I have lived in Venezuela my entire life. I have the blessing of having a family which is able to provide for itself. And for the first time, in 2017, the crisis of Venezuela prevented us from living the same way.
Over the span of my entire life, Venezuela seems to have been on a never-ending search for democracy. Since 1999, when Hugo Chávez was elected president of the Republic with a 56.2-percent majority, things have been going South. The socialist state, openly under Fidel Castro’s wing, began to make a series of decisions which only made the beginning of the 21st century a clear disaster. Chávez promised to end poverty, to use oil — the primordial source of income for the national economy — and make Venezuela what it had never been before. The poor were not used to being the primary focus of a politician, so they became fanatics of everything Chávez stood for.
Chavez made sure all of the branches of government were with him, and he began to do with Venezuela whatever he wanted. One example: the 1999 constitution, written by the representatives of the parliament based on Chávez’s views. Not only is it filled with flaws and is terribly written, but it made it simple for the socialist state to abuse its power. In 2002, after the opposition called for the Paro Nacional (National Unemployment strike), it finally gave way for a referendum which would remove Hugo Chávez and his cabinet from power. The president agreed to these terms knowing he would win.
And he did. After that came a number of attempts by the opposition to win the government over, and Chávez went on a vindictive strike. During his mandate, over 79 people were put in jail as political prisoners just for thinking differently. Dozens were exiled, and the state began to go after private property.
It was a catastrophe. What had been one of the most prosper nations throughout the 1960s and 70s because of the Petroleum Boom then became immersed in external debt and internal political instability. Instead of investing the revenues of oil, Chávez and his cabinet were irresponsibly throwing it away. After 10 years in office, he still had not invested in any other sources of income and its development.
In 2013, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías died of cancer. The shock of it did not allow the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), Venezuela’s alliance of political parties which were against the Chávez regime, to be quick in its plan to recover the government. Nicolás Maduro was appointed interim president. By the end of the same year, he was elected after what seemed like fraudulent elections.
Since then, Venezuela has become one of the most unstable and dangerous countries to live in, with violent deaths every day. It has the biggest inflation rate in the world, and the middle class is no longer able to purchase the basic items needed for feeding themselves, much less their families.
After the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (the National Justice Courts), released a sentence against the Asamblea Nacional (The Parliament, the only one of the five branches of government which is the opposition’s) on March 28, the opposition finally said “No More.”
On July 9, we, the opposition, achieved a total of 100 consecutive days protesting against Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship. These 100 days have been filled with mourning for the deaths of 108 Venezuelans, according to the extra official webpage of Runrun.es. Sorrow and the hope of achieving freedom through peaceful protests remains. Protests which mostly involve mobilizations of millions of Venezuelans through the streets of several cities in our country, especially in the capital, Caracas.
Day after day, we walk under the sun for miles to a certain location which is chosen by our leaders, the opposition. People like Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda; María Corina Machado, the former representative of the Parliament; and Freddy Guevara, a current Parliament member all work together to prepare a strategy for each day’s protests.
Sadly, the people in Venezuela cannot get to their goal. Miles before the destination of that day, whether it’s the National Electoral Council headquarters or the National Justice Courts, there’s always a barrier of guards from the Guardia Nacional Bolivariana (GNB), Venezuela’s supposed protectors of the people, who are responsible for the deaths of many Venezuelans.
These guards do not allow the protesters to advance. They shoot rubber bullets, throw tear gas, and take as prisoners anyone who dares to stand in their way. There are hundreds of college students who were put in jail simply for being at the protests trying to defend themselves, and most don’t even have the basic rights a prisoner is entitled to according to the article 272 of the Venezuelan constitution, which says that prisoners are entitled to their human rights.
We are no longer able to walk in the streets without feeling unsafe. My parents are worried every time I leave the house, because criminals hunt the streets for opportunities to kidnap people in exchange for money. Everytime someone gets sick, we have to bring the medicines from abroad, for a very expensive price. I’ve lost track of all the friends and family members that have left the country, because they wish to live a better life. Most people don’t get to make the choice, and have to stay due to economic limitations. Others, stay because they believe we can overcome this crisis.
As a Venezuelan, I know that we’re all filled with hope. Every day we feel a little bit closer to our goal to recover democracy. Small things give us hope. For instance, on July 8th very early in the morning, opposition leader Leopoldo López who had been in prison since February 2014, was allowed to leave the prison of Ramo Verde and begin house arrest. He is, as Venezuela, a step closer to freedom. And I’m more than certain that is because of internal pressure.
We all feel how it’s slowly coming to an end. We dream of a country where we can walk safely on the street, and be free to express ourselves about our views with no need to be scared of the censure.
I’ve never lived in a democracy. Nevertheless, I am absolutely certain that my kids will. That I’ll raise a family in what I consider to be the most beautiful country in the world. There’s nothing that excites me more than being part of the generation which is responsible for bringing happiness and progress back to Venezuela. To make it as prosper as it can be. These 100 days, represent how hard we are all willing to fight for that.