miércoles, 26 de febrero de 2014

Testimonials from February (Part IV: José and Fabián)

Roberto Mata, an outstanding Venezuelan photographer, has spend these past few days in the quiet but valuable task of interviewing people who have experienced the horrible repression occurred during protests. His testimonies, always accompanied with a picture, include students detained, injured and a journalist beaten by the National Guard. The work was originally published in Prodavinci. (if you speak Spanish and want thoughtful, accurate analysis and testimonial of the Venezuelan situation, this is the place to go). I have received Roberto Mata' authorization to translate and publish his work in this space. Since this blog was originally conceived to be a testimonial one, nor a source of news; these testimonials provide a unique opportunity to read a personal account of the events; one that I am not longer able to produce since I do not live in Venezuela anymore.
To preserve the value of the testimonial, I have tried to keep the texts as close as possible to the original which means that some expressions might seem odd for English native speakers. Where words and expressions were likely to get lost in translation, I looked for English equivalents and/or included small explanations between parenthesis.
To make sure you read them, I will only publish only one or two a day. Keep in mind that these are normal people, like you and me, exposed to painful, extreme circumstances.
This translation attempt has become a sort of team work, since my English is pretty basic and I am always in need for a suggestion of the best equivalent in English to very particular "Venezuelan" words. I want to sincerely thank my brother who helped me with the first ones and everyone on Twitter who made suggestions. I hope the results are as accurate and readable for English speakers as possible.
7. “I Have Water, Vinegar, a Rag and Maalox (antacid) in my Backpack”; José Villegas
By Roberto Mata (If  you   know  Spanish, read the original material at Prodavinci:  http://prodavinci.com/blogs/no-conozco-otro-gobierno-pero-se-que-esto-no-es-lo-correcto-jose-villegas-por-roberto-mata/)
José Villegas, 21. Student of Management. Photo by Roberto Mata originally published Prodavinci
 “It is hard to breathe, your skin itches, you feel like vomiting, and blindness and a strong burning feeling in the face. I am wearing a mask since Saturday”

On Wednesday, February 12th, Jose did not go to the march (demonstrations), he did not felt called. He attended on his regular schedule to his classes of Macroeconomics and Math. But at night, everything changed. “To find out via social networks that other students were putting their chests for me and for every Venezuelan made me go out, join, show my face”.

Since then, he has been going to the protests for a week. He has not come back to class. He has slept little and ate worse. Even so, he is not tired. “My backpack has water, vinegar, a rag, Maalox (antacid). I feel like a Red Cross member, my role is to help”.

José helps, succors, assists.

“I have a responsibility with the country. If I do not go out, me, that I am young and I have the strength and the adrenaline, then study for what? Since I was six years old, the only government I have known is this one. I do not know any other, but I know this is not the right (thing)”

In all the demonstrations, the offer without demand is “gas del bueno”*. José returns the tear gas bombs or put it inside buckets filled with water, to neutralize them. He can breathe the gas for up to 55 minutes. Then he goes to the rearguard.

He does not know if the expired tear gas (April, 2013) that he assures it is being used against this protests, has caused him any extraordinary effect. It is an unprecedent experience. He cannot compare.

He has witnessed National Guards with tears in the eyes, after hearing students proposals, face to face. He understands that they (the National Guards) receive orders but he also recognizes that not all of them cry, no matter what the banners say.

Every time Jose goes to a march (demonstrations) he calls his parents who live in Maturín and Ciudad Bolívar. He lets them know, notifies them. From inside the country, their parents beg him not to go.

TEAR GAS: Warning: it is dangerous to use it after its validity date. MANUFACTURED: APRIL/2008, VALID UNTIL APRIL 2013. (Text taken from the cartridge of the tear gas bomb, that was collected by José in Chacao, on February 16th, 2014).

*On a televised speech back in 2009, former president Hugo Chávez threatened demonstrators with dispersing them with a lot of gas, “the good gas”, “gas del bueno” – he said. Since then, the expression “gas del bueno” is commonly used among protesters to describe these events.

8. “I would do it again, but with a bulletproof vest”; Fabián Schwaiger
By Roberto Mata (If you know Spanish, read the original material at Prodavinci: http://prodavinci.com/blogs/volveria-a-hacerlo-pero-con-chaleco-antibalas-fabian-schwaiger-por-roberto-mata/)

Fabián  Schweiger, 26. Computer Science licenciado. Photo by Roberto Mata originally published in Prodavinci
Fabián is going to live with three pellets in his body from now on, one very close of his column. It was more of a risk to remove it. His clothes have seven perforations in total. At point-blank. In his back.

After seeing how the National Guard caught two photographers, he did not wanted to be the third one. He put down his camera and ran. He felt the heat of the shot in his body.

His great-grandfather, in Hungary, was photographer. His grandfather, who came to Venezuela running away from the Nazis first and communism, after; was the personal photographer of Marcos Pérez Jiménez (Venezuelan president 1952-1958) in the 50’s. His father did aerial photography for the now extinct Ministry of Agriculture and Breeding.

Fabián is not a photographer. Even though he does and knows very well how to make everything related to photography of conflict, he is just trying to register what is going on in the country.  

"Turn him in! Turn him in!” – The National Guard screamed to the neighbors who helped him while he was leaving blood all over the entrance of a building of Chacao (east of Caracas).

They never demanded the pictures, they wanted him.

The neighbors resisted, they did not handed him over. Gauze and alcohol.

That same Wednesday, the 12th of February but earlier in the day, Fabián was in Parque Carabobo (downtown Caracas). He photographed the blazes of the shotguns, the shootings of automatic weapons, the moment when the body of Bassil was taken out. He photograph the horror lived there.

When they screamed that would shoot against the gray sweater –guy, his sweater decided to go away. He does not have many friends in Facebook, the place where he published his pictures. He feels the responsibility of making sure the pictures get to a place where they serve as proof of what happened.

Fabián arrived wounded to Salud Chacao (municipal hospital), driving his own motorcycle. Once he was cured, he allowed himself to pass out.

- Would you do it again, Fabián?

- Yes, but with a bulletproof vest.

The bill for the medical exams was over Bs. 20,000*.

Fabián does not have medical insurance.

*Translator note: It is hard to come with an equivalent in Dollars of how Fabián' medical expenses given Venezuelan very complicated control exchange system. It is suffice to say, for the sake of giving readers an idea of the financial burden this mean, that 20,000 Bolívares is a lot of money for an average Venezuelan: about six or seven times the minimum wage.

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