When Henrique Capriles Radonski lost the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election to Nicolas Maduro, Capriles’ supporters made their disapproval known loud and clear by banging pots and pans.
The political unrest that was ignited when Capriles lost could now be boiling over.
Venezuela could be on the brink of civil war and it is in need of democratic reform. Venezuela’s political unrest has also spewed countless human rights violations.
Violence in Venezuela
There have been a number of high profile incidents that have shed light on Venezuela’s bleak present.
On January 6, 2014, Monica Spear, former Venezuelan beauty queen and telenovela actress, was shot and killed, along with her former husband, in front of their only 5-year-old daughter, who was also shot in the leg.
On February 19, 2014, Genesis Carmona, a Venezuelan beauty queen and model, became “the fifth person to die in violent anti-government protests.” As reported in Mirror Online, Carmona’s family member asked, “How long do we have to tolerate this pressure, with them killing us?”
In a country where beauty is highly valued and where some of the world’s most beautiful women are rumored to reside, the deaths of Spear and Carmona are huge blows. Yet, beauty queens, models and celebrities aren’t the only ones suffering from Venezuela’s wave of violence. As reported in the University of Pittsburg’s Panoramas, in Venezuela, “one person dies about every 21 seconds, leading to more than 43 deaths per day.”
The people are fed up, especially the youth. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the youth describe President Maduro as a dictator and claim that he is destroying the Venezuelan economy (with inflation topping an alarming 56 percent). As reported in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Colmenares, a disgruntled Venezuelan youth, said: “‘As long as there is repression, we will keep coming out. And something horrible is bound to happen again.’”
Leaders of the Opposition
The youth have a strong political opposition that is willing to help. Leopoldo Lopez, dubbed “the charasmatic face of Venezuela’s opposition,” turned himself in to Venezuelan authorities on February 18, 2014. Before his speech, Lopez also went to Twitter, saying: “Me desconecto. Gracias Venezuela. El cambio esta en cada uno de nostros. No nos rindamos. Yo no lo hare!” Translation: “I’m disconnecting. Thanks Venezuela. The change is in each of us. Let’s not give up. I won’t!”
He did it on his terms. In an emotive seven-minute discourse, Lopez, dressed in white and gripping the Venezuelan flag, explained why. After being in hiding, he concluded that he only had three options. The Harvard graduate said that his options were to: 1) leave Venezuela (but he won’t leave Venezuela); 2) stay in hiding (but that could make him look guilty and he has nothing to hide); or 3) turn himself in. Lopez called for peace.
As reported in USA Today, over the weekend following Lopez’s surrender, Capriles, backed by Lopez’s wife, Lilian, said, “‘If we need to get into the ring and put on some boxing gloves, let’s do it.’” He also mentioned his intention to talk to President Maduro at his “presidential palace.” While Capriles explained that he loved peace, he also insisted that “‘we will not kneel.’”
Capriles won’t kneel, and neither will the world. Venezuelans and non-Venezuelans from the globe are begging for help. There have been protests in Miami, Spain, Chicago, Knoxville and Colombia, to name a few.
As reported in The Miami Herald, protestors explained that they were doing this for the students and the youth. It’s also an issue of basic human rights. As Veronica Arocha, told The Miami Herald, there are food and medicine shortages; her Type 1 diabetic brother can’t treat his diabetes because there is no insulin.
While the world stays connected to Venezuela’s struggles, especially through social media since the Venezuelan government controls the media, President Maduro seems highly disconnected from the people that he governs. As reported in Latin Times, President Maduro, a former bus driver, confuses SOS with the Argentinian verb conjugation of “to be.”
To Be Free
In life and now in death, Monica Spear represents her Venezuela. Despite the violence, Spear — like her husband, like Leopoldo Lopez, and like Henrique Capriles — loved Venezuela, though it would be easier (and a lot safer) to just walk away. Shortly before her death, Spear tweeted a prophetic message that symbolized her life, but could also be a reflection of the desires of what it means to be a young Venezuelan today.
Accompanied by a scenic blue and cloudy sky, Spear tweeted: ”Ligera de equipaje, como nube que pasa, como agua que corre, como viento que sopla.” Translation: “Light of luggage, like a cloud that passes, like water that runs, like wind that blows.”
Doesn’t that feel like freedom?
Democracy is not just a word, it is a practice. President Maduro is practicing violence and censorship, not democracy. Please sign and share the petition to restore Venezuela’s democracy, freedom and human rights.
Photo Credit: Andreas Lehner