Day 5 of Protests in Venezuela

I did what I said I wouldn’t do.

I stumbled upon the protests today.

The above recording is what it currently sounds like outside my building. An impromptu banging of pots, horn honking and shouts for better. Even in the elevator ride down people were getting on with pot and wooden spoon in hand to join the protest.

I’ve been in a funk that’s been stretching on for weeks. Having running water since I returned to Venezuela has made a HUGE difference in my mood, but something is still leaving me antsy.

And angry.

That something is realizing that I still want more–more discipline when it comes to honing my craft, more (deeper) relationships with people I cherish, and just more to do in a country where I’m constantly reminded that it’s unsafe and unstable. In short, I’m going through culture shock again because I feel like I’m living in a gilded cage.

Salsa class has been my saving grace.

I debated whether or not I should even attempt to go today, what with constant warnings from the State Department and my supervisor to exercise extreme caution when moving about right now, but my security guard friend and neighbor (who also drives a taxi) assured me it would be OK to go out.

It took us an hour to get to salsa class. Normally, it takes fifteen minutes.

People created a miles-long human chain that made it difficult to drive. When the taxi stopped, a woman wrote SOS Venezuela on my neighbor’s car (which, along with paz (peace) is a common thing to see on cars right now).

People were decked out in Venezuelan flags, babies were propped up on sun roofs (which would’ve caused people to flip out in the US, but is not seen as a bad thing here), and the protest was continuing.

My neighbor admitted as we sat in traffic that he underestimated the longevity and the intensity of the protests. He thought people would’ve stopped by now.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw the soldiers. But I must admit, I was awed 1.) at people’s courage to stand across the street from armed guards and 2.) people’s signs, which all hinted at reasons why people (im)migrate. A rough translation of a few of the signs would read as follows:

Venezuela: Fight for us (young people) or lose us.

We want a life without fear and crime.

I’m here because my girlfriend wants me to be (I didn’t see this sign, but my taxi driver started laughing because he saw it).

and

Cubans go home.

That last sign gave me pause. I’d heard about it earlier this week and thought it was disgusting disconcerting. It wasn’t racist per se, but it was…wrong. I abhor generalizations and scapegoating in their many manifestations.

There’s a sentiment here, which I’m beginning to realize, that is anti-Cuban. Some Venezuelans fear that the country will become as closed off as Cuba. Others say that Cubans get favored over Venezuelans when it comes to hiring. Others say Castro is really the one leading the country since the government here is close to Cuba.

Supposedly, there’s a history of anti-Cuban sentiment. At one point in time, the Cuban embassy was stormed in Venezuela.

All I know is that at this point in time I’m learning a lot about politics. I don’t think I can ever go back to thinking that politics are boring and/or do not affect me.

And just in case I ever forget, the sound of banging pots and honking horns will quickly remind me.

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8 thoughts on “Day 5 of Protests in Venezuela

  1. Greece and other countries have seen a rise in neo-Nazi and anti-immigrant movements as people look for someone, anyone, to blame for their troubles. The primary reason in Europe was the forced implementation of austerity measures on the general populations. Latin America is battling those same neoliberal forces.

    • Thanks for sharing. The main problem I had with this article is just how biased it was though. I do believe that the expats were yelling out ignorant things to the other protestors, but I I feel like it’s two ideologies warring and there’s no middle ground. Both are accusing the other of one thing or another when neither side is guiltless. The class issue here, as discussed in the post, is very real. From my limited experience, I have found that the well off can’t even imagine, let alone understand, why someone in poverty would be willing to support the current government despite the economic instability. The same can be said about the well-off in the US. It’s like some people get comfortable and forget how to empathize. I can admit that myself. I think I was able to empathize more with people when in NYC because I was struggling too. When I’m not struggling, I’m more impatient and less willing to put myself in another’s shoes.

      • You make good points. The article was biased but so is any mainstream media coverage of events in Venezuela. What little there is paints a vicious picture of the Maduro administration similar to the media reports that came out of Libya and Syria to justify “humanitarian interventions”. It is important to counter these messages because CNN certainly isn’t going to do the job. When Chavez passed the U.S. immediately put pressure on his hand-picked successor Maduro during the elections with Henrique Capriles through formal channels and otherwise. As bad as things are now for Venezuelans at the street level, it’s nothing compared to what will take place if a pro-Washington candidate/dictator is installed. Hence, the reference in the article to Pinochet-era Chile. This is the shock doctrine at work again.

  2. I like what you said about the shock doctrine. I’ve never heard that term, but I think that’s what is used to manipulate large groups of people. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget to think for yourself. You know what they say: “If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t make the news.” That’s why I try, in this blog, to not always discuss the oft-discussed crime rate, but it’s real. It’s palpable and people can’t flourish if you’re worried about your basic safety. Hence, the protests.

    Yes, I do think given US-intervention in Latin America the current government has a right to be wary of the US, but one shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. For example, the government strictly limits how much foreign currency a person can have access to (which is one reason for the inflation) and industries are leaving. If the government was doing all of this and the country was flourishing I would say OK, the world can learn about a new economic model. With the country not doing well under these regulations it makes me wonder if and when people are willing to change. Holding on super tightly to one ideology makes it hard to see the negatives and, thus, to see a chance to compromise.

  3. One book I want to read that discusses foreign and/or US intervention in Latin America is The Open Veins of Latin America. Have you read it?

    I would also suggest Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan Gonzalez. His thesis is that the reason why there’s a large amount of Latino immigrants in the US is because the US intervened in all these different Latino countries at one point or another in history.

    • Naomi Klein popularized the term “shock doctrine” in her book “Shock doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism” She traced the origins of modern day neoliberalism to Milton Friedman’s Chicago School of Economics. The followers of Friedman’s economic theories were advisors to Pinochet following the coup on Sep. 11, 1973 in Chile. It’s a good read and gives context to a lot of historical events including post-war Iraq and post-Katrina New Orleans. Her premise was that the financial elite use natural disasters, both natural and man-made to usher in sweeping changes that include privatization, deregulation and gutting of the social safety nets.

      I’ll have to check out the books you recommend. The “History of Latinos” sounds interesting. We scapegoat immigrants from Latin America even though many fled to the U.S. due to our unbalanced trade policies and propping up of right-wing dictators.

      Stay safe and thanks for keeping us updated on events on the ground.

  4. Pingback: Bull Racing in Sumatra, Indonesia | (Im)Migrating with a Purpose

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