I said earlier that Obama declaring Venezuela a national security threat was a mistake. Now the US is backtracking. I think that’s good, even if the US has lost some face. The US does not need to flame the anti-US fire that the official Venezuelan government has latched onto as a means of diverting attention from the country’s protracted state of crisis.
You know what my first billboard sign was when returning to Venezuela from Peru?
“Venezuela no es una amenaza somos esperanza.”
Rough translation: Venezuela is not a threat. We’re hope.
I couldn’t help but get annoyed. I was lugging back soap, shampoo, coffee, and diapers for co-workers because you can’t find items here in Venezuela, and this is the sign atop a hill. I spotted two of them actually.
The government can get those billboards posted in the hills for all kingdom come to see, but they can’t get the shelves stocked over here? You can’t walk with your plastic shopping bags without people looking in them and asking where you got the lotion, deodorant, pads, etc…
One random Saturday morning I gave away two packs of pads to a woman in my building who queried about where I found them and a bottle of lotion (one of two I had picked up) to a woman in the store. The lotions I grabbed were the last two in the store because…lotion is hard to come by.
I bring EVERYTHING I need while abroad from the US: toilet paper, feminine hygiene products such as pads and tampons, lotion, soap, shampoo, the works.
And this is the sign that takes priority?
As my time here in Venezuela nears an end, my patience is wearing thin. I honestly think a person has to live it to see what’s going on. My mind is still boggled almost two years in…and I’m not really living the experience here. I’m protected by the privilege of being an American citizen. I’m not struggling, quite frankly, but everyone around me is.
Recently Maduro–the president of Venezuela–stated that all Americans had to have visas to enter Venezuela, effective immediately. I didn’t sweat it. I have a work visa here. I got asked for my visa when leaving and entering Venezuela for Semana Santa, but in no way, shape, or form was I harassed. It’s just unfortunate because it’s so political.
The embassy alerted us that Americans had been turned away from their flights as soon as the visa order came down, which I think is spiteful because there should’ve been some form of a grace period. It’s not as if there was a military attack that would’ve warranted shutting it all down with no questions asked. If I booked a trip months in advance and didn’t need a visa, I’m now supposed to get one in less than three days? That’s impossible.
Earlier this year, Maduro also demanded that the US slash its embassy staff in Caracas from 100 to 17. The rationale? That’s equal to the number of Venezuelans stationed at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington.
Ummm…this number was manipulated, point blank, because it fails to include all of the Venezuelans working in embassies such as New York (where I had to go) and Houston (where I live when back in the States). There aren’t only 17 Venezuelan staff workers in the US. There are more like 43, but that’s the sloppy, manipulative argumentative style that’s common here that offends my intelligence and just wears me out as American trying to remain unseen (while being seen and heard because of my race and accent).
We–Americans living in Venezuela–also received an e-mail earlier this year because four Americans had been detained and weren’t allowed to contact the US embassy, which is against international law.
I’ve been silent on all of these issues because I don’t like to be negative in public spaces. I usually express my true feelings surrounding politics to my mom and my best friends. They’re rarely expressed to anyone else.
But, as a Venezuelan co-worker told me, you have a right to critique a government that is not your own. I want to critique respectfully…just like I hope people do with me (and unlike one German man did when I was in Peru, but that’ll be for a later post)…but say something I must.
I LOVE the people here. I can’t stress that enough. They’re beautiful.
And they, all humans, deserve better.