RESHARE:+Johnny Graterol Guevara
lives in Venezuela, and his account is one that I haven't seen or read in all the news on Chavez's death. It's something to think about.
I hope for the best for the Venezuelan people in the future.
Reshared text:The Hugo Chávez I knew
This has been a strange week for me. I have received condolences from some of my contacts (both in Skype and Whatsapp) about a person I didn't like, nor care too much about. I have discussed with persons from abroad about my country and our recent history, and I have been lectured about my everyday reality, or what some abroad suppose is my reality. I have been judged, called names by people that doesn't even know me, and my nationality have been put into question. And all this, while I have witnessed the birth and growing of another romantic (yet, unrealistic) legend: The one of Hugo Chávez.
The first time I ever heard of Hugo Chávez was back in 1992, during the Coup d'etat he attempted in February. That night, once defeated by forces loyal to the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, he was forced to address the nation and his rebels, to make a call for surrender. He was nervous, it was obvious, but nevertheless made a defiant statement: Compañeros, lamentablemente por ahora, los objetivos que nos planteamos no se han cumplido
(Comrades, unfortunately for now, the goals we set ourselves were not achieved)
Chávez was in every topic of conversation back then, even for us youngsters (I was 16 at the time). As a joke, and since we were in our senior year, we asked our counselor in High School to name our promotion promoción Hugo Chávez Frias
(in Venezuela is or was a custom to name the promotions in High Schools and Universities after a person, and not by the year of graduation, as it is another countries). She was horrified by our request, and as the year-named graduation were being introduced that year in that Highschool, she just said: The promotion will be named '1992 promotion', and that's it
. We never discussed the issue anymore, although being the typical teenage rebels we were back then in that school, we thought our request was kind of cool. And the reaction of our counselor? Even better.
Little did we know.
The years went by, and Chávez was more and more mentioned, as events related to him become more and more news-worthy (so to speak): The campaign for his release, his presidential pardon, from president Rafael Caldera, his nomination to the 1998 election, etc. As he was poised to become the real contender against traditional parties of the old status quo
(aged, and obsolete), many were prepared to give him the vote, in spite of the warnings of some historians and intellectual who viewed with distrust the nomination of this former conspirator.
Nevertheless, I was really disinterested with this election, or its candidates. I didn't like Chávez, or Salas Römer (the other candidate with real chance). So I was in the more than 30% (36.24, according to Carter Center data) of voters that didn't bother to show to cast their ballots. I just spent the whole day watching TV.
Then the results came in. Chavez was elected president (as everyone expected). Everyone went back to their lives, business as usual.
Except, everything changed from then on.
Changes, or course, were gradual. Drop by drop. The early Chávez, soft spoken, articulated, the one that declared in every interview that "he was willing to leave office like every previous president, in five years", dressed in conservative suits, disappeared little by little, to give place to Chávez the bully: The one dressed either in military fatigues, or red clothes and berets. The one that used curses, the one that called Venezuelans opposed to him escuálidos
(a pejorative term now in Venezuela to refer opposition Venezuelans, loosely translated as either scrawny, or filthy), vende patrias
(people without country), pitiyanquis
(yankee lovers). The one that didn't take no for an answer, because he was surrounded by a court of yes men. The one that went on for hours and hours on national TV, issuing threats and insults to adversaries, journalists and voters alike.
There were changes in our lives as well. Some more sudden than others. The sell of foreign currency was put under the control of the State, and how much we were allowed to buy was limited (to this day, a Venezuelan is only allowed 400 USD per year to online commerce, and 2500 USD per year to travel). The availability of certain staple products (like milk, cooking oil, maize and regular flour) was clearly not the same. Even coffee, one of the former exports of Venezuela, was now a scarce product, difficult to find. Before Chávez, it was possible to make all your purchases in your local supermarket. Now, Venezuelans hunt basic products from one store to the next, sometimes to no avail. And when they do find what they are looking for, it's very common to find this sign: Sólo uno por persona
(one per person)http://caracaschronicles.com/2013/03/07/my-kindgdom-for-a-cake/
We suddenly found ourselves in a country that despised us, and discriminated us based on our political opinions. We found ourselves in a country that considered us traitors. We found ourselves tried and sentenced, by public officers and state funded TV shows like La Hojilla
(the razor), where the Venezuelan version of Bill O'Reilly on steroids, Mario Silva, insulted, defamed and ridiculed everyone daring to oppose or criticize the Government. Mario Silva symbolized the new way of the government to deal with the opposition: Character assassination at his best, a letter of marque
to defame and expose the inner secrets of his adversaries (by any means necessary). llegal wiretapped phone calls from opposition leaders and journalists were regularly broadcasted from La Hojilla
. In one instance, a Web site managed by government supporters, exposed illegal wiretaps from a local known journalist (a conversation with a sexual partner of the same sex) seeking ridicule as a goal (in revealing his sexual orientation).
What is difficult to explain to people abroad, is how this is different from, let's say, the political animosity in the United States between democrats and republicans under Obama administration. Or in Spain between supporters of PSOE and PP. Although I know a lot of these countries and their political clout, I'm not sure if in any of them a person has ever been denied a job in the public sector, based on a signature placed in a recall request for a public officer. Or fired from a job in the public sector, for the very same reason (something that happened in Venezuela, on the Tascón List incident, where thousands of persons faced dismissal, because of their signing in a recall request against Chávez). Or even denied healthcare coverage, because usted firmó
(you signed), as it happened with local sport reporter's father, Mary Montes. Or beaten with sticks and rocks by government supporters, just for having a t-shirt or a sign that identify them as opposition supporters. Even though I have tried to explain to those foreign supporters of Chávez that Venezuela under his rule doesn't work as a normal democracy, with check and balances, the average answer of those persons is: You are just a sore loser.
And you know what? I wished that was the case. Me, just being pissed that my candidate lost in the last election.
But what it's actually is, is fear.
Fear of expressing your political views in certain parts of my own city (and not only because of the fear of a fist fight), or using your real name in Venezuelan political forums (several Venezuelan twitter users have been indicted for "spreading rumors" in the past). Fear of having your property (being a store, a state, or your own house) seized or confiscated by the government, as it has happened hundreds of times during Chavez administration.
Private property is anathema for chavismo
. Even though they are known for their lavish lifestyles (Chávez himself included, with his Patek Philippe watches, and his Nino Cerruti suits), hundreds of confiscations, expropiaciones
, have recurred across the country. The owners, rarely compensated. And all of this happening sometimes, on national TV, in a very public manner. Can you imagine, someone like Obama, or prime minister Rajoy, yelling on a TV broadcast ¡Exprópiese!
(expropiate that!)? And then, watch their aides and ministers, rushing to acomplish, and at the same time condone this lawlessness?
(I know I can't)
Chávez supporters abroad seem to (conveniently) forget that detail. Perhaps because they are abroad. Or perhaps, because they don't even know it. Something difficult to believe in the case of journalists like +Jim Naureckas
. Or that guy that regularly appears in The Guardian, Mark Weisbrot.
In the end, they doesn't seem to know the Chávez I knew. For the last fourteen years.
Enjoy the reading +Ole Olson