Outside the hospital, crowd gathers around Lilian and other activists who are carrying the heavy boxes. A half-dozen military officers try to block the glass door while patients’ mothers, doctors and nurses stare at them from inside the Hospital. A gatekeeper tries to mediate, saying maybe they can let through “just the boxes”. Doctors say access cannot be denied to them, while the mother of a child with leukemia says, with earnest desperation, “every time I bring my son to get treatment, they tell me that there are no inputs”.
It was an amazing scene, a glimpse of the Venezuela we love seeing on social media
The struggle goes on for some time. On both sides of the symbolic glass door people shout “Déjenlos pasar, déjenlos pasar“. Right at the moment when it seems that violence is going to break out…hospital managers come forward to say “ya va, ya le estamos sacando la copia al acta de donación, ya los vamos a dejar pasar”. They’re getting the paperwork ready to let the supplies in.
The tension dissipates into ecstasy, and the crowds now shout: “Sí se puede, sí se puede”.
It was an amazing scene, a glimpse of the Venezuela we love seeing on social media: a group of military officers retreating faced with the energy and courage of organized citizens. Normally, that’s the kind of sentiment we associate with guarimberos or radicals hurling molotovs. Not this time, though.
Lilian started by livestreaming tour of the J. M. de los Ríos Children’s Hospital. You have to understand, J.M. de los Rios isn’t just any hospital. It’s the birthplace of modern pediatric medicine in Venezuela. This is the place that launched any number of pediatricians’ careers, a school on the health and social problems of Venezuelan children.
It now lies in tatters.
So Lilian, who’s in no way a politician, showcased what organized citizenship can be all about, how it can deliver on goals that seem impossible at first.
Along her tour, we don’t just hear from the wife of Leopoldo López — whose kids can be addressed in the expensive Clínica Metropolitana — we also heard from the moms of children with leukemia clamoring for the boxes of basic medical supplies to be allowed in.
Desperation made the atmosphere tense even for those, like me, who watched the show from afar. You felt that, at any moment, the glass door could break down and it would all end in chaos but…no. Instead, it became a ray of hope.
Why? First, because it had visibility. Livestreaming on Facebook can be a two-edged sword: it can work against you if a zaperoco breaks out. But when you go pledging peace, it can be your best ally when it comes to transparency. The feed was unmediated, direct, straight from one of the focal points of the humanitarian crisis, and an especially poignant one at that, a children’s hospital.
Lilian deserves credit for putting meat on the bones of that tired cliché: this really was “a civic and peaceful protest.” No insults, no shouting, no talk of politics. An example of how the determination to do things right can disarm your opponent rhetorically and send them into retreat.
Moms, doctors, gatekeepers, security guards and citizens simply joined in a single mission: getting help where help is most needed.
So Lilian, who’s in no way a politician, showcased what organized citizenship can be all about, how it can deliver on goals that seem impossible at first. The sight of doctors on call with their white coats on forcing the medical supplies to be allowed into the hospital was an invaluable civics lesson in the current Venezuelan context.
Finally, it worked because it showed a real moment of unity. Moms, doctors, gatekeepers, security guards and citizens simply joined in a single mission: getting help where help is most needed.
So take the time to watch that video. Have a look at how one woman, an NGO — Fundación Patronato —, a few boxes full of international solidarity and, especially, and a thirst for justice are able not just to fling open the gates of a hospital, but to inspire others to protest peacefully in the face of a monstrous crisis.