Translated from Spanish by Javier Liendo.
Ad Papam Franciscus epistolam
Qui dicit, est humili filius comoedum, indignos vos. Primo gratias ad cura tui in nobis (I better go on in Spanish, Y. H., or else authorities might think that I’m conspiring, because any act of discrepancy is a conspiracy here, I tell you; every form of dissent is fascism and any legitimate protest is a terrorist attempt at a coup d’Etat.)
Your Holiness, the political model that Venezuelans are living through now, came from the flaws, deficiencies and omissions of the Venezuelan democracy that took so much effort to build. It first came through a violent coup and then through elections. It promised greater democracy and freedom; it promised to help citizens regain their dignity with advancement and progress for those who had been forgotten and excluded, but as the saying goes, the cure was worse than the illness.
Venezuelans have been living in failure for the last 18 years; we’ve grown accustomed to live like that. This isn’t our first crisis; we’ve lived this before, as you surely know, well acquainted with Latin America as you are; we’ve had crueler dictatorships, civil wars and the terrible and bloody war of Independence, which nearly destroyed us. However, we’ve never walked a path as foolish and dangerous, as deliberately intolerant, as poor of ideas, values and principles and, above all, as corrupt as the one Venezuelans suffer now. The indicators that measure citizen well-being -which is the purpose of governments, according to Bolívar- are deplorable: health, security, freedom of speech, access to food and basic services. Alas, Holy Father, calamity progressively takes over Venezuela.
The concept of defeat is not democratic, Y. H., because we’re all supposed to win in democracy. We’ve been living in defeat for eighteen years. We’ve learned to live with it in all its forms. Our regime doesn’t see its victories as part of democratic cohabitation; they’re military operations with which they humiliate the defeated and which are used to change the rules of the game as they play it. For the past eighteen years, those who lose in this country, lose everything, even their condition as citizens and human beings, to become traitors, fascists and worms.
We’re a stubborn people -like the Israelites who worshipped the golden calf before Mount Sinaí- slow in learning, with short capacity to internalize democratic values in our spirit. We learned to live in defeat, in destruction, but we’ve changed our minds: we’ve decided not to keep killing ourselves -political suicide is also a sin, after alll-. According to every poll, about 80% of the people are fed up with the system we suffer. But as it happens, according to our government, opposition is terrorism, collecting signatures is a crime, and demanding the referendum enshrined in the Constitution is impossible. We want to exercise our “civil dignity” but all roads are blocked; we march “like sheep among wolves.” They call themselves lovers of the people, but deep down, they despise the us, especially when we change opinion.
Surely you understand, Holy Father, a nation with such suffering is mistrustful of dialogue with those who wouldn’t even comply with the law, who hold all the power and who grew accustomed to injustice. Holy Father: we dialogue to request nothing that isn’t already established in our Constitution. For making these demands, citizens are repressed, imprisoned in horrible places like the one called “the tomb,” murdered and moreover, cynically accused of the very crimes they are denouncing. And the only thing we’re demanding is elections.
Your Holiness: thank you for your bona fide. Borges, your countryman, loved etymologies. Dialogue comes from Latin and in it, the word -which in turn comes from Greek- means: dia “through” and logos “word or reason.” Two people talk and come to consensus through reason expressed in words. For that, it’s a requirement to see the other as a “person.” I think that’s the quid of our dilemma: We want to be persons again.