PDVSA’s Scraps

At the government’s May Day demonstration in PDVSA, Naky stumbles into a living diorama that encapsulates the pathos of Venezuela today.

Translated by Javier Liendo

May 1st. 10:40 a.m. I stopped by the chavista rally at Avenida Libertador. There was music, food, newly-printed banners and lots of buses, as usual.

For some reason, chavismo never makes garbage bags available to collect the food containers they hand out. I walked several blocks to confirm that their entire crowd fit into just one of them. Some people looked like they’d just gotten out of bed, there were too many children for a political rally (some in their parents’ arms) and even shirts freshly printed with “Maduro” and “1° de Mayo” in red.

El finado’s crooked eyes are no longer an icon even though Hany Kauam’s homage to Chávez is blaring in the background. I retraced my steps and spotted a group of people fighting over garbage in the corner of the Santiago de León clinic. Public employees looked on passively, with a mixture of curiosity and disdain that chilled me. They watched those people as if from the high seat of bureaucracy, shielded by their uniforms and IDs.

I stepped in. I stopped in front of the plastic food containers and checked what each of those people had in their hands. Just scraps of coleslaw, pieces of bread, untouched oranges, a few boiled potatoes and some juice.

The hobos were easily satisfied: they got their portions and left.

A PDVSA employee came over with his plush red jacket. He asked me if I was part of the logistics team. Without waiting for a reply, he told me there were more packages on the opposite corner and that he was going to bring them. I started handing people whatever there was, improvising a line. Trying to describe hunger is a fool’s errand. Despair can’t be measured.

The hobos were easily satisfied: they got their portions and left. The rest weren’t. Almost all were men and none of them looked dirty. They weren’t homeless, just people searching for food on the street, with clean clothes and trimmed nails.

The PDVSA guy came back and the bag he was carrying has mixed juice in the bottom with floating pieces of bread. “They’re softer this way,” said a man as he pulled his first piece. The humiliation that so many Venezuelans have had to endure is an abomination. While so many people are desperate for food, these bastards spend public funds on shirts and banners.

Once I was done, I went home. I didn’t think of taking a picture with my phone at that moment, but I did it once I was a bit farther to document the fact that they couldn’t even fill a city block, not even with all those buses. They can’t fill anything. Not even a poor man’s belly.

This is a day for demanding workers’ rights and chavismo’s turned it into another event to worship Nicolás, as if he’d done anything for us to be grateful. Despite the rain, threatening to fire employees who fail to attend rallies is still the order of the day, so team coordinators were saying that those who weren’t at the event’s closure “will get what’s coming to them.”

A country can’t thrive on threats, on lies or scraps. The sky is overcast, in solidarity.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.