I sit in the library staring at a blank screen. I can’t resist the urge to check Twitter every other minute. I cry a little watching terrible images of cops tearing into protesters. I’m embarrassed to be crying at the library. But nobody’s watching. It’s the middle of the quarter; people are worrying about exams.

I live on what may be the most beautiful campus in the world. I go to Stanford. Out there it’s all palm trees and pines, impressive buildings and stunning gardens. Most days you can sit outside on the grass or at one of its cafés and talk with the smartest people in the world. Life is made easy in every imaginable way. What feels like unlimited resources are placed at your disposal to help you focus on your studies. Anyone would want to be here, right?

And yet…

I left Venezuela six years ago. Things were already pretty bad, but the Venezuela of 2011 is a paradise compared to today’s nightmare. It’s hard to concentrate on anything.

I’m not making any progress on my thesis, so I decide I might as well read some news. Human Rights Watch is reporting on a severe humanitarian crisis caused by medical and food shortages. In Stanford, it’s sunny.

Over the last month a handful of people have asked me what’s going on in Venezuela. They see it mentioned on the news but can’t seem to follow, smart though they are. I try to explain but only manage a few sentences. I don’t really know what to say anymore. Though I have an encyclopedic knowledge as to what is happening (so many Venezuelans do) I can’t find the right words. And I get a feeling that even if I could that these people wouldn’t believe me. How could they really?

Just a week ago a few Stanford students invited me to join their book club. They were debating whether to read Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ “so we can get a better sense of what a dystopian society looks like, now that Trump has won the election.” I politely excused myself.

Security forces are attacking people who are peacefully protesting. It feels like someone is sitting on my chest, making it hard to breath.

I write to my friend Ani who I know has been struggling and ask if I can bring her something if I go to Venezuela soon. She asks for lentils. “Oh, and if it’s not too much to ask can you please bring some menstrual pads? I know it’s sort of a luxury but if you have some space in your luggage would you mind?” I feel like someone just kicked me in the stomach. I also need to remember not to throw out any expired medicine. Someone will need it back home.

I decide to go to a lunch talk at Stanford Law School. It’s about Chinese internet companies. As with any talk at noon, food is offered to everyone. Free. Everyone takes some. But there is so much of it, and so much left on the table. I can’t stop thinking about the food. So much food sitting there. It will probably get thrown away. If only we could send it to my friend Gioconda’s mom, who is organizing free lunches for kids at a small school in Caracas where she used to volunteer. Parents were not sending their kids to school because they couldn’t serve lunch. Kids were fainting on their desks from hunger. I get stuck on this thought; next thing I know the event is over.

There have been anti-government protests for weeks. Daily, or every other day. I hear that there is already one person dead at today’s demonstration. I hold my breath. My mom, dad, brother, cousins and friends are there. I message them anxiously. After a while, details begin to circulate. It’s a 20 year old student. He died from the impact of a tear gas canister shot by the military. Shot on his chest. I see his picture. He looks familiar. They all do. How can they not?

My friend Tracy, who is getting a PhD in Communications mentions that she read something about journalists having a hard time in Venezuela covering the crisis. I tell her that just last week I got a call from a close friend, a reporter in Venezuela, who used to work with me back home. I tell Tracy my friend is out there covering the protests day after day. Last week she and her cameraman were attacked by armed paramilitary groups. They hit the cameraman with a steel bar and fractured his skull while military anti-riot officers stood and watched. My friend knows who they are. Everyone does. But the paramilitary groups are supported by the government: they’re untouchable. I watch for Tracy’s reaction to my story. I don’t think she believes me. She changes the subject.

I can’t stop thinking about the food. So much food sitting there. It will probably get thrown away.

My brother sends us a Whatsapp video of himself today at the protest. It captures the moment when the repression begins and people start running and screaming, fleeing the tear gas and pellets being shot. I see him running, nervously holding the camera. He wants to document this, he needs to show that security forces are attacking people who are peacefully protesting. It feels like someone is sitting on my chest, making it hard to breath. The feeling lingers for hours. It only truly dissipates at the end of the day, when I know for sure he is back home safe. The thought that the next one could be him stalks me.

—-

I can’t sleep, so Facebook it is — hundredth time today. I read on someone’s wall that my friend, political activist Yon Goicochea, who’s been in jail for over 8 months now, managed to secretly slip a handwritten letter to his wife. The letter is posted on Facebook. I start to read it. He talks about being locked for days in a crowded and miniscule ‘punishment cell’ with feces on the ground. He says it feels like being ‘buried alive’. He says he has witnessed other prisoners, maybe less well-known than him, being tortured with electric shocks and other methods, several times a week. I get nauseous.

I remember him just a few years ago, a college student courageously leading the student movement against Chávez. At the time, I was helping him with the legal paperwork to incorporate the NGO that he was setting up: Futuro Presente. When we worked together I was constantly at awe at how determined he was to fight for democracy in the country while being very young.  He was also very warm and bright. I can’t bring myself to read the rest of the letter. Guilt engulfs me.

I bump into a Chilean who works at one of Stanford’s research centers. I get a sense that, having live under Pinochet, he will have a better understanding of what is happening in Venezuela. So when he jokes about the fact that he just saw a video of President Maduro talking to cows I venture into a longer explanation. I tell him that the fearsome political propaganda machine of the chavista revolution has entered a new phase in dehumanizing all opponents and striving to take away any ounce of hope from those who have not yet converted to their Socialism of the 21st century charade. I mention that every time a student is killed while protesting against the government, State-run television channel broadcasts videos of the dictator and the Chavista elite partying, being crazy and having fun. We see Maduro dancing salsa with his wife. Furiously jumping to rap music. Chilling and playing baseball in a beautiful garden. On the propaganda broadcasts, we see him laughing hysterically.

My mom, dad, brother, cousins and friends are there. I message them anxiously.

I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for the past five years for my Doctorate. My professors are some of the most prestigious experts on this topic in the world. I’ve spent countless hours reading about these regimes and understanding their communications strategies. And yet, my heart drops when I watch these videos. I have a hard time absorbing what I see. There is something different when the dictator goes out of his way to display his mirth at the despair of your people. You get a first row look into the phenomenon and experience fear and frustration in a way that could never be explained in a book. Again and again, I get that feeling that someone is sitting on my chest. It’s hard to breathe.

Venezuelans living abroad live in a dream, wherever we may be. None of us stand in line for hours to buy bread. None of us is afraid to criticize the government for fear of retaliation. None of us fear that we might die from a simple infection because of lack of basic medicine. None of us has to see how everyone around us is involuntarily losing weight because of the scarcity of food.

I take my daughter to the park. My neighbors, all incredibly smart and kind Stanford students, are passionately discussing the issue of ‘The Tree.’ We had this huge and stunning tree in the beautiful garden where our kids play, which provided great shade for our kids. The tree got some sort of infection and had to be trimmed for security reasons. The neighbors have organized and are demanding that the University plant a new tree as soon as possible, otherwise how do they expect our kids to go out and play? I too want to get back the shade at the park. And yet, I have trouble following the discussion. I politely excuse myself.

It’s not that much fun living in a dream, not when everyone you love back home is suffering. The sadness, isolation and guilt, they’re are uncontrollable and overwhelming. I even feel guilty about feeling guilty — the gall! I need to get off this ‘It’s a small world’ ride, grab all the food that was left from yesterday’s event and bring it to Venezuela. I won’t forget the pads for my friend. Maybe then the pain on my chest will go away.

61 COMMENTS

  1. Home is (most) always where the hearts lies. Your pain and concern are touching. But Ana, words are just that. Now that summer is here, finals over in mid June, DO SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE.

    All Venezuelans abroad – whether in Cali or Spain or Peru or wherever, ARE privileged, and need to take action. Whether it is your voice, your money, or flying home for a few weeks, and bringing phones, or medicines or just your support.

    NOW IS THE TIME. The pressure needs to be brought from all Venezuelans – everywhere.

    It is your country. Do not let it burn while you watch.

    • Unfortunately, much of what my wife (VZ expat) sends home to her remaining relatives isn’t getting through. Customs seems to be a problem, as anything of value (whatever is in short supply in VZ) seems to get “lost” after being offloaded and scanned in for delivery. Bringing in items in luggage is fraught with peril these days. The last time my wife went home, they confiscated nearly everything of value at Maiquetia. (American passport). Our best luck has been with getting dollars to them.

      Most of her close relatives are now in the United States. They miss home, but at least here they can get everything they need.

        • money can help but the issue is scarcity it doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for.

        • The problem is getting them money that has any value. Wiring them dollars is a farce, as the currency is converted to local currency. (Bolivars are worthless… they are not exchanging them at the “black market” rate) Wire services will not pay out in dollars.
          Our best luck has been with sending relatives in VZ technical manuals and text books that are drier than a popcorn fart…. MEGO type material. Nobody in customs gives these a second look. Within the bindings, pages and sleeves we insert cash (Euros, dollars) that VZ businesses gleefully accept.
          Anything of value gets stolen in customs. Victoria’s Secret undergarments and blue jeans are very popular with the customs people…

          • not very smart to share this on such an open forum. There are easier and cheaper ways to send money to Venezuelans. Find a Venezuelan with a foreign bank account that wants to sell bolivares. You wire/transfer dollars/euros to their account and they wire/transfer bolivares to your family members.

  2. Just a week ago a few Stanford students invited me to join their book club.They were debating whether to read Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ “so we can get a better sense of what a dystopian society looks like, now that Trump has won the election.” I politely excused myself.

    That book club narrative doesn’t sound a lot different from the CC narrative of “Is Trump more like Chavez, or is Trump more like Maduro?”

    • It’s crazy how fast that narrative got old, people don’t even remember it anymore! It sounds crazy, but they actually did compare Trump to Maduro/Chavez, and they did that just a few months ago.

      The temptation they must feel to delete those flawed articles must be simply unbearable! They will eventually get rid of all of them where there’s no one watching, hehe.

      • Chavez and Trump are strikingly comparable in some respects. They are both showman populists, demagogues who lie constantly and shamelessly, repeatedly praise murderous dictators, and have little respect for democratic institutions or checks and balances. They also narcissists who blame everything on a media that is waging ‘war’ against them.

        Obviously, there are many differences, but the similarities are there.

        • -compulsive lying
          -rank nepotism
          -xenophobia and misogyny
          -manipulation of people’s ignorance and fears
          -short attention span
          -personalizes issues
          -refers to self in third person
          -grossly incompetent
          -thrives on dysfunction
          -loves despots, especially Putin
          -humiliates his cabinet
          -zero understanding of free markets
          -takes advantage of desperate people for his own gain
          -personal attacks on judges
          -thinks the press is illegitimate
          -no respect for separation of powers
          – deeply insecure and resentful
          -obsessed with electoral results
          – propensity for verbal diarrhea
          -backed by rich,powerful private interests

          In short, the resemblance between Trump and Chavez holds up on various fronts. They essentially are the same kind of crazy.

  3. I personally despise this “new” thing in social media about shaming Venezuelans in the exterior. We are not “living the dream” in spite of not getting tear gassed every other day.

    We got to learn new cultures, language, weather and laws. Our kids grow without cousins, uncles, and grandparents; fully absorbing the in-country culture. Brothers, sisters, moms and dads get to grow separated; people change over time and you miss major life events (weddings, funerals, graduations, newborns etc.) . Furthermore as time goes by, the idea of ever going back goes farther and farther away as your life style merges with the country you are living in.

    All that assuming you have a job that is commensurate with your professional training and that you are able to compete with a Venezuelan university title (assuming that someone even recognizes an university that is not the USB, UCV, ULA or LUZ, sorry UC but no one knows about you). Medical doctors, lawyers and dentists would have to approve bar/college exams or retool themselves in new professions. Many Venezuelans in the exterior have 2 or more jobs just to get by; many have illegal or pseudo-legal status ever subject to deportation. Let’s not mention newcomer racial and social tension in certain countries around the world; and let’s not mention inner-family friction from those that believe US$ are hanging off the trees or “tu estas bien porque ganas en dolares”.

    We have become virtual pariahs unable to go back and unable to live in full piece of mind on a foreign country. But we still have to push through and work to pay taxes other day.

    Hence, this approach I have seen all over FB, Twitter and now here to shame or feel ashamed for not chewing it up with our people is simply wrong. We are also victims, we just got hit first.

    You did a good step by writing about it, there are other ways to help too. If you feel so bad, you can always catch a LAX-IAH-CCS flight to keep it real.

    • “Tú estás bien porque ganas en dólares,” haha. Thanks.

      Plus yeah, Venezuela.

      Oh and everyone like “Let’s read 1984.” D’:

    • Couldn’t agree more. I left Venezuela 10 years ago with a wide and 2 little ones, by that time Venezuela had a lot of money and tons of friends and family members called me crazy. I had to work in whatever could provide food for my family, my parents died and couldn’t attend the funerals, missed numerous family events, went back to school for 3 years and now I am a professor. So according to the author of the article. How should I feel? Guilty? Embarrassed? O f course all the situation hurts me and even if I wanted to go, I can’t because my Venezuelan passport expired and they won’t renew it, I can’t use the American passport because they won’t give me a visa due the fact I was born there. We send tooth past, deodorant and whatever we can, I show pictures of the situation during my lectures but I focus in my job which I got after years of hard work and the author should do the same, you are blessed to be in Stanford so work hard to support your family and be in a better position to help Venezuela. That’s my 2 cents

  4. I totally understand the feeling. I have used soccer or anything that requires 100% attention. otherwise my cellphone battery is gone in no time flat.

  5. “None of us…has to suffer as a risk of daily living being robbed/home-invaded/kidnapped by criminals”, (even maimed/killed), as 70% of Venezuelans (and 24% of their relatives) claimed to have suffered in a recent informal internet poll. Apart from Govt. abuse/scarcities of food-medicines-similar, the threat of physical violence is an everyday reality in Venezuela,

  6. Not to take away from this great column and jump into another discussion but… Trump’s words and actions clearly disregard traditional American concepts of politics and democracy. He fired the FBI director investigating his ties to Russia (think Cuba), Republicans stacked the Supreme Court by not even holding hearings for Obama’s nominees, Trump personally attacks his opponents, he’s propososing huge increases to military, he’s spent more on taxpayer funded protections on vacations in a month than Obama did in a year, nepotism etc. I could go on but you get the point. The people that criticize us for bringing it up sound like people that criticized comparisons between Chavez and Castro in the late 90s.

    • Most of what you wrote is either half-truths, or lack of knowledge about what a US president can/can’t do. And the ones who disregarded traditional Americans concepts of politics and democracy were Obama and Hillary when they simulated that Cuba was a normal country, with a normal leadership and normal institutions in order to restore ties between the two countries, and I’m only mentioning one blatant case of disrespect for basic human rights here.

      But where were you when Obama disrespected tradiontal American values like the appraisal for democracy and freedom? Nowhere to be seen. “I WANT CHANGE!”, is what you probably said. But change from what? The US was already a great country, with great values and people. Conservatives like to conserve what is great in a country, leftists are the ones who like to ‘CHANGE’ everything.

      As I’ve already said here, if Trump were indeed like Chavez, you guys would have supported him, since all the Trump=Chavez folks supported Chavez back in 1999.

      • The US has a legacy of slavery, continued racism, genocide, unnecessary wars, etc.. Donald has more respect for traditional American values than President Obama if THOSE continue to be our American values. Clearly our policy with Cuba hadn’t worked in the past and the definition of insanity is doing what you’ve been doing and expecting a different result. Whether you notice or not, Cuba is changing. You wrote this before reports today of Trump sharing classified information with Russians in the oval office, so I’ll give you some time to process more information.

        • It was the Democrats who fought to preserve slavery; in fact, half a million young Republicans gave their lives to abolish it. It was also the Democrats who fought tooth and nail to preserve racism in the South. And what party sent thousands of kids to fight and die in Viet Nam? You guessed it!

          Last time I checked, Donald Trump was not a Democrat.

          Give your brain a chance, Oscar.

          • I’m talking about the present. In terms of race, the Democrats and Republicans have switched ideologically since the time of Lincoln. It is intellectually dishonest to argue that Republican policies aren’t racist because Lincoln was a Republican.

            Have you heard of the Southern Strategy? Here’s the first line from Wikipedia: “In American politics, the southern strategy is the Republican Party’s policy to gain political support in the South by appealing to the racism against African Americans harbored by many southern white voters.” The Republican Party courted racist Democrats in the US and those Democrats became Republicans. There’s a reason the KKK supports Donald.

            Today it was revealed that Donald told the FBI director to stop investigating Flynn and then fired him which amounts to obstruction of justice. I’m not too worried about Donald’s future. I’ll also give you some time to process all of this information.

          • Have you heard of the Southern Strategy? Here’s the first line from Wikipedia:
            I tend to refrain from commenting on domestic US politics on CC, because this is a blog about Venezuela. I will make an exception in this case. The switch in the South to the Republicans predated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Eisenhower broke the “Solid South.”

            My experience from growing up in rural New England informed me that racism transcends both geographical boundaries and party lines- and individual souls. We all form out-groups and in-groups. But you, since you are without sin, cast the first stone. 🙂
            Ciao.

            Republican share of Presidential vote in the South
            1948 26.3%
            1952 48.1%
            1956 48.9%
            1964 48.7%

            http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/04/30/southern_whites_shift_to_the_gop_predates_the_60s_118172.html

            http://www.claremont.org/crb/article/the-myth-of-the-racist-republicans/
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1952 Changing the year will get you to electoral results for other years.

          • OK let’s talk about the present. Today the Democrats are obsessed with race. Where you go to school, your ability to get into a college, your success in your job, your ability to get a mortgage, all depends to some degree on your race. Race ranking and race privilege is a Democrat major industry. Who are the racists today?

          • Have you heard of the Southern Strategy? Here’s the first line from Wikipedia: “

            I generally do not comment on domestic US politics at CC, as this is a blog devoted to Venezuelan politics, but I will make an exception this time.

            The problem with the “Southern Strategy” narrative to explain Southern whites switching from Democrat to Republican is that the switch at the Presidential level occurred well before anyone had heard of a Republican “Southern Strategy.” Eisenhower broke through the Democrat barrier of the “Solid South” in 1952.

            Republican Share of Southern Vote in Presidential Elections
            1936 19.1%
            1948 26.5%
            1952 48.1%
            1956 48.9%
            1964 48.7%

            My experience in growing up in rural New England informed me that racism, which is a subset of the in-group versus out-group phenomenon, transcended both geographic areas and political affiliation- in addition to individual souls. As you are apparently without sin in this regard, you deem it appropriate to cast the first stone.

            http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/04/30/southern_whites_shift_to_the_gop_predates_the_60s_118172.html
            http://www.claremont.org/crb/article/the-myth-of-the-racist-republicans/

            I did not include Wikipedia links because my last comment got relegated to the spam filter- most likely because of too many links. But you can readily locate them by typing in “election 1952” etc. into the Wikipedia search engine.

          • The roles have switched, though. The republicans in the time of Lincoln professed values that today’s democrats do.

  7. Sadly Venezuela is not mentioned much at all overseas. There are too many countries with severe problems, plus each country has a share of its own. Venezuela is regarded as just another 3rd world country with some sort of crisis, few that are not Venezuela even begin to understand. In Europe, they have to worry about genocides in Syria, Africa, Russia, Greece.. in Latin America they don’t care much either, they have tons of problems themselves, Venezuela has no more good oil, they might hear a thing or 2, but that’s it. The USA has all of Latin America to worry about, except for Chile and a couple more good countries.All of it,

    Even here in Miami you rarely see articles or reports about Venezuela, unless you’re hooked on social media about Venezuela or watch Bayly. The Miami Herald publishes something every couple weeks..

    Do we hear about Haiti in Venezuela? Nothing, and it’s probably even worse than Venezuela. Do we hear much about Syria or all of Africa..Iraq? almost nothing. Do we know that crime in Honduras is even worse than Venezuela’s? Or that Mexico is a veritable mess?

    Unfortunately people, and the world in general still is rather selfish and self-absorbed. What has any nation DONE for Venezuela? Nothing, except for a few ex-presidents talking crap. Almagro? The OEA? Nothing, all talk, and not much of it either. Only us Venezuelans, or some foreigners who once lived there, care for our country and really feel for it. Expecting miracle help and concern, and ACTIONS from other countries is naive, dream on.. These days true international intervention, and sustained humanitarian help are very rare, and there and Billions of people that need help, in poverty and sickness, hungry, with crime, dictators all over too, sorry to report.

  8. I´m in tears Titi, it perfectly reflects the feeling of so many kids abroad that suffer from this situation and can do little but feel horrible about it. Yo have done so much for your country, you were brave and courageous when you were here!! This will get better, believe me and we will see Venezuela free again. Love you

  9. Ugh! I wrote a long response and lost it. The gist is I am wondering where the Venezuelan student organizations are in the United States. I remember how organized they were during the February protests. There were marches organized at many campuses. Maybe you could use your skills to be a spark here in the United States.

    • So I hate to give an underwhelming response but by April/May most college students are in finals season and or already home for the summer. February is a different time in the school year (I remember concentrations and pics but no marches though). Internal political problems with Donald sucks the oxygen out of other issues. Finally, calling for US intervention is a thorny topic. What can the US really do and is it wise to ask for Donald to intervene? He says that the US should have stolen more oil from Iraq after the invasion. Do we want someone like that involved in Venezuela.

      • It should have clicked with me as my Son just came back for the Summer. Agree on your comments about Donald and Iraq. He could put further sanctions on Venezuelan oil and not allow it to be imported, that would hurt a lot of US refiners though, but not as bad as it would hit PDVSA

        • So I hate to give an underwhelming response but by April/May most college students are in finals season and or already home for the summer.

          Another way of looking at it is that student activists in the US tend to be on the left, and as such are not inclined to condemn Chavismo. Don’t forget the old adage, “there are no enemies on the left.” Watch: Tucker Carlson schools young socialist who says capitalism is to blame for Venezuelan crisis.

          Carlson began the debate by asking Lilly if he “sees a pattern” in the history of socialist countries, which Carlson said always “end up in poverty.” Lilly, however, was quick to deny Carlson’s conclusion.

          In fact, Lilly flatly denied that Venezuela is facing a crisis at all. Instead, he cited “terrorism” has the cause of the country’s current violence.

          “Well, Tucker, what I think is extremely important is we need to acknowledge that what Venezuela is currently facing right now is terrorism at the hands of the opposition,” Lilly said, explaining that “the opposition” is those opposed to the oppressive and authoritarian Maduro regime.

          “These aren’t choir boys. These are violent extremists hellbent on taking away the progress Venezuela has made over the past few years,” Lilly said.

          Noting that firearm ownership is illegal in Venezuela, Carlson wondered, to Lilly’s point, how government opposition could be responsible for the violence besieging the country. Lilly claimed that most of the deaths resulting from the violence have been of “leftists” — people who support the socialist regime — but Carlson wasn’t buying it.

          “Dakotah, I don’t want to rock your world, but I think reliable statistics are probably pretty hard to come by under the Maduro government,” Carlson said…..
          Still, Lilly was undeterred and went on to defend Venezuelan’s Supreme Court, which recently took control of the country’s democratically elected Congress for opposing Maduro. At that point, Carlson just had enough of Lilly’s arguments.

          George Ciccareillo-Maher couldn’t have said it any better.

          While Dakotah and Oscar may disagree on Venezuela, it would appear they have similar opinions of Donald Trump. Funny, that.

  10. Well written piece, I share those sentiments.

    Now, venting our feelings of frustration, impotence, sadness and anger on the internet won’t solve this horrendous crisis, would it? Nor just passively being an spectator of the tragedy as unfolds.
    My father used to tell me:
    No te preocupes, ocupate!

    So what you do is put your “Stanford” head to work and find a solution, find something you can actually do about it to promote change.
    Take it as a challenge, if you are up to it.

    I know it sounds corny but in my opinion we Venezuelans all over the world have to:
    1. Unite / Organize
    2. Plan
    3. Execute

    All under one cause to put an end to the criminal regime.

    There are many, many ways people can contribute, being with time or money or both if not living in Venezuela.

    We are starting to see some new small spontaneous groups doing things, but we need strength in numbers and unity for a coordinated and well planned efforts that produce results.

    I am starting to get optimistic. One good thing that have come out of this tragedy, is that Venezuelans are starting to unite more than ever.

  11. My poor Venezuela I do miss you. I wanted it to be my new life and home. Moved there in 2000 an it was awesome. Yep Chavez was an irritation that got worse. By 2006 when Chavez said “if you don’t like it pack your bags” we listened and shortly thereafter we packed our bags.
    In a way we have him to thank for the financial security he forced upon us because we moved with the oil business and it meant for the last ten years I have been fortunate to live in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai.
    All those places benefitted from socialism in Venezuela since (Singapore for example) the projects went there way instead of to Venezuela.
    Few want to intervene, why should they, and be accused of Yankee imperialist intervention.
    I still read these blogs, and follow Ven news, I wish I did not. As my Venezuelan wife keeps telling me “Pete that dream has gone it does not exist anymore”. In my heart though oh how I loved Venezuela. Nothing will ever beat the view out into the bay in PLC from our terrace on America Vespuccio. Retiring each night, listening to the waves on the shore, and gently falling asleep in our bedroom overlooking the bay. It was awesome.

    • Peter, this is your next door gringo neighbor that also shared the great view with you in PLC. Enjoyed our occasional coffee and cig together. We need to connect again!!! Left about 4 years ago 🙁

  12. Thank you Ana for writing this amazing piece. I have experienced many of the things you said but had lacked the ability to put it into words. I study in Germany, and with all that is happening back home, I cannot help to feel a numbness running through my body during the whole day. I have a great life here, good friends, nice apartment, nothing I could really complain about. And yet this feeling of guilt overcomes me, thinking of how I was one of the lucky few who had the opportunity and resources to leave while people who are no less deserving of a good life suffer under the catastrophe that our country has become.

    My friends have learned to ask less often about Venezuela, since they realize how hard it is for me to speak about it. Somehow retelling what is happening over there makes me more painfully aware of the good fortune I had. Perhaps even undeserved.

    Every time someone here says that the situation could not possibly remain like that much longer, I just shrug. I wish to believe this is the end of this hellish road, but never has the future seemed so uncertain.

  13. There is some much needed work expatriate Venezuelans can do. They can attemp to energize activist students to protest what is now the agony of Venezuela. What is missing from all of this is international protest. There certainly were international protests about Pinochet. Why not about Maduro? Why the silence?

    • There was a fairly big protest in Madrid last week, at an event the “revolution” was doing with pals from IU and Podemos to “demand peace” or something like that.

      You can see it reported by Misión Verdad as “opposition in Madrid chants ‘Franco, Franco'” – they were chanting Narco, Narco, but well, what did you expect.

  14. I am optimistic. You can feel it in the air. It is all about to change. Once people are no longer afraid, the ballgame is over.

    Need to tumble the last remaining Chavez statue in Margarita; When faced with the colectivos, people do not run in fear, but CHARGE!!!!; The GNBs are covered in shit and demoralized and decide it is time to stand off; and HDP Maduro’s ship finally sinks. Pa la calle mmgs!

    More blood, shit and tears but you can just smell that victory is near. The GNB releasing sewer waters in Margarita was a sign of weakness.

    BTW Ana, can you have your engineer friends at Stanford help us design a high tech lazur guided puputov?

  15. I feel exactly the same pain in the chest, the same guilt, the same shortened attention span, the same gulf between what my five senses take in and what I manage to tell my colleagues at the university in sunny Miami. The only difference is that you can convey it with more eloquence, even if you think words fail you.
    I’d really like to read your thesis when the country wakes up from this bad dream. I’m sure its lessons can show us some ways forward. Thank you!

  16. There is genocide being perpetrated now in Venezuela. We must denounce it, The world has the Responsibility to Protect us.

  17. I am curious to know what your fellow student from Chile has to say… After all Allende was pushing many of the same polices as Chavez, and Chile was starting to go the way of VZ today.

    Pinochet is still reviled although he killed fewer people than die in VZ on a good month now. Chile is stable, prosperous and democratic, but Pinochet was hounded by all the “right and good” people up until his death even after he returned power to the people.

    So here is a heartless utterly silly hypothetical…

    If you could travel back in time to 2002 and ensure the coup succeeded knowing that Chavez’s replacement would be twice as bad as Pinochet, would you?

    If you could travel back in time and stop Allende from being deposed, knowing that Allende would turn out to be only half as bad as Chavez would you?

    • Oh for fuck’s sake

      Pinochet is reviled because he KILLED AND TORTURED PEOPLE. There is no fucking number of killed and tortured people that are ok to have killed and tortured.

      I’m sick of tired of idiots in the left telling me I have to support their murderous regimes and idiots in the right I have to suppor their murderous regimes, like it is the only fucking option because somehow, not murdering people is somehow out of the menu

      • Pinochet surely did torture and kill people, many of whom were innocent, some who were not and should not have been killed in any case. (off topic, do you think the Castro’s beat Pinochet’s score?)

        BUT, you have a time machine.. Would you go back to 2002 to dispose Chavez knowing that “PerezPinochet”, a little known General in the Army would take power, kill and torture 6000 of your fellow country men but leave VZ in 2019 as a prosperous country with the rule of law, would you?

    • I agree. As bad as Pinochet was, he did stop Allende’s communism and after 17 years, he left Chile in good economic shape. Today it’s the best country n L. America. He killed about 3,000 in total, and tortured some, yes. But Chavismo kills over 25,000 PER YEAR in murders, not to mention theft, kidnappings and other crimes.

      Same for Perez Jimenez. In just 5 years he built more infrastructure than AD/Copey AND Chavismo COMBINED in 58 years. Look it up, he built most of what you see today, killing a lot less people in 5 years than Chavismo or even AD/Copey/ MUD (same thing) kill in 1 month.
      Venezuela was in the best economic shape it’s ever been, much lower corruption, almost no crime, lowest inflation, 1 bolivar was worth almost as much as 1 dollar in reality.

      Unfortunately, the only way to fix Venezuela’s disasters relatively fast would be with another Perez Jimenez. A strong, right wing government. The soft and corrupt MUD will take at least 4 decades to start fixing a few things..

  18. I wish that book club could go to Venezuela and stand in line for a subsidized bag of rice while discussing whether Trump comes straight out of 1984. Even better, while they visit a family of 12 living in a 900 sq feet apartment because the offspring cannot afford housing, they could wonder which pigs from Animal Farm resemble Sean Spicer and Steve Bannon the most. How about that?

    Despite your twisted diagnosis of what Orwell’s classic resembles, snowflakes at Stanford and other leftist campi should just look at Venezuela and ask themselves whether Big Government on steroids is what they want for they country. Sigh. I’ve been saying for a while that the only good thing at Stanford is the Hoover Institution.

    By the way, I find it pretty easy to explain what is going on in Venezuela: SOCIALISM.

    You’re welcome.

  19. Despite your twisted diagnosis of what Orwell’s classic resembles…
    Ana was merely reporting what the Stanford snowflakes said about Orwell:

    Just a week ago a few Stanford students invited me to join their book club. They were debating whether to read Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ “so we can get a better sense of what a dystopian society looks like, now that Trump has won the election.” I politely excused myself

    The fact that she declined to join the book club is, to me at least, an implicit disagreement with the book clubbers’ assumption that Trump=1984 or Trump=Handmaid’s Tale.

    I suggest that you read more carefully.

    It is ironic that the Hoover Institution and those left snowflakes are on the same campus.

  20. Ana, my dad earned a PhD from Stanford so I will throw in my two cents on this specific topic. At the time, it must have been a very big deal for him, and his family. He made a contribution to research in his area, published a book, he got some tools for what became his trade, and he earned a credential that no doubt opened some doors. But my impression from his example is that that achievement, though significant, is a very small part of a life fully lived.

    You are right to recognize your good fortune, and not to denigrate anything you and your colleagues are doing, but it does shrink in comparison to what people in Venezuela like your colleague Yon are doing. It shrinks in comparison to your child. It shrinks in comparison to what you can do when you are done at Stanford. Your obvious awareness of all that is a good thing.

    The temptation for people to feel full of themselves at these places is high but, bearing that in mind, nobody was ever badly served by reading some Orwell or some Atwood.

    The crisis many Americans are experiencing may seem pale and superficial compared to what is going on in Venezuela, but rather than dismiss it, I think Venezuelans properly should understand that they are now the experts in this thing that Americans are worried about, and be patient with them.

    And yes, the best therapy, even in California, I bet, is engagement. Bravo for that.

  21. Wonderful piece. Thanks for writing it. I am a Venezuelan also working and studying at Stanford, would like to contact the author to meet in person and talk some time. Un abrazo.

Leave a Reply