“Bikini para tu novia”
“Hablan español?” (Do you speak Spanish?) – A woman in her fifties asked. She was selling her merchandise in the hostel before going to the US. It consisted of bikinis. Why she approached me was nothing short of a surprise. “Para tu novia” – she said. (For your girlfriend)
Well, later but somehow spontaneously we engaged in some chatting that went really fast from mocking of my girlish looks into a report of a cruel reality. Zoraia, Venezuelan, mother of 5 and former educator is fleeing her country crisis and leaving her children behind. It was too much for her and her family. Also, her parents and siblings are already making a living abroad (US, Spain and Portugal). Her children are only waiting to finish their education, but they too will leave, adding up to the already 3 million students and 2 million others that went.
“Socialismo es bueno, pero Venezuela no es socialista, es corrupta”.
“Socialism is good, but Venezuela is not Socialist. It’s corrupt.” Students had been recently gunned down in protests against the government. Other protests have occurred in the aftermath and were met with even more violence. After that the protest had thus come to a halt, but peace was only apparent.
For instance, she feels safer in Bogotá, even though several people in our hostel had already been robbed. “Al menos no somos muertos por dicir lo que pensamos.” (At least we are not killed by saying what we think.) After all, she too remembers her youth of violent protest throwing stones and setting cars on fire, but no one got killed, she remarked. In retrospective, she now realises that that kind of protest didn’t establish the foundations for anything good.
Black Market of essential goods
Other protests going on came as a response to the poor access to food and ever-growing foreign debt. Chávez had led the investors away trying to put everything in the hands of the government. The industry collapsed, and skilled workers went abroad. For instance, the country faces a severe structural problem, and the economy is shrinking.
Also, poor people have access to food, but higher waged workers like Zoraia have to pay outstanding amounts of money for it. Then, she goes to the black market for it. Yes, a black market that doesn’t sell guns nor drugs but essential goods. Her contact was a Portuguese guy that delivered her some food at early dawn where not a lot of people could yet be found wandering around.
“Hay que cambiar las politicas.”
It’s necessary to change the politics. Elections were coming up on the 20th of May. Well, that’s good news, no? Unfortunately, no. There is no real adversary to the president. Most of the people won’t even vote except for the poor ones that to continue to have access to food stamps are forced to vote. Given their position they are not willing to bite the hand that feeds. The other group voting is the military. In other words, fearing a coup, the military has been offered houses, cars, good salaries and, of course, access to food.
“I have worked all your life just to escape and leave all behind”
Criminality went through the roof. Big farms are being robbed at gunpoint as food supplies go even lower. Fearing more attacks, the farms have been scaled-down to the point of self-reliance, aggravating the situation.
“Trabajé toda mi vida. Todavía tengo 30 años para vivir…pero no así. No estaré aqui para ver la recuperación de Venezuela”. (I’ve worked all my life and I still have 30 years to live…but not like this. I won’t be here to see Venezuela’s recovery.