This post is an attempt to spread awareness about the current situation in Venezuela that I recently heard about from my friend Vanessa, who moved to the U.S. from Venezuela when she was thirteen and still has many loved ones currently living there. I wanted to do what I could to spread the word, hence this post, particularly in light of the Venezuelan government’s attempts to cut off a good amount of social media use within the country, particularly with Twitter, which is noted here:
(Above picture credit to International Business Times)
The increasingly dire situation in Venezuela has gotten a bit more mass media coverage over the past day or so, but there is no excuse for the seriously lacking coverage from major news outlets from across the world since this began. Much like the happenings in the Ukraine, it took far too long for the goings on in Venezuela to even get an ounce of the coverage it deserved in the media, and it’s still not getting enough: the majority of the information I found until this evening was located in smaller, internet based news sites as opposed to major news media channels and papers. Why does it take twenty people getting killed in the Ukraine to make the front page of the Washington Post web site, or one of the Venezuelan resistance leaders turning himself to make the main page of CNN?
I’m new to this situation myself, so to start off, here’s a basic run down of what’s been going on in Venezuela:
From what Vanessa imparted to me, and from what I managed to read so far, there have been past shortages of food and stories of people waiting in lines at the market in the sheer hope that there might be a shipment, to the point of extremes where people are having to ration what they have, including milk for babies. Protesters are running from smoke bombs, and in the most notable incident, the army shot into a crowd of students, resulting in two deaths and and multiple injuries. Violence has escalated, but that’s what happens when peaceful protests are squashed or downright outlawed and people are pushed to their brink in what is essentially a dictatorship. Certainly there have been violent moments in American protests: fights break out, sometimes there are cases of police brutality (as we saw with a few of the pepper spray incidents in the Occupy movement), and sometimes there are arrests, but I remain thankful that in normal activism and protest experiences, ones I’ve participated in and ones I’ve read about, Americans are not, in usual circumstances, under threat of losing their lives, or under threat of torture, or being shot at when armed with nothing but rocks. There are issues sometimes, but we still possess our ability to protest peacefully and affect change. But as we saw in the Arab spring, in the Ukraine, in Venezuela, these people are granted no such luxury, and they are left with no other option but to fight back with violence, to risk everything in the effort to stop the oppression and the inconceivable ways in which they are forced to live under corrupt governments and tyrants. Peaceful protests and activism is what everyone wants, but sometimes the ability to have such things must be fought for in order to establish it in the first place, or if, as in this case, the right to protest peacefully is taken away.
So what started this spiral in Venezuela? As mentioned before, food and basic needs shortages (at one point there was even a shortage of toilet paper) have played a big part, as well as high crime rates (Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world), and inflation, which according to CNN, is up to 56%. Many of the protesters are calling for an end to the current government altogether, and as a CNN reporter remarks below, to most this president only seems an extension of the deceased Hugo Chavez. As my friend told me, she has experienced the channel Tnt24, (a South American channel not even based out of Venezuela but out of Columbia) shutting down in front of her eyes twice in the past few months because the Venezuelan government and President Maduro don’t want the reality of what’s going on to get out to the rest of the world. In further news today, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself over for arrest, hoping to prove to those who oppose him that he has nothing to hide and is not guilty of the crimes of which the government has accused him:
According to Reuters, Lopez hoped his arrest would “serve to the wake people up” and several protesters lifted him up so that me might bid farewell to his family.
This is of course an ever developing story, but if you’d like to try and help now, there is already a White House petition, and I will post the link below:
In any case, if you read this, please do what you can to spread the word about what’s going on in Venezuela so that hopefully the people there can get the help and international support they need. All my thoughts and prayers out to everyone there, everyone who has loved ones there, and here’s to the hope that the Venezuelan people will have their voices heard, their fight noticed, and their freedoms, human rights, and quality of life given to them as they deserve.