Saturday, February 15, 2014

Venezuela - A Modern Tragedy

I visited Venezuela in 2006. My Spanish was, believe it or not, even worse than it is today. I remember the taxi driver on the drive from the airport to the hotel in Caracas commenting & pointing saying "peligrosa... peligrosa" which I thought meant beautiful or something (it means "dangerous").   I remember responding "Si, Si", as if I understood perfectly.

I don't remember much about Caracas because I high tailed it out of there to the much more peaceful and touristic Margarita Islands the next day. But I saw enough to know this place was much more than just a typical big and unwieldy, chaotic Latin American capitol city. This city felt dangerous. Was it all the hype I had heard before hand making me paranoid or was it real? I don't know for sure but it felt real.

In 2006 it was Hugo's "re-election" year and the Chavistas were out in force, wearing their trademark read shirts.

Every taxi driver, every person on the street I dared speak to about the subject of politics said they supported Hugo Chavez. I think this was around the time Hugo had just demonized George W. Bush at the U.N. and like many an incompetent dictator, or for that matter, even true democratically elected governments often do, he was trying to shift the blame of his shortcomings and problems on to someone or something else.

It worked. But now Hugo's dead, perhaps even poisoned, who knows? And some guy named Maduro is in charge. Maduro was Hugo's right hand man.

Now the place is truly chaotic. I met many Venezuelans while traveling abroad and they told tales of people being shot for cell phones without so much as a "Give me your cell phone" demand. In Caracas, according to these folks who lived there,  robbers don't bother talking or robbing people at gunpoint, they just shoot the person and then steal their phone, wallet or whatever.

I wish I could return and find out for myself if this is true (not the hard way of course), but it's too hot even for me. Venezuela is in chaos and people are paying for this chaos with their lives. Basic freedom of speech is being suppressed with twitter reportedly being blacked out now.

In addition to Venezuela I've also visited Cuba and seen 1st hand what a paranoid, out of touch, power hungry government can do to people.

It's sad and it makes me angry. While the world tunes into the Olympics and rightly takes Putin to task for his human rights record, let's not forget that in our own back yard, atrocities are occurring.

They ask people to pray, well we can do that. But what else can we do?