom and I looked to ourselves like we always do, like we did some months after on April 11: “Should we go?” – “Let’s go” – I said.
We didn’t expect to see loads of people filling the streets right next to Altamira square. It was a stupid number of people if you compare it with the demonstration we got used to afterwards. We encountered many friends doing the same. Then, over a truck that served as a platform with some improvised microphone, a very confused Jesús Soto gave a speech. I couldn’t tell if he had that face because he was obviously almost falling off the truck or if it was because he did not expected to cause such a mess. I don’t remember his speech. I do remember a speech of the vice president for that time I think, José Vicente Rangel saying that the whole demonstration was totally planned with a lot of anticipation. I thought, that was a little bit weird to conceive a very well planned demonstration were the main leader was almost falling off an ugly truck.
I remember it as the day the politics started running through my veins in a way it wasn’t going to stop for several years, and in that way was a happy day. I remember it also as the day where our fight started, and the country developed a very rough political crisis and in that way was a sad day. That day was also the first time that a current idea passed without stopping in my still young and naïve (everyday less) mind: “The government does not always tell the truth”. My political birth, the fight origins, and my first big lesson about the Revolution, all in one day.
Note about the picture: That’s not Colonel’ Soto, it is just a photo of a random soldier that I digitally distort it to illustrate this entry.

sábado, 21 de abril de 2007

(Part I) Passing by Altamira

Yesterday, like always, while I was making a line to take a bus on Altamira square, a corner took my attention.The square has remain as an opposition icon for a lot of reasons but mainly because it has been the scenery of many demonstrations, fights, killings during the last few years and this corner proof it: a trash can serves as a grave, and around it with shark and then paint; someone made the shape of a body, the body of a woman who was killed right there on 2004. She was at an opposition demonstration placed in that square when a few members of the Bolivarian circles (Chavez supporters, the Bolivarian Circles doesn’t exists anymore I think, they have other names or some people suspect they are part of the police or the military; but that’s just a suspect) passed by in their motorcycles and shoot at the people.
I was at home at that moment, watching TV. The news passed the exact minute when she was killed, and some people running and holding her body. It impressed me in the most dramatic way because the woman was just a little bit older than my mom and pretty much alike. And my mom was at that protest. I immediately jumped off my seat, took the phone and called her ordering her to come back home. She was at the back of the square, I can’t remember if she heard the shootings but she asked me to “calm down and don’t over react” – “But mom” – I screamed- “They just killed a woman who looks like you”.
I have heard that the husband has the responsibility of keeping the shape at that square intact. And since I have to go to that place a lot, I have seen that small piece of pain and history many, many times. But until yesterday as far as I can tell, I have never seen before someone walking upon the shape. It was like a sacred place, like a grave indeed, no one dares to put a foot on it, I think. I was wrong. While the bus waiting kept longer and longer I saw at least 5 people just walking by, stepping on that memory like it was nothing. A man with very deep eyes developed the tendency of looking with a very rough face, every time that someone just walked on the shape. And then he looked at me and turned his head down like saying “Yes, you have the same look, the same sad look of someone who can’t forget while the others just passed by and move on with their lives”.
PD: About the picture, This is the corner I'm talking about, I took the picture two years ago (2005) during the aniversary of those events, that explains the flowers. The shape remains the same.

miércoles, 11 de abril de 2007

Never forget April 11, 2002

Today was a normal day. I woke up, took the subway, went to class and asked a friend for a drive home. -What place makes you remember this day? – My friend asked me.I doubted: Chuao, where we gathered the three previous days and decided to go to Miraflores (government palace) to ask Chavez for his resignation? or maybe Parque Cristal (the picture of this entry) where you can find on a sidewalk, a tiny plaque for the victims and near by where that political demonstration started walking and walked 11 Kms more to find death at the end?. - Do you think we should go there and just sit for a while? - He asked me again. Maybe yes, maybe not. Between one doubt and another, my friend continued driving on the way home, leaving the past behind you could say. But at least I felt in my heart a cold empty.
As soon as I got home I checked as usual the comments of this blog. And then started to searching and visiting others who speaks about Venezuela. The majority of them speaks about a coup, and forgets about the political demonstration and the killings. The majority of them tells the government version as a young kid in the middle school who learns by memory a poem without knowing the meaning of the words. Seeing that, seeing how the world believes in my government and has forget about Venezuelans like me, made me dropped on or two tears.
And so I decided to write this entry. This is a humble and short entry. I have already wrote a lot about April 11. And I probably still have something else to tell about this issue, as I have in all issues, but today is not a day to speak. The government and the media, here and abroad, can speak as much as they want. They can take away the truth, and the facts. They did already. They can filled everyone's brains with a twisted version of history and by doing it, they can even take away my identity and the identity of others than me. They can kiss Chavez feet and forget about Venezuela.
Speak as much as you want. In the meantime, today I request not for more stories; but for the silence that can speak more than words sometimes. For the victims, for telling them with my mouth shut that I'm sorry for their lost and mine. For telling the world that I was there, and I'm still proud of the steps I took, from the east area of Caracas to near the government palace to ask the president for his resignation, where death was waiting for us instead. You can make the world believe that the fishes don't live in the ocean, but you cannot make me forget what I saw, what I lived, what I know. Its been 5 years, no matter how many years passes, take for granted that I will always remember this day, in the way I saw it and not in the way they tell it.

martes, 10 de abril de 2007

Do not think about May

One day, not long ago, my mom made me sit on the couch, with a very serious look, on her face. Then, she asked me to look for another life abroad. “You are the only one of us who can leave” – She said – “And you might have to do it eventually and send us some money back.” If, some things I cannot say in order to protect my identity happen, I’ll have no choice but to pack my stuff and leave.Sometimes I don’t even think about it. I know it will happen someday, the trouble is, that could be tomorrow, or could be in one or two years. We can spend a few months without talking about leaving, and one day, something happens and that horrible conversation comes back like a ghost in our lives. Next day life goes on, one must go to the university, to work, to have some drinks with the friends.
“Right now we are ok, we are working even if we don’t get enough money… right now, we are living. But for doing that, one only can think about today, cause if I think about tomorrow, I might stay without doing nothing and die”.
The father of one of my friend’s works for an oil company, which now, thanks to the Chávez measures about nationalization, belongs to the government. “He doesn’t know what to do” – My friend told me – “We don’t know what’s going to happen. He is looking forward to be transferred to some other country or stay working for PDVSA (the state oil company) but are they going to pay him enough? Are they going to pay him at all? Or maybe they do pay him as they should, and some day, sooner or later, they let him go without a job. Because with this government, you never know what’s going to happen”
No one could know that better than my aunt. She works at RCTV, the oldest TV Channel of Venezuela. From one day to another, the government announced the closing of that channel next May. The reason's are? The same speech you always hear on the government side; “Imperialism, fascism, coup supporters, they don’t tell the truth;” And one of the reasons? Because it’s the only opposition channel with a respectable rating among the lower classes that remains. The rest are all now, government or government supported channels; even the ones that used to be from the opposition originally, in the early days of the revolution.
Last week in class, we discussed about the RCTV (the opposition TV channel with the largest audience in Venezuela) closure. “But you must admit that RCTV is a channel of very low quality” – A classmate told me. The poor excuse of being ignorant of politics I usually heard: “It’s a bad channel, I don’t watch it anyway, so what difference is going to make?” And my answer will always be the same “Maybe it is a bad channel, I don’t watch it either, I got cable. But that’s my middle class standard and what about the ones who do watch it? You are taking them away that choice because you consider yourself smart enough to know what those viewers should see and should not”. But that doesn’t matter, I’m not here to defend the quality of RCTV, I’m not a mass media critical.
The problem is the Venezuelans, that as soon as June of this year starts are going to lay on the couch, take their remote control and pass from one channel to another and every single channel (except an only news channel with very low rating, a music and a sports one) is going to tell them the government version about things. It’s going to tell them that the “Misiones” (government social programs) are working; the indicators are the best in the world and so on. And the worse part, is that these people are going to believe it because without RCTV; they don’t have any point of comparison any longer.
Many could say now, that the people don’t believe those crazy things Chavez says. Think it twice.
A professor told me a story a few weeks ago: I was giving a speech about social responsibility on a very important Venezuelan industry the other day. I was talking about the importance of not leaving the “poor issue” only to the government and the responsibility industries have with their communities and all that. Because on these days, the government doesn’t have enough to keep the welfare state… At the end, I asked if there were any questions; and a worker raised his hand and asked me: “I don’t understand why in Venezuela we have to worry about social responsibility, if our PIB it’s bigger than China, the government has enough for taking care of the people…” – My professor could not believe his ears – “Bigger than China? Are you sure?” – He asked to the worker – “Well, I saw it on TV”… People can believe almost anything here, specially if they don’t have another point of comparison. Specially, if the government closes RCTV.
Nevertheless, its well known that all knowledge comes from comparison. And closing that channel, no matter how bad the quality is, is a quick way of leaving the people into a dangerous state of ignorance. It’s the best way to make them believe everything, even that our economical grow can be compared to China. It’s the way to give themselves permission to talk even, in the name of the truth, like the adds the government made about the RCTV close, and that now filled the streets of Caracas says: “Renovar la concesión a RCTV es renovar la mentira” – “To renew the concession to RCTV its to renew the lie”. Is the best way, not to keep the Venezuelans mouth shut, but to prevent those mouth are ever going to open.
And that, happens all of the soon. We have heard of menace about closing TV channels. We have imagine years ago, on 2002, a Venezuela without opposition channels. Its 5 years later when we actually see it; and took us almost off guard, because like my mom say's, if you live in this situation thinking about what future might bring upon you, you will die of desperation. My friend's father could be perfectly fine with his job, and now worrying about nothing. Like I could be writing this and worrying about nothing. Because nothing has happened yet.
Or perhaps, we have to look ourselves in the mirror of my aunt, the incarnation of our worse fears, the result of the constant uncertainly that we live into since Chávez came to power. She will lose everything she have worked for in a few months. The building, her friends, and the life she loves. And she stills smile to me and say's, when I ask her... worried: “How are you?” – “I’m working and I’ll be fine…. As long as I don’t think about May”.