Venezuela in 2017

I’ve reread this narrative a million times–the former richest country in Latin America with the largest oil reserves in the world is now crime ridden, has incredibly high inflation, struggles with a lack of medical supplies, food, and basics that have ranged from condoms to toilet paper, suffers from strict censorship and a blatant lack of human rights, has a government that is nothing short of corrupt and anything but democratic, forces citizens to resort to early sterilization due to the lack of access to birth control options, allows for an electricity crisis that has led to the government closing early on weekdays to save money, forces many to resort to bitcoin mining as their only source of income and then imprisoning the miners without explanation, suffered from Nicolás Maduro recent overnight eliminated of the elected legislature which attempted to further silence the opposition, and much more plus outlandish claims (which really don’t help to discern what is and isn’t actually happening). If you’re interested in learning more and why this is going on read this.

And despite all of this, I still struggle to write these words and to even attempt to associate them with Venezuela that I’ve known. The country I grew up visiting and where half of my family is from is now utterly unrecognizable thanks to a corrupt government. What is almost worse is being in New York City and facing the latest in the devastating news that I can do nothing about everyday. I’m struggling to still claim that I care when I haven’t truly done everything in my power to do anything.

Over the past few years, I’ve felt compelled to delve more deeply in embracing my heritage by studying Spanish for the first time, going to cultural events in the city and on campus, and staying continuously updated on what is going on in Venezuela. My outrage has lasted for a while but the first thing that really moved me to think about making action were the articles concerning the outrageous price of condoms (upwards of $700) on the black market. Since then, I’ve been increasingly getting more and more frustrated and I wish there was something I can do other than worry and pray and read those damning articles everyday or listen to Maduro’s daily insanity in his speech recaps.

I’ve attended a few events run by the Consulate General of Venezuela and they consistently leave me conflicted. I’m surrounded by (who I assume to be) corrupt Venezuelan politicians living lavishly in NYC while Venezuelans have to wait in line for basic necessities. I leave each event angry and frustrated by the sickening hypocrisy and the most blaring example of this occurred a year ago when I attended a concert of hope (bullshit) which was located in the Bronx and it celebrated Venezuelan orchestra legacy. The music was beautiful, obviously, and so Venezuelan and perfect it was beautiful. But naturally, during one of the opening speeches the legacy of Hugo Chávez was mentioned and heralded. My mom and I side-eyed each other, suddenly aware and concerned that we were surrounded by chavistas. And then, it was explained in another speech that Venezuela and the Bronx has had a working relationship, for a while, because Venezuela has been sending oil to the poorest areas of the Bronx for free for the past 10 years. I couldn’t even believe the audacity of that statement–for free!? There is a straight up humanitarian crisis in Venezuela but don’t worry they have the time and effort to send free oil up here.

I have found that one of most isolating aspects of my Venezuelan identity is the fact that I did not grow up bilingual. Strange, I’m aware, but it is increasingly normal in multi-ethnic second generation Latin and American households. But, this still does not exempt me from the strange place I have always found myself–never quite fitting in as just a white American or as a Venezuelan.

Growing up, I’ve encountered thousands of latinx–Mexicans, Colombians, Peruvians, Dominicans, and more. But rarely have I encountered any other Venezuelans because in this area of the US, there seems to be far fewer Venezuelans. I have felt as if that there is not any amount of a centralized community of Venezuelans and I feel as if there is a genuine need for one–most especially now. There is a limited amount of community/connection of Venezuelans in the New York Area and I think that needs to change.

  • There is a need for a centralized Venezuelan community / interest group / news source / think tank interested in advocating and combating the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela in 2017.
  • The mission would involve connecting, educating, and acting.
    • I saw this non-profit, “The Group for Tomorrow’s Ukraine”. (This is a blurb from the founders’ Linkedin)
      • Inspired by the 2013-2014 Ukraine Revolution, I founded a student-run international reporting effort that now serves as a nonprofit think tank around Eastern European business and politics. The Group for Tomorrow’s Ukraine works with partners at Harvard University, NPR, and Senate offices to provide insight to the policies and implications of a modernizing Ukraine.
        • Founded student-run international reporting effort around 2013 Ukraine Revolution
        • Organize academic initiatives with Harvard U., U. of Chicago, and others
        • Publish analyses of the Eastern European startup, VC, and corporate environments
        • Jointly lead debut marketing campaign, resulting in successful social media following and international media attention
    • Something similar to this, but reapplied to the issues surrounding Venezuela.

( Additionally, I am also fostering a new-found wariness of the news and media and especially in American news and media. There is a very obvious habit of hypersensitization in the news. Venezuelans are dying on the street and are so hungry that they killed a horse from the zoo! Yeah, it may seem easy to buy into that given what I already know but I now recognize that what is really going on is not being accurately reported due to bias, censorship, and hypersensitization. I know there is no easy fix to this specific problem but it is something to definitely consider when it comes to reading American news sources concerning Venezuela. )

Most recent articles about Venezuela end with the same bit–we just need more people to know about what’s going on! Share this story! And this video! (see below)

I get that. I’ve been down with that–especially because that is honestly the most I’ve been able to do–but at this point, I know that sharing is not enough. Venezuelans in the United States and around the world need to come together and figure out how we can leverage our international authority to shed unadulterated light or to lead to direct change (ideally through my proposed think-tank of sorts ^^). Because as long as I am here, I am not censored and I need to make sure that everyone I know and don’t know can understand what has oh-too-casually been occurring just a mere 5 hour flight away. Hopefully, this can reach other Venezuelans who I really encourage to contact me because I would love to connect and get a real conversation and action started.

Want to read more about what’s been going on–check out my Pocket Recommendations from the past few years.

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