jueves, 26 de febrero de 2009

The majority curse

After the 15-F defeat, were the Revolution proposed an amendment to the Constitution that allows to every charge of popular election to be re-elected indefinitely and won the referendum by a wide margin, some analysts have focused on ways to earn that people support Chavez seems to have as a solid guarantee that allows him to do whatever he wants. It has been said that the only way to turn the events to our favour is to earn more votes in a future election. It has also been said that a “democratic attitude” is one were the losers admit their defeat in a civilized way. Finally, I have also heard that once the majority takes a decision, the minority does not have other choice but to hope and work to have better luck next time.
All the previous statements are right. But they are right under certain conditions. They can’t be right statements if they are consider alone, in an absolute way.

In the way I established them, they are right in the same way that kids tend to see things “right” or “wrong”. Years ago, we explained to my niece that it was no right to eat any dessert, sweet or candy before lunch. One day, she discovered me grabbing a small piece of chocolate and putting it inside my mouth minutes before lunch and she look at me like I was the worse person in the world for doing that. It was useless to explain her that a small bite of chocolate it is not a big deal, or that as an adult I don’t need the same discipline or the same requirements she does. For kids when something is “right” or “wrong”, it is in a completely and absolute way. There’s no middle ground, no excuses, and no shades of grey.

Some people never stop being kids in that sense. The only difference is that as years and knowledge goes by; we come up with more “adults” words to describe that attitude. If it pleases us, we call it “moral” (the “good” one), “honesty”, “principles”, “incorruptible minds”, “ability to distinguish between right and wrong” and even “common sense”. If it doesn’t pleases us (I’m on that list and I’ll explain why right away), we call it “fanatism”, “closed minds”, “lack of flexibility”, “inability to negotiate”, “absolute moral”, “radicalism” and even, “dogmatism”. It should not be a doubt left: I truly suspect and dislike the absolute minds, no matter how “right” or “good” they might seem for everybody.

An absolute mind develops an irresistible tendency to totalitarianism (using Arendt words, but If memory does not fails, she was referring to the masses instead). An absolute mind does not see its opponent as an opponent but qualifies his opponent as an enemy in the best cases. In the worst, the enemy is reduced to an idiot, to a poor idiot who is completely wrong at everything. An absolute mind is always right and therefore, who ever by any reason does not support its views, is wrong. Since the “right” and “wrong” has already been established, there’s nothing left to say. There’s no room for discussion, no room for negotiation, no space for an effective inclusion of the other. In such circumstances, there’s even a point of talking about an enemy for anything else but a caricaturized amusement. The opponent, as an opponent it simply does not exists.

Such is the case here in Venezuela, were the Vice- president itself says that it is out of question to establish a dialog with the "domes of the opposition" (I don’t know the equivalent in English for the word “dome” in the sense we give in Spanish and more likely here in Venezuela, where such a name does not only imply leadership, but it has also become an insult of some sort), because “they want to put in risk the achievements of the people”. He also says that “this is a government of the dialog” because it “dialogs” with everybody, but the opposition (yes, he actually said that).

It is funny that the opposition in Venezuela is rarely named by the government alone, but always is mentioned next to an epithet such as “the domes of the opposition” or even “the shitty domes of the opposition”, “the stateless” or “antipatriotic opposition” and “the oligarchs” just for mentioning the most popular ones. In that way, on every government speech, the opposition is left with no retrain of legitimacy, even before the speech has started and the “facts” has been exposed to support the accusation. In that way, the opposition is guilty before charge. Plus, a dialog made with “everybody but the opposition” it is not a dialog because, if we see what is obvious, that by “everybody” he’s referring to the ones who are agree with the government; what he calls a dialog can’t be more than a pleasant conversation between soul mates, an exchange of mutual affirmations (and usually, adulation included), an agreement established by nature before the talk has even started. There can be, as you can see, plenty of ways to name it, but I’m sure that “dialog” is not one of those ways.

The dialog occurs where there are things to solve or to talk about between groups or individuals with different approaches, different interests, and different positions. For a dialog to take place there most be a mutual (notice that I just wrote mutual) recognition of a legitimate (notice that I just wrote legitimate) existence of the other; even if the other is a minority in the numerical, political or economic sense. Put in simple words, even if one part is “smaller” or “less” than the other. The parts must be aware that therefore, all their rights are going to be respected before, during and after the process. It must also be obvious to the parts, for establish a dialog, that they can’t come with an absolute and non negotiable conception of “right” and “wrong”. They just can’t carry a childish mind to a dialog. They must come open to contradictions, open to accept new restrictions to their original considerations of what is “right” and “wrong”. They are ought to come for that tempting but not originally allowed little piece of chocolate before lunch. If not, a democratic system cannot be possible. Notice that I’m putting the dialog and no the simple respect of the majority will, and not the elections, as an inexorable condition for a democratic system.

I’m sure this won’t sound “right” for many. It can be also consider as a political incorrect statement (on a side note I must confess that I might be having an affair with political incorrect statements lately  ). But it is at this side of the fence, where I’m supposed to be the opponent but I see myself reduced to the enemy, the oligarch, the antipatriotic, to the one that must be exclude just because of being what it is, just because of being who I am: someone who is not agree with them. It is at this side of the fence where I don’t dare to call a system “democratic” just because there are elections where the majority will is respected. There can’t be fair elections where the opponent is not even consider respectfully as a legitimate one, where the opponent is not accepted.

Do not dare to call this the whim of a loser. Do not dare to call me “a bad loser”. I’m not a bad loser. I’m not a good loser either. I’m not a loser because I was not even asked to be part of this game. They played alone. I can’t be a loser if I’m not consider as a player. I’m not a loser, because for this political system, I’m no one. No matter how many electoral process they organize to amaze the world with their democratic manners, no matter how many times I go to “vote” on each and every one of those process, if I don’t exist as a citizen but only as an oligarch and so on, I’m not living under a democratic system. It can’t be democratic if the majority will suppress the minority opinions. It can’t be democratic if after every election I end up earning more sadness and losing more rights.

Of course, I’m not talking about anything new. Long ago, Tocqueville used the accurate term “the tyranny of the majorities” on his book “Democracy in America” and Crick, for example, made similar stance on his polemic chapter “Defence of the politics against the democracy" of his book “In defence of politics” . But there’s a distance between talking about it and actually living the dangers they once predicted, living inside the Revolution, experiencing directly “the majority” curse. I hope the reader now understands why I call it a “curse”.

PS: The recent opinions made by the once Vicepresident of this regime, José Vicent Rangel (here, in Spanish, sorry) are quite suitable with this post and differ with the current Vice- president. I coudln't believe my ears when I head them, too bad he's a journalist and not the vice president anymore, although he's part of the Revolution still.

lunes, 16 de febrero de 2009

I smile

Instead of writing a depressive post about the mix of feelings one might have after a defeat. Instead of writing about the disappointment I might feel about my own country, I decided to dedicate the official post election post to an imaginary exercise because now, all I can think of is my future and I’m going to live it, and I’m going to try to be happy despite the Revolution I’m currently forced to live into. When you lose a big part of your hopes, you have no other choice but to attach to other expectations. On a side note: I’m obviously not married or making a masters degree abroad yet. After clearing that up, click here on the “click here to read the rest option” and take a look at my imaginary exercise.

It’s 2013 or later. I’m doing a masters degree at some place cold (for some odd reason, the most tempting opportunities for my professional growth are located in places that have a very bad weather). I blow on my gloves and go to the Venezuelan consulate to vote.
Back home, my husband and I make hot chocolate and check our laptops like maniacs over and over again. In the meantime we do not allow ourselves to watch on TV any other channel besides CNN, even counting that is currently broadcasting a boring documentary about consume habits in the developed world.
Suddenly the phone and our laptops sound at the exact same time. We don’t know which electronic tool we should pay attention to. Seems like its mom at the other side of the phone, but I can’t get a bit of what she’s saying because she’s crying non stop. Consumed by the uncertainty, I yelled at her: “Put me someone else on the phone please! What’s going on?”
My mom doesn’t need to pass the phone to anyone else, because in that exact moment, my husband takes his sight off his laptop and looks back at me. And then I know for sure that…

…we lost. Chavez is going to keep being the president of Venezuela for at least six more years. No one seems surprised: the campaign was big, intimidating and effective in a distorted way. The effort made by the opposition was simply not enough and many of its members ended up in prison just because of taking part on this campaign. I try to comfort my mom by focusing our phone conversation in other topics such as my upcoming visit to Caracas or the meat I just made purely based on her brilliant recipe. But no words are enough. I ask her to put my dad on the phone but he’s not in the mood of talking, he has gone to bed already. After we talk /chatted with a hundred of friends and relatives, my husband declares himself in a bad mood and says he needs to go out. I instantly follow him.
We stop by a bar or a cosy restaurant we discovered a few days ago, and sit, and order. We don’t have to say much to each other, we know we are going to live abroad as we are living now, forever. We are going to raise our kids and grow old in a foreign land. Our tropical bodies are never going to adjust to the cold weather completely, our accents will always reveal our “exotic” origins, our minds are never going to stop missing the ones he left behind, but our souls feel thankful; guilty, but thankful because we are living away from the mess Venezuela has become.
The rest of the tables of that place where we are eating/ drinking at, are filled with people, just normal people with their normal joys and sorrows. We look at a couple of girls not older than seventeen who are laughing real hard at a joke some blonde guy made at them. The TV has CNN on, and passes the news about another Chavez victory on small letters at the bottom of the screen. We are the only ones who read that tiny text. The rest of the screen is dedicated to the latest Hollywood star drug trouble. My husband touches my hand in that cute way he always does, looking at me like saying “Common! Cheer up!” I smile.

…we won. The first thought that crosses my mind is “Really? Did we actually won?”
By the narrowest of margins, after hours of tension and rough negotiations, the CNE (our electoral institution) had no other choice but to finally admit it: López won. “I ca-ca- can’t believeeeeeve it!” – My mom says wiping at the other side of the phone; she’s non sense crying out of happiness. No one can believe it. My husband eyes look suddenly bigger than usual and he’s just sitting on the couch, shocked, carrying a smile on his face. In an instant of corny emotion, I look at him while I’m still holding the phone with mom at the other side deciding to send a message to the both of them: I say “I love you”. My mom hung up the phone because she’s going to the streets to celebrate.
I feel a bit nervous about possible nasty reactions on the Revolution side. And there’s one or two. Chavez claims fraud and says he’s going to present the proof tomorrow. In a three hour length cadena, he sends a straight message to his followers: “Trust this comrades, the Revolution will never die!” We laugh at his pathetic speech.
Later, a friend from my master’s class calls us to say congratulations and ask us if we are watching CNN. Of course we are watching! : The screen, the whole screen, is showing the streets of Caracas filled with people celebrating. There are a lot of smiles, tears, dances and colours. There’s even a guy holding his head with both hands, still too shocked to talk to the reporter.
A few family members call us and we hear all that noise “Wish you were here” – They say. I cry like a child: I wish I were there to see it, to jump in the streets like crazy even with the possible dangers of going to the streets at night and to give my family and friends a bear hug.
We don’t know what’s next for us or the ones back home. We are sure that Leopoldo Lopez (*), the new president of Venezuela does not have an easy task at all now.
But for what is worth, we are now feeling a certain happiness inside us and a relief we know we have never felt before. My husband serves the best wine we have (or the only one we have) and I propose to make a delicious pasta for dinner. While he’s busy looking for the tomatoes, I look at the TV screen yet one more time and I smile.

* I do think he could, eventually, be a good president in the future. Call me an elusive dreamer if you must. I’ll explain the reasons on another entry, if I feel like it.

Internet censorship in Venezuela

Yesterday, in the middle of the afternoon, while the voting centers were starting to close and we were filled with anxiety waiting for the results, something odd happened to my computer. I thought it was a virus or a hacker. I was trying to post something here but the page did not open. I try to open any page with a blogspot domain and it was impossible, they all seemed like blocked.

Exploring other blogs, I try to open some of my www.Wordpress.com favorites and I couldn't see any of them. Feeling a bit desperate, I restart my computer over and over again. It was at one of those moments, when a friend of mine showed me this page where many Venezuelans were complaining of having the same trouble I was having. We came up to a single conclussion: CANTV blocked some blog domains. We use other proxys such as this one to get to see some blogs, but it was still impossible for me to post anything.

Then, the CNE (our electoral institution) anounced the results and like two seconds later; my browser didn't seem to have any trouble uploading blogspot. I could finally enter my blog and publish and I just thought "Why would they do that?" "Why would they blocked some blog domains just when we were waiting for the results". They didn't want us to publish our thoughts, our possible prediction, or the exit polls we might hear here and there.

For now, the state company CANTV is quite unefficient when it comes to censorship a web site. For example, they blocked blogspot and wordpress but they didn't block many .com hardcore opposition websites, or http://www.tweleccion.com/ that become an effective source to be informed. It looked like another clumpsy act.

But, from where I see it, the fact that CANTV holds the intention of blocking key sites in order to restrain our liberty and right to be informed; it is a reason to concern, and to pay attention to more actions like this one in the future.

domingo, 15 de febrero de 2009

I have a question for the readers

Have you ever seen a country, ruled by a man with clear dictatorial tendencies, who after 10 years still enjoys the support of its people?
If not, I suggest you to come to Venezuela then. You won't believe your own eyes.
I was born here and I have lived here all my life, and I can't believe my own eyes. For what is worth, I voted NO. It doesn't mean much. But I do care to be the exception.
PS: Don't click on the click here to read the rest option, there is no rest. I will publish a longer post tomorrow.


That's my hand. The nasty purple finger confirms that I already voted, a few hours ago to be exact. I "voted" on some "elections" I never asked for, in front of an Electoral Institution I do not trust. But it is done. I'm preparing a post on this issue, but due to the different feelings I'm going to have dependending on the results; I'm going to wait until midnight to publish again. Sorry for dissapearing for so long. My only hope is that this charade does not last much longer.
PS: Don't click on the click here to read the rest option, there is no rest

viernes, 13 de febrero de 2009

The red shirt

We defended our thesis a few days ago (by “we”, I mean my best friend and I, we worked together). On the weekend before the defence, my mom offered to take me to my favourite shop for buying some new clothes to wear on that special day. I fell immediately for a red shirt that looked perfect on me, I hesitate about even try it on, and my mom hesitated on buying it: “You look great on that shirt but… its red you know…” In an irrational glance, we finally decided to take it. Everyone at home had similar reactions: “It’s beautiful…but red” – “So are you definitely sure about wearing red for your thesis defence?”

On the night before the defence, instead of doing what I supposed to do (which was to read and study my 200 pages of my thesis one more time); I gave a suspicious look to the tempting but apparently inconvenient red shirt. Then I thought that after all, the whole faculty including my friend and thesis partner, my tutor and the jury are quite aware of my political stances so there’s nothing to be scared of. After all, it seems that the worse thing it can happen to you if you wear a red shirt, is to be confused with a Revolution – Chavez (gives the same) supporter; that can be a very harsh stigma sometimes. I finally fall sleep and in just a few hours I was ready: with my hair straightened, with more make up that what I usually dare to wear in the mornings, with my shoes cleaned, my pants pressed and my shining brand new red shirt plus a pair of earrings that matched.

And then, at the university, something extraordinary happened: no one even bothered on my red shirt; everyone simply wished me good luck and said I looked pretty. They had the same reaction they would have if they see me wearing a blue, purple or green shirt. The jury didn’t give me an odd look, perhaps they just laughed because of nervous temper. They asked loads of questions, we gave loads of answers. And they soon gave the verdict: 19 points in a scale of 1- 20. Of course I wanted the 20, but 19 is it not that bad.

After that, I randomly walked through campus, feeling that I finally stopped being a student, feeling that this stage of my life is pretty much over and a new one is beginning.

I looked again at my new red shirt and I thought about the red masses supporting the president, the red ads promoting the Revolution and threatening its opponents, the red shirts that public employees, students with scholarships, or people who has received any benefit from a government social program or mission; is forced to wear in order to receive what it needs from the Revolution, the red dresses the Revolutionary wives wear on big parties, the almost sick way the opposition has avoid wearing red, having red cars etc, as their way to make a stance against the Revolution, the image of a student taking off the red shirt at the National Assembly when the Student Movement began…

I secretly counted the students who were wearing at least a red sweater and I noticed that same as my student years, the red-phobia that haunted us for so many years it’s probably over too. Now my university usually goes to demonstrations wearing red t-shirts with messages against the government (every university from the Student movement has a colour for demonstrations, for example: the Simón Bolívar goes in yellow, and the Metropolitana in orange) and I just wear a red shirt on the most important day of my career: my thesis defence.

You might think that I’m making a big deal because of something as simple as a colour. But one can never sub estimate the power of symbols. If the red stop meaning a lot here, if the red goes back to be just a pretty colour to wear and not a political weapon; the Revolution will lose some symbolic power. The red does not longer belong in an exclusive way to the Revolution. Same as red, maybe there’s a lot of things that does not longer belong to the Revolution as well. Maybe one day my hopes for the future, for the adult life I’m just starting to build, does not belong to the caprice of the ones who are currently ruling my country.

viernes, 6 de febrero de 2009

Venezuelan blogger behind bars

A Venezuelan opposition blogger was detained by the police yesterday. Read it all at Fausta and pass it on please. Don't click on "click here to read the rest", there is no rest

miércoles, 4 de febrero de 2009

No one stopped it

JM has requested me to write my memories on February 4th, 1992. On that day, our actual president: Chavez, leaded an army coup against the democratically elected government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. Not exactly the nicest government my country can think of, but still I’m not sure if it justifies an army rebellion. The coup failed. Chavez appeared on TV for like 5 minutes admitting the defeat and went straight to jail. Before February 4th Chavez was no one, and he instantly became a sort of leader for many that very same night when he admited his defeat on TV. Quite shameful, I know. The events that followed that day and of whom now we are suffering the consequences are hard to explain and even harder to understand. I may give a space on this blog to think about them, but for now, I will just do my task: to remember what happen on February 4th, 1992.

I was seven years old, turned eight at the end of that year. I don’t want to put my age as another dramatic ingredient of my story, I’m just telling you my age because since I was so little, my memories are a little bit blurry and they often confuse with another coup attempt that happen that very same year, on November.

We lived in a neighbourhood called “La Floresta”. The neighbourhood is separated by a highway of the military airport called “La Carlota” so this could explain why we felt all the events so close.

I woke up at dawn hearing planes and random gunshots (first time I heard those). In Venezuela every kid is used to hear explosions: on Christmas eve and New Years are simply non- stop. But these explosions sounded drier, I knew they were no fireworks but I wasn’t sure of what it was until my mom screamed “¡Tiros!” (Gun shots). Still half awaked in our pyjamas, we all went to my parent’s bed to watch the news on TV. I asked if we were going to school and the whole family gave me this ironic look back “Yeah… sure…” Then we heard more airplanes and the gunshots seemed to be closer. My mom screamed all of the sudden: “¡Al suelo!” (“To the floor!”) and we all layed down immediately, I think my sister made me lay down but I’m not sure.

My parents made us go to a small room that connected all the bedrooms and closed the bedroom doors. The “Al suelo!” screams became more frequent, and the explosions and planes simply didn’t stop and were quite annoying. I asked my mom what was going on and she answer me back "Its a coup" - "And what is a coup, mom?" - I replied as the annoying little girl that I was - "Ehmm a coup is like a war, but shorter" - was the best answer she could come up with.

I think it was near noon when my parents decided that that room where we were staying, on the top floor, was not safe anymore and the only safe place remaining in a house filled of doors and windows was a small bathroom we used for the visitors, located right under the stairs. I think the six of us (my brothers and my parents) somehow ended inside that bathroom and when they decided that it was safe to go out, I didn’t want to. My moms made me pasta and try to give it to me but I refused, I was sort of shaking.

At some point of the day I saw my mom argument with someone outside from the balcony of her room “They can’t be here!” – She said. My dad made her go back inside. Apparently they were a few soldiers hiding in our garden or near by.

The rest of the day was nothing different: non stop explosions, stories here and there, and airplanes all the time.

The next day my mom was afraid of sending us to school so we spend the day in the garden, looking for bullets. We find a lot and I think they are still saved somewhere.

It is odd but right now, as I write this, I’m hearing airplanes. They are probably practicing for the celebrations Chavez is going to held because of that day. And that sound is probably the sound that better reminds me of that day. It’s like going back 17 years, and to see myself covering my ears with my hands and asking my mom if she could make it stop.

It’s the very same airplanes but 17 years later. Sometimes I think that I’m still covering my ears and lying in the ground, since no one has still been able to make it stop.

lunes, 2 de febrero de 2009

Happy 10th anniversary

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Bolivarian Revolution. Many people have referred to the Revolution as some sort of democratic paradise. I won't waste my time on explaining those arguments here in my blog. Instead, I will tell the readers how my day was, under what circumstances did I spend as the Venezuelan citizen that I am, this day and then you can make your own conclusions.
First, as I'm writing this lines, my parents are making a cacerolazo with the neighbours (a cacerolazo is a way of protest which consist on making noise by hitting "cacerolas" (saucepan) among other kitchen tools).

Second, the president, the leader, the commander in chief of the Revolution is giving a speech for several hours already to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his Revolution. All public TV Channels and radio stations are forced to broadcast his speech for as long as the government wants it, on what we call a "cadena" (a chain).

Third, we didn't have work today or studies or any productive activity. As I point out in my previous entry, the government declared this day as a "not working day" and threatened every business, school, company that had any activity with a fine. We were forced to stay home from one day to another, with no right to discussion, without a jury, without a law. Some people liked it, some others, the ones who actually got something to lose...not.

Fourth, here's a general and brief view of our lives. The shortages started on 2007 and now are part of our daily lives: the most recent one is rice and like always medicine and certain brands of certain products. And we better don’t start talking about inflation. My godchild for some odd reason can get a passport, and we have heard similar stories of kids that can't have a passport unless they pay "someone" for it. We cannot access freely to foreign currency, the access is quite limited, requires a lot of process and not everyone has the possibility to fill the requirements that include having a credit card in a country on which the majority lives in poverty. There's only one TV channel remaining that identifies itself as an opponent of the government. For the rest, your are condemn to more than six government paid or allied channels (before the revolution only one TV channel belonged to the government) or use the cable. Many people I know have lost their jobs and decided to leave the country for political reasons. The insecurity has increased on dramatic levels: I think that every single person living in Venezuela can name at least an acquaintance who has been a victim of any crime: robbing, kidnapping, even murder on the past two years.

And here I come. I'm 24 and I have spent the last 10 years of my life under a government I can't support. In a country I can't understand. And while others cheer the triumph of a Revolution, I’m about to defend my thesis. I’m trying to find a job, I haven’t had much lucky yet, but even if I find one, the salary I can aspire to is certainly ridiculous after more than five years studying in a prestigious university. Plus, I'm studying like crazy and trying to fill all the requirements not only to get the foreign currency, but to actually getting of here. But, hey! Happy 10th anniversary.

domingo, 1 de febrero de 2009

The Revolution decides if we go to work one day or not

Tomorrow I had like a million things to do, which include meeting my thesis partner and to contact my tutor and keep preparing for the thesis defence. I was also willing to get an answer for a few job positions I apply to in the past week. My cousin had class. My boyfriend had work. But tomorrow the Revolution has forced us all to stay home, because is their 10th birthday. And they don't want anyone to be productive during their series of ridiculous celebrations. As plain and simple as that, they just decided it over the weekend, and if any business, company, or school works tomorrow, they will get a fine. And some people call this a democracy, I have to check my books and concepts all over again... but if a country forces you to stay at home and delay your daily plans for a whole day because their government is in its 10th Anniversary and they let you know about it the weekend before... would you still dare to call it a democracy?

PS: Don't click on the "click here to read the rest" option, because there is no rest.
Ps 2: Miguel said it better than me