CORREDOR: Reuniting and reconstructing Venezuela
U.Va. community can play a significant role in fighting alongside Venezuelans
In December 2015, the streets of Venezuela were overflowing with joy, because for the first time since 2000, the opposition had gained a majority in the National Assembly. With 112 opposition representatives versus 55 government representatives, the national assembly became the only official medium through which the opposition could voice its concerns. However, on March 30 of this year, teardrops of anger ran down the faces of many Venezuelans as they watched how the Supreme Court Justice of Venezuela stripped congress of its powers, dissolving the power of the National Assembly and the voice of its people. The decision of President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party outraged Venezuelans all over the world, diminishing their hopes to merely survive in their own country. Although the ruling was revoked on April 1, it scarred the country, and the damage has not been reversed till this day. March 30 represented the final drop of a long, exhausting battle — “they took everything, even our fear.”
For the last five years, the norm had become waiting hours in line when going to the grocery store or rushing home in fear of potential robberies. What is today regarded as “the norm” in Venezuela mimics what could be considered a violation of human rights in other countries. When this norm was altered four weeks ago in Caracas, over 2.5 million people rushed to the streets with one goal in mind — to give the word “democracy” a meaning once again. The Venezuelan capital, which once was a wealthy, prosperous and powerful city, is now watching its people live in constant pain, anger and an undeniable sense of hopelessness. Students, workers and even my own grandmothers are risking their lives to fight for the country they want to reconstruct. In response, the military has been going out into the streets, oppressing the population by targeting tear gas bombs against protesters.
From afar, we try to conceptualize the situation through the news and use social media as the main driver for awareness. As a Venezuelan individual living abroad, I cannot continue to listen to our story as one told by statistics. The world must not become numb to the Venezuelan crisis, a crisis which began 20 years ago.
When Hugo Chávez came into power in 1999, and as “The Revolution” gathered strength and gained the trust of the people, the government began drafting special economic policies which would import and export goods at subsidized prices below market price. This negatively impacted the private sector where it could not keep up with such low prices and, thus, collapsed. As the government began expropriating firms, incentive for foreign companies to invest in Venezuela decreased and there was also a lack of means for Venezuelan companies to invest abroad. The lack of stability and transparency within the exchange rate system has also been a factor for the lack of investment. The downfall became a snowball effect and when the prices of oil fell, Venezuela being the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, felt the shock. Prices kept rising, and with hyperinflation reaching 800 percent, and expected to increase to 1,640 percent this year and 2,000 percent by 2018.
We want to stop being the country of “what if” and prove to ourselves our great potential. Last month, two of my friends and I stood outside of CVS with an empty box gathering medical supply donations. We saw how the group Primeros Auxilios Universidad Central de Venezuela was going out into the streets during the protests and helping the wounded, regardless of their political affiliation. In Venezuela, superheroes don't wear capes — they wear white helmets. They needed our help, and we needed them to feel at home. Two weeks ago, after receiving cash, Venmo and physical donations, we sent our first shipment. These boxes represent the community and their support, and together we want to see Venezuela under the light once again.
We have not stopped — this fight is continuing until the end. Citizens back home are standing tall, and so are we. We regularly update our Facebook page “Hoos For Venezuela” and are still receiving donations through Venmo. With the monetary donations, we are buying medical supplies to send to Primeros Auxilios UCV, ultimately ensuring they are receiving them. We will fight and we will prevail. As Simón Bolivar once said, when Tyranny becomes the law, rebellion is a right.
This is the first time I have sat down and tried to express myself with all these feelings. I can no longer keep them bottled up, and understand it is my duty as a Venezuelan to share with the world. We are the generation faced with the challenge of reuniting and reconstructing our beloved country.
Gabriela Corredor is a second-year College student.