Someone needs to get a grip

Juan Cristobal says: – Quico and I were talking today about running a “whatever happened to?” You know, as in whatever happened to Alfredo Peña, Juan Fernández, Carlos...

Juan Cristobal says: – Quico and I were talking today about running a “whatever happened to?” You know, as in whatever happened to Alfredo Peña, Juan Fernández, Carlos Fernández, Carlos Ortega, Ibéyise Pacheco, Efraín Vásquez Velasco, Manuel Antonio Rosendo… where are these people?

Just by chance, Miami-bound muckraker and opposition comecandela extraordinaire Patricia Poleo has a column today about Carlos Fernández, who was head of Fedecámaras during the wild and crazy days of the general strike of 2002/03.

Now, before I go on a rant, I have to say I don’t really have a strong opinion on Patricia Poleo. She’s the type of journalist who takes no prisoners and elicits outsized passions on either side of the spectrum. Personally, I’ve been reading Venezuelan news long enough to take whatever she (or anyone else) says with a huge dollop of salt. True, she’s been persecuted for political reasons, and she did nail l’affaire Montesinos, but it’s not like she hasn’t spent years cultivating enemies left and right. She generally shoots before she asks questions, and that can have consequences.

But her latest column, well, that’s just offensive. Not on a political level, mind you, but on a literary one.

Poleo goes way, way over the top trying to elicit sympathy for Fernández, laying on the violins as she explains the horrible hardships of his squalid existence in Miami,

“From the deep pain caused by the injustice of leading you to jail or exile, what weighs the heaviest is the injustice within injustice.”

O… kay…

She gripes about how Carlos Férnandez went from being someone who risked everything in the 2003 strike to an anonymous life in Miami. She complains that poor Mr. Fernández spends his days caring for his kids, getting up at

“… 5 in the morning, fixing breakfast for the kids before they go to school.”

Never mind that one of them is in college, apparently on a “soccer” scholarship paid for… by the US government! Who knew the US government paid for soccer scholarships? Who knew “soccer” was the Spanish term for … “soccer”! Who knew fixing breakfast could take up to two hours? What is he making them, pabellón con baranda from scratch?

His wife apparently cannot get an L1 visa – Poleo doesn’t say if she can travel as a tourist, and it seems like they haven’t explored the possibility of meeting in a third country where no visa is required. Still, in between fixing breakfast for his college-age kids and missing his wife, he mopes. Mr. Fernández’s horrible existence is filled by his attempts to “try and sell houses in a country where nobody wants to buy houses.” In other words, Fernández has a job in real estate.

Well, Poleo think this is just awful, and she vainly attempts to pin the blame on all us ingrates who didn’t show Mr. Fernández his dues for the disastrous strategy he pursued back when he was in charge of Fedecámaras. And she lays it on thick. The sob-story is laced with phrases like,

“… Fernández lives his days avoiding sadness, loneliness, counting one by one the days without his partner and without her support (sic) and struggling to put his family back together.”

“He still thinks Venezuela is worth the suffering of all those who struggle to live in freedom, in Democracy (sic). Nothing makes him desist from his longed-for return, when he shall be able to reunite his family, whatever is left of it, to reunite with his friends (sic) if they still remember him and with a country that will be very different to the one we left, but that still smells like no other country: Own, Fatherland, Ours.” (sicsicsic … lordalmighty that’s just sick!)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not that much of a sourpuss. I’m sure it sucks for Mr. Fernandez, being separated from his wife and all. But do we really have compassion to spare for him? Is this really one of the world’s great injustices? Afghan office boys caught up in Guantanamo Bay, Aung San Suu Kyi under House Arrest, Mumia Abu-Jamal on Death Row and…Carlos Fernández, Single Parent in Suburban Exile?!

Couldn’t he fix breakfast for his kids the night before? Couldn’t they make their own damn bagels? And sure, the housing market in Florida is pretty crummy right now, but how many of the people the guy left jobless in Caracas wouldn’t kill for a Real Estate franchise in the States these days?

Come to think of it, I’d rather not know what all these people are up to. This story took up all of my yearly allowance of maple syrup – I don’t think I could take any more.