martes, 29 de septiembre de 2009

Student' Hunger Strike

(Click on the image to enlarge, all pictures are mine)

Today, I went to the OAS building in Caracas. For a week now, about 50 students are making a hunger strike. Their demand is quite clear: the Inter American court of Human Rights must send a commission to Venezuela to make an independent research on the situation of the political prisoners in Venezuela. Apparently, a secretary of the court is going to speak with a student representative group on the phone during this afternoon. We’ll see what happens.
The student’ hunger strike has spread to other parts of the country like Valencia, Maracay and Puerto La Cruz.


Yesterday, the protesters reached their first achievement: Julio Rivas, a student who was detained and imprisoned under charges like “instigation to commit a crime” and “fatherland betrayal” was released – conditionally. Protesters say that this, although it is good news, it’s far from being enough because many political prisoners are still behind bars and Rivas still has to present to the courts facing criminal charges just for attending to a protest against the government.

While I was walking throughout the Orinoco avenue, meeting some acquaintances and looking at the students whom haven’t eat for days and are just laying down in their beds waiting; I thought that things are going just worse in Venezuela, much more worse than when this blog started.

Protests used to consists on demonstrations and other activities alike, and even considering the violent clashes and the repression, I think that it is hard to find a more extreme way of protesting than a hunger strike. And I have seen two major hunger strikes this year already. This means that unless we stop eating for days with all the risks that this carries for our health, no one is going to hear us. This also means that demands are now so extreme and desperate that they require desperate ways of protesting against it.

We are no longer protesting because the government closed a TV Channel, we are protesting because many people just like us are now facing trials, are forbidden to leave the country and in worse cases, are imprisoned and sharing cells with common delinquency.

One thing is for certain: situations like this one will not be featured on the next Stone’ movie.

lunes, 14 de septiembre de 2009

jueves, 10 de septiembre de 2009

In the middle of our parallel lives



I took both pictures - left: the protest in the morning, right: a wedding at night -on the same day: August 22th, 2009.

Most readers probably ignore it, but to write this blog is quite hard for me. First, I have been learning how to speak and write English with this blog and it has been a bit like a blind trying to walk throughout an unknowing land. Every time I write a new entry I’m forced to look at the dictionary over and over again looking for that specific word such as “General Prosecutor” or even “Demonstration” that I need to explain you something and then I have to read and re read the entry looking for possible grammar mistakes. Even with all that effort, I always find a kind correction of a commenter of this word or that expression and I have to edit and review the entry all over again.

With the difficulties of writing to you in a language that I was never formally taught and that I’m still learning; you have to add the care I put on telling the Revolution from inside without telling you much about my true identity. Believe me, it would be a lot easier to explain you how things really are if I could just tell you all the things I’m afraid to say, including those regarding my identity. It’s also hard to publish inside thoughts about a situation that above all is rather painful for me and for those around me.

A few months ago I started writing with little success a blog in Spanish. My purpose on opening that blog (that still remains) was to write about the other side of my life: that funny, normal, ironic, spontaneous side that emerges when politics isn’t my main concern. I wanted to make a light blog that talked mainly about becoming an adult, just because is the stage of life I’m currently living after I finished the university. I thought that writing such a blog and doing it in Spanish would be a lot easier and maybe, a bit more enjoyable.

But sometimes conscience makes me feel guilty whenever I simply blog about music, parties or my boyfriend. I always feel that I should be more concerned about any recent disturbing political event. This guilty feeling also arises if for instance, I have been so worried and focused on personal troubles (my lack of a real job, family or friend issues, economic things to solve… you get the picture) that I haven’t seen the news neither I’m disturbed for the “cacerolazo” I’m hearing from my window nor I want to be part of it.

Last Saturday I went in the morning to a protest against the new Education law. My mom and I left the protest early, before the troubles began (meaning repression of the protest with tear gas and other sorts of violence, followed by arbitrary detentions) just because we needed to go to the beauty salon in order to be presentable for the wedding of a very close friend of mine that we had at night.

While my hair was being cut and straightened and my nails were being painted French style, the TV of the beauty salon showed the repression of the demonstration we had just left so I knew I couldn’t write a post about how adult I feel because I’m now attending to friends’ weddings, people my age, instead of old cousins or something. I knew I was going to find it hard to focus on a post about guilty feminine pleasures such as reading Hello magazine while the hair dresser is trying to make miracles with my impossible curly hair. I knew that writing a post about my growing interest on things like china and kitchen tools as a sign of me inevitable becoming an adult was out of the question.

I looked at the results of my well spend money at the beauty salon with a certain guilty feeling. “I shouldn’t be doing this” – I thought. But then I thought it twice and it occurred to me that I should be doing that and more, because after all, that’s the main reason why we are worried about the news and protesting all the time: to earn the right to live a life where our rights are respected and to live the way we want to is allowed.

So either way I went to the wedding and had the time of my life. It was hard to believe that just hours earlier I was with my sneakers and my UCAB (my university) baseball cap, taking pictures of protesters and now, I was wearing a beautiful dress and high heels and dancing with my boyfriend one of those good salsa tunes that I never dance well, but I always have a great time trying to.

Political events – or this political crisis in particular- have the tendency of diminish our personal lives and concerns. Besides the political struggle we all face in our daily life in one way of another, we have another struggle: the one that goes between our normal life joys and sorrows and those of a political more general origin that are constantly demanding more space in our minds and hearts that the one we are ready to give. And it is between that fight that my personality has developed throughout all this years (lets not forget that Chavez has almost 11 years in power and that most of us have spent at least 8 years of those protesting in one way or another), always in a protest wishing to be somewhere else, whishing that our life concerns were different and always in a party feeling a bit guilty for those opportunity bites of enjoying a different life, because of not being either protesting or concerned at the moment.

Lately, I’m convinced that this fight - to fight like this- is everything but healthy. That to let politics simply invade our personal lives makes us more harm than good. To be honest, it doesn’t make any important improvement on the political struggle but rather, it just hurts. This sense of patriotism and commitment to your country, and democracy, and freedom, and civil rights, and reading news more and more and more, and force to you to be concern about everything… it tires me and it hurts.

Lately I have taught to myself to not feel guilty if I’m not aware or concerned of my country' situation at every single event of the day. I have learned that to not feel terribly worried or guilty all the time can give me a certain sense of liberation.

So that’s why I’m going to turn my Spanish “light” blog into a therapy. I’m going to keep with the hard task of putting politics aside for a moment and remember all the rest of things that are so good about life. Maybe this blog will also allow some “light” posts too if I feel like it. Some might argue that this is an “irresponsible” decision, that my indifference only allows the government to do more harm. But from where I see it is quite the opposite: maybe to not be so overwhelmed about the latest events can bring us more clarity in order to understand and truly face what’s happening.

After all, Venezuelans seem to be in one way or another condemned to live a double life, a life that goes between daily struggles, repression, controls, news, fear and other several political difficulties and a life filled with everything else that still and in some magical way, manages to survive: love, parties, meetings, family, friends, gossips, smiles, fashion, movies, music…The only thing that remains is to find a way to not lose ourselves in the place where we always fall: that place located right in the middle of our parallel existences.

viernes, 4 de septiembre de 2009

No más Chávez

(I took this picture today, her sign says: “No more Chavez, Freedom”)
The day of “No más Chávez” started online and like all online things, it spread immediately and it brought as a result several demonstrations against the infamous leader around the globe. Chavez declared that this initiative was silly.

Yes, it might be silly to wear white t-shirts and go to a demonstration just to say you are against the man without stating exactly why you are against the man and what the exact purpose of the worldwide street action is.

Then Chavez said that we are not marching/protesting/demonstrating against him, but rather against the people. And it was in the moment I heard that, the moment that I decided to go to the event.

I went there today not just to declare that I’m against him, but rather to make him understand that he is not the people. No one is the people. He’s just a person like me. And I, like any other person, can decide if I march against him or not, without going against anyone else but him. He’s not the people, he’s not Venezuela, and he’s not even the Revolution. He’s just a man, like you and me, and maybe is about time for him to notice the meaning of his own insignificance.

Oliver Stone on Chavez

Maybe is a very objective documentary that tries to show the true face of Chavez and other South American leaders beyond what's been told about them in the -so called - "mainstream media". But in such face of the South American change, people like Uribe from Colombia or Alan from Peru were not interviewed - as far as I know, if I'm mistaken I hope some reader corrects me in the comment section - by Oliver. Maybe it can be a lot of things. But for me is yet another piece of political propaganda disguised as a "documentary", for me it has strong chances of being something like the infamous "The Revolution will not be televised".
Anyway, here's the trailer, you make your own stances about it. And I'll wait for the long lenght documentary just to give to it the benefit of the doubt.

jueves, 3 de septiembre de 2009

Brain drain

Last night, my boyfriend and I went to a fair about graduate schools all over the world (www.topuniversities.com). While he was distracted looking for pamphlets and business cards of the universities he likes the most, I was busier looking at the incredible amount of people just like us: young middle class Venezuelans whom just left the university looking not only for a studying opportunity but rather for a way – any way – that could let them get out of here.

Many didn’t care if it was Spain, New Zeland, or the United States as long as they could apply for a scholarship that could give them a chance to experience some valuable time on a foreign land. Plus, during seminars, the most frequent asked question out loud or inside everyone’s mind was about job placements and possibilities of staying over there once we finish the Master, the MBA or the PhD even, depending on the case. We were also impressed to see this fair turning into some sort of “old friends meeting centre”. We met loads of old friends and former classmates considering just like us, the possibility of at least a couple of years abroad at graduate school. We didn’t know till last night that they were so many like us, so many aware of the TOEFL dates and the needed GRE or GMAT scores. Maybe my older brothers attended to similar very crowdie fairs when Chavez was not the president of Venezuela, but I’m sure there was something different about the one last night: the determination you could feel in the air about making a plan without a returning ticket. Most of them are not looking for some good studying opportunity so they can come back home more prepared and give back that knowledge to the society they were raised in. I’m pretty sure that last night, at those hotel conference rooms filled with hoped faces of many similar young adults, was the start something we call “Brain drain”.

martes, 1 de septiembre de 2009

The blonde we are all afraid of

The image was taken from here.No copyright ingringement intended.

The woman in the picture above looks just like another harmless smiley blonde. But behind that cute smile you’ll find Luisa Ortega Diaz, the General Prosecutor. Of all the Revolution tricky characters, she’s the one who scares me the most at the moment. On this entry, I’ll explain you why.

During all this years of changes, Revolution, and prosecution of the dissidence, a common complain that I heard especially between family and friends over dinner, was that Chavez as the rest of the government; were not clear about their intentions. For instance they spoke about democracy and human rights when their actions expressed completely the opposite. My father often say things like “Why does not Chavez take off his mask once and for all and declares himself a dictator?” –

Well, that only could happen in “Julia’ Father – Disneyland” because I have never heard of a dictator admitting that he is what he is. They always call themselves democrats, claim to be doing all things legal and right or protecting us from some upcoming invasion that never actually comes or at the most, they claim to be “the voice of the people”. They never use the word d-i-c-t-a-t-o-r and Chavez won’t be an exception of this widely known general rule. But the thing is that we once wished to see those leaders speaking from the bottom of their hearts, without any hypocrisy or façade, without any attempt to make things look better or different than how they are for real.

We thought that fighting against something that acted exactly the way it look like would be easier, because no one could be confused about the nature and the real intentions of the regime and therefore, more support and strength could be earned.

And then, a few days ago, Luisa Ortega Diaz did, for the second time (first time she propposed a controversial law for media regulation that is not the topic of this entry), just exactly what we used to wish for. Without masks, without pretty words, without any tool of any kind that could be used to hide her intentions, she simply spoke out. She said what probably the most convinced people inside the lines of Chavismo were wishing to speak out, and she counted with the power and strength to do it: she said that opposition protesters of any kind could be prosecuted and sentenced to 10 up to 12 years in jail because what they (we) are doing could match perfectly with the rather ambiguous crime of civil rebellion.

On Saturday, a demonstration was planned to protest against the new education law that I briefly talked about on the last entry. And Luisa ordered an investigation without any basis, just because. Just because she thinks that we don’t any right to protest against that law. And as usually happens, when someone starts an “investigation” when the sentences has already been decided, “crimes” were found, and people guilty of them were also found. This time, Caracas prefect’ was the victim, and in front of all of us, an order of detention that no one can understand where it come from, went against him without warning. He’s now waiting for a trial (if I'm not mistaken) in La Planta, a horrible prison located in Caracas that is used for common delinquents. For no one is secret that inside that prison his life its in a serious risk.

Eleven workers of the Caracas Municipality (called “Alcaldía Metropolitana) that belongs to the opposition are facing the exact same destiny. They were protesting against a new law that could put their jobs in jeopardy and the police started throwing tear gas at them and in the middle of the confusion, all that we have now is those eleven workers that without much explanations and under charges such as “alteration of the public order” they are now also behind the bars of La Planta, with Caracas prefect' Richard Blanco.

Ortega’ controversial declaration has opened Venezuela and the worlds’ eyes to a tendency that is going between us for a very long time: the extensive criminalization of the protest inside a country that calls itself a “participatory democracy”.

This week a very important Venezuelan pro-human rights NGO called Provea gave us a frightening report (link in Spanish): there’s 2200 people processed in the country for protesting against the government. This number includes the students detained during the protests of 2007 that even counting they were freed about two days later, they have prohibitions to leave the country and they are forced to attend the courts periodically, in one word they have criminal records just because they attended the same marches I did. The number also covers peasants and workers who have protested for a variety of reasons and have faced a similar consequence. Provea says that 2200 is a modest number because it doesn’t include many small protests into shanty towns that didn't reached the general public.

We have enough reason to believe that with a prosecutor like Luisa, this number will do nothing more but to increase.

So it is understandable that we are now more afraid of this frank, natural, honest and straight to the point speech and subsequent actions of Luisa Ortega Diaz, than we are of president Chavez itself even thro we know that Luisa is nothing more and nothing less than just another instrument of Chavez’ orchestra. The thing is that just like bloggers like this one and this one rightly said, our General Prosecutor has a huge power in her hands; the power to decide who is accused and who’s not under what charges. She is the head and holds the monopoly of our (un) justice system.

I happen to look back now to those dinners were we asked to the Revolutionaries to be more open about their intentions with some certain naïve nostalgia. We are far from considering these dangerous moves of the Revolution as something helpful for the opposition strategy. Now, we are just simply afraid of what the end of the “democracy” charade and care for the appearance of the Revolution is bringing to us.

But one thing is for certain: for the better or the worse, we are now more conscious and more aware of the criminalization of the protest in Venezuela. Since Luisa Ortega openly spoke her intentions out, the phenomenon has stopped being under surface and its finally getting all the attention (and I feel guilty about this) that it deserves.