jueves, 19 de marzo de 2009

About Sucre

(The image used for this entry correspond to Ocariz' campaign poster, it was taken from here, no copyright infringement intended).
The Sucre municipality in Caracas is one of the biggest and hardest to rule. It combines the biggest slum in Latin America called Petare with loads of middle class and high middle class areas. Almost ever since the Revolution started, Sucre was ruled by “Papi- Papi” (translation: “daddy-daddy”, we call him that way because he’s the son of José Vicente Rangel, former vice president and Chavez’s right hand) and it was, simply, a disaster. Sucre looked like abandoned territory: the streets were filled with potholes because of lack of maintenance. Then, something extraordinary happened to Sucre: Carlos Ocariz, from the opposition, beat the Revolutionary candidate in last November's elections.

Chavez, amazed and determined to not accept the defeat, made the ridiculous assumption that Ocariz had won Sucre because the municipality was filled with rich people. Everyone laughed at the president, making jokes about the surreal existence of golf courses in the middle of such a poor area. Ocariz earned the so-called “popular” votes from Petare that once were a symbolic pro- Chavez area. Or, if you prefer this way, “daddy-daddy” made the Revolution lose their support in the area, due to his lousy term in government.

With great enthusiasm, Ocariz took his spot in office as soon as this year started. Andrés, a friend of mine who lives in Sucre, was impressed to see the streets around his house fixed for the first time in 8 years or so. He also spoke about the public lighting. “It’s actually working!” he said with a smile.

Then, as soon as my best friend and I defended our thesis, we received emails inviting people of our major to work at Sucre's municipal office. My best friend quickly went to an interview; I decided to decline the offers because the offices are located way too far away from home. “We wish we could hire you full time, but can’t pay you full time, so we’ll hire you part time, if you wish.” She accepted, because she had no work experience and needed at least something to put at her résumé. Her salary for working part time was even below the minimum salary, maybe a bit adequate for someone who’s still studying at the university and is starting an internship but not for someone who already completed her studies. “Also, can you possibly bring a laptop?” they asked her. “A laptop?” My friend felt odd by the question. “We don’t have computers to work with… they took them all."

An awful reality punched my best friend's illusions in her face. By “they,” the person who was interviewing her was referring to the people who used to work there, the revolutionary ones. The people under “daddy-daddy's” command took the change of mayors as if it were an apartment move: they assumed that everything inside the building was theirs and not a public resource, a part of the municipality. In an open act of corruption, of which I have not heard any words or hope of justice, they took those computers leaving my best friend's new office with nothing more than empty desks.

But that wasn’t all. On the first of work, my best friend was shocked to notice that her office was cleaned three times while she was working, by different woman each time. “There are so many people hired here doing nothing, I think “daddy-daddy” hired them to buy their votes,” she told me.

Now, since the quantity of work is overwhelming, my best friend accepted to start working full time; for a ridiculous salary. I asked her to join me to lunch a few days ago and she replied “Well, I’m not sure; they haven’t been able to pay me yet…”

In the meantime, the assembly and the president have approved a reform on the law that rules the powers of the mayors, taking away from them several of their powers and concentrating yet more power in the hands of the central state (called by them “popular power”).

So as you can see, for those mayors and governors like Ocariz, who win a municipality that it was once considered Revolutionary, their victory was only a short celebration and the exercise of the government they were chosen to be in front of, is simply a nightmare. A nightmare that goes between dealing with the inefficiency and corruption of the Revolutionary government settled before them and the current government sabotage decided to disrespect, under any excuse, the result of the regional elections, held during past November.

PS: I just found this short post, in case you want to read more about all the things the Revolution does to make an Opposition regional government impossible

sábado, 7 de marzo de 2009

On shortages and rumours

Note: the image used for this entry was taken from the web, no copyright infringement intended.
Today, I feel forced to make another entry about the shortages. They now look as something normal to any interested observer of the current Venezuelan political situation. But it is always important to remind the readers that the shortages (specially the food ones) started on 2007 (same year I started blogging) and so they represent a situation that the Venezuelans are not used to deal with at all.

Ever since then, products appear and disappear from the shelves and we treat the most basic and common products such as milk or black beans like they were gold. We have also quickly forgotten (or at least that’s what we pretend) our exquisite taste that once made us picked one special brand over many others that decorated our big and modern supermarkets or even our corny abastos and bodegas.

It has become a common image to see signs on those places such as “Only two bags per person”, “Only one can per person”. It’s currently happening with rice (three days ago you could only buy two bags of rice at the supermarket located near by home, now there’s no rice left). There’s also a significant scarce of sugar, coffee, black beans, toilet paper and napkins (if something as basic as food is missing, it is ought to expect to see other things disappearing from the shelves as well).

To the drama that comes with the current shortages, the frustration of coming back home without the basic things you need; you must add the fear and uncertainty that fills everyone nerves as soon as the news and/or the rumours of possible future shortages enter our ears. We fear that the products that are rare to find now, might become impossible to find one day, they might disappear forever from our shelves. In our worse expectations we imagine days and months and years passing by missing the smell of the coffee, the taste of the real white sugar, the texture of food cooked using corn oil…Its hard to imagine a life without those products.

The future also speaks about products now easy to find, being added one day to the already familiar shortage list. The rumours are strong on predicting shortages of some hygiene products. A few months ago, the rumour speaking about a significant scarce of sanitary pads drove me crazy, making buy a package of those every time I could. If you are a woman you definitely know that you simply can’t live without it. With the current shortage of toilet paper and napkins on the rise, my –maybe not well found- fear of living a shortage of sanitary pads has arise again

Sometimes I don’t know who I should blame for this; I think that the situation Venezuela lives passes beyond the childish act of merely naming the guilty ones. The government blames the producers, the producers blame the government and at the end; the Venezuelans who are neither producers or part of the Revolution, are sadly getting used to live like that: fearing that one day in our own home, our life standards start being a bit more extreme and a bit less human.