“So, what do you want to know?” he asks me. Hamza is a medical graduate student. He’s strong and energetic, with the assertiveness and maturity of someone who’s gone through a lot.

He came to Venezuela in 2010 to study, just before the war started. Back in the 90s, he tells me, Libya was facing heavy sanctions due to the Lockerbie bombing. For over a decade these sanctions had dire consequences for the Libyan people.”People would eat dog meat and jump on ships and fight over bags of rice coming in from the outside.”

The sanctions were eventually lifted and, despite the dictatorial government, things started improving in Libya.

It’s just about two rival groups seeking power for themselves. Same here, there, and anywhere.

“In 2010 things in Libya were pretty ok. You could support yourself and your family with a simple job. Then, in 2011, the revolution started and they killed the president. And I don’t agree with that war, because it didn’t bring anything good. Nothing good comes after a war. So many people dead, and for what?”

For a long time chavismo and the opposition have managed to sustain a tacit, awkward modus vivendi. These past few months, that system broke down. Between the government’s accelerated decay and the opposition’s inability to guide an enraged population that feels it has very little to lose, the military option —either homemade or imported— seems more and more attractive for an ever-increasing number of people.

So does Hamza see something here, right now, like he saw back home?

“The thing is that here in Venezuela there never were wars like we had over there. Nobody wants a war. But what’s going on here, well, the government has some of the blame and the opposition also has some of the blame.”

There’s something that I find chilling in his point of view. I don’t know to what extent being Venezuelan and writing about what’s been going on here makes me emotional and clouds my judgment. Or maybe he keeps a certain distance from local politics. But, for Hamza, it’s just about two rival groups seeking power for themselves. Same here, there, and anywhere.

Democracy is something everyone loves to talk about but, deep down, no one really wants to practice.

None of them want what’s best for the country. They just want to rule. To have access to the financial power of the nation. And if a conflict doesn’t get solved through politics, it gets solved through violence.

Democracy, for him, is something everyone loves to talk about but, deep down, no one really wants to practice. “It’s like you say here, déjalo hablar.” The strong letting the weak put up a show just to appear fair, knowing the weak have no chance to undermine their power.

“For me, the leaders of the opposition here abandoned their jobs. All of them. They went out, the first days, supporting the people and they abandoned them. (…) Most of the population doesn’t want socialism, because it’s a failing system. It barely works in the short run, but sooner or later it ends up in failure.”

And after 40 years of socialism, he knows what he’s talking about. “Chávez had the same ideology than Gaddafi.”

Love for your country is always something earnest, but it can also be used by someone else very easily. Same deal with religion.

Back in Libya there were free houses, free cars, all the goodies a petrostate can buy. But the power was held by the president and his loyalists, who were also the ones who had all the money. There were assemblies where everyone was free to assist and have their say on what the government should do, but what the loyalists wanted was all that mattered. “And that’s the same thing I’m seeing here.”

His best case scenario? A new, third group, made up of people from both sides. One focused on winning over the people or at least on a feasible project for the country. Because one side will never leave the other in peace and, as much as he criticizes socialism, he doesn’t think highly of the opposition, particularly of its leadership during the protests.

“You see them talking to young people,” he says, angrily “someone who was studying, someone who was working on their future, and they fill their heads with these pretty ideas. Love for your country is always something earnest, but it can also be used by someone else very easily. Same deal with religion.”

In his opinion, capitalism might be harsh but at least rewards those who work and fend for themselves and punishes those who don’t. The government must provide education, healthcare, and infrastructure but its the people, through the free market, who ultimately have the freedom to decide what is best for themselves.

“I don’t go to any protests. Neither here nor in Libya. I don’t support any of them. A person must be autonomous. You work, you produce, you move on.” Though I don’t wholly agree with what he says, I can’t deny the logic behind it.

Interestingly enough, he doesn’t consider Venezuela a dictatorship. Not yet, at least. But it might be on his way to consolidating itself as one. He points out two things. The first one is the freedom to go out and speak your mind, citing the example of his uncle in Libya. The first time he spoke out against the government, they jailed him for a year and let him go on a warning.

The second time he wasn’t so lucky, they gave him eleven years.

“I can stand here and yell ‘¡Maldito Maduro!’ In a real dictatorship, I wouldn’t last half hour. In Libya, for 42 years, if you talked down the government you would disappear.”

I don’t go to any protests. Neither here nor in Libya. I don’t support any of them. A person must be autonomous. You work, you produce, you move on.

Then there’s the electoral system which, as biased as it might be, allows people to pick their leaders and lets them govern following terms set out by the law. Though for many, that might be over with the National Constituent Assembly.

“In Libya, we never had elections. Here you’ve had elections for a lifetime. Here you have a constitution and if you follow a constitution then you can’t have a dictatorship. A dictatorship is ‘I sit’ and that’s it!”

Throughout our interview I notice that, despite the criticisms he may have, he can’t help but convey an utmost respect towards the man who ruled Libya for decades, particularly his stance against Western powers and their interference in other countries.

One particular incident he points out is the case of Bulgarian nurses infecting over 400 Libyan infants with HIV. He doesn’t tell me why they did it but, nonetheless, he’s filled with indignation how these Europeans managed to walk free.

He’s thankful that his government provided him with a quality education, and a public healthcare system that might not be top-notch but at least delivered. He can’t deny the education he came to seek in Venezuela is not all what he expected, but he has managed to get the best of it, he’s an M.D. now thanks to Venezuelan schools.

Hamza has no plans to leave Venezuela. This is the country he came to seven years ago with nothing and, through his own effort, managed to start a business while staying in school. Though he’s grateful of the opportunities this country gave him, he is and will always remain a Libyan, “Libya will always be in my heart.”

This is the country he came to seven years ago with nothing and, through his own effort, managed to start a business while staying in school.

Still, he admits if things don’t improve he will look into leaving. But it’s never easy to start over in a foreign land. Less so, a second time.

On my way home, I wonder about Venezuela. Are we a puzzle, that will slowly make sense as we put the pieces together? Or just a very plain situation I try to read too much into it to avoid accepting what is right in front of me?

Call it Stockholm syndrome, or what you will, but what I feel after my interview with Hamza is a renewed appreciation for Venezuela. This is our lowest point, and yet there are dozens of countries going through far worse situations than us right now. Instead of feeling we are on an unalterable path to becoming one of them, I’m thankful there’s still hope things might turn out for the better, somehow.

But for things to be better we must work hard, and do it together as one country, wether we like it or not. That’s what Hamza taught me.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting how he documents a fraudulant trial against the Bulgarians.
    Also interesting how he leaves out the Palestinian Intern who was convicted as the ringleader.
    More proof of how intelligent people can be swayed by a dictatorships propaganda.
    Same as we see here.

  2. Great article. All the warmongers should read it. Perhaps now they they will understand that it can get much, much worse.

    I don’t understand how is it that many people let the opposition get away with being so mediocre just because the govt. is bad. You can’t explain the entire story of what happened in the country without considering the opposition. Venezuelans are easily manipulated.

    • Your pointing to the “big elephant in the room” that no one wants to address or talk about …. The several centuries of Spanish Conquistador rule that led to the development some Venezuelan Cultural traits that continue down to the present. Everybody wants to be “El Jeffe” or the “Caudillo” because that gives the “power” to “madar lo que quere”. You don;t have to actually work for a living or know how or what needs to be done, you just use your power to take whatever you want. It is not new under the Chavista’s they’ve just developed it to a degree way beyond anything seen in the past. Venezuela has gone thru many political cycles in the past (dictator to democracy and back some better than others) but the underlying culture has not changed. So even if the Chavista’s are removed and a new government is put in place it is only temporary until; the “lo que quere” again leads Venezuela to run off the cliff again.

      • This is the cheapest excuse for failure, blame it on what happened two centuries ago. How come all other Latin American countries have managed to develop pretty decent societies? Do you think such an aberration could take place in any Latin American country we Venezuela just got unlucky? Come on!

        • I don’t think he’s blaming the current failure on the past, he is just point out the continuity. MIT economist Daron Acemoğlu has written extensively on how institutions, even ones developed centuries ago, have a tendency to be persistent through time. The Spanish developed non-representative and highly bureaucratic institutions in Latin America. This carries over into post-independence and current contexts and this is seen in Venezuela’s ‘winner-take-all’ political/economic institutions.

          And ‘decent societies’ is a relative term. In the past 15 years, there’s been massive corruption, politicians linked to drug trade and paramilitaries, institutional impunity, urban violence, massacres, human rights violations and civil war in Colombia. Is this a decent society? I mean, considering there’s macroeconomic stability, it is for your average Venezuelan, but the bar is not necessarily set very high.

  3. Very telling piece. One of the bet I’ve ever read from CC. Goes to show that the street protests and the pueblo’s general outrage was about the inherent evil of Chavismo, having little to nothing to do with the opposition. MUD was never bigger than the problem or else the 80% of the country that is not red would have thrown in with them. I cannot possibly say what the future of Venezuela will or should look like, but my sense of it is so long as MUD or others are proposing something that even remotely resembles the pre-Chavez era, nothing much can change. There’s no going back to the past, when much of the country counted for nothing at all.

  4. The guy was consistent until the half of the article where his Stockholm syndrome kiciked in and started with the bullshit that Venezuela isn’t a dictatorship because “you can talk ill about the government and you won’t get killed because of it”

    Typical dissapointed mudero who believes himself above all and has that idiotic notion that “this is ok”.

    • I think CC’s attitude is that they’ll publish anything.

      But as long as they don’t censor our comments calling it total bullshit, irrelevant, meaningless, ignorant, then that’s okay.

      • I’m not attacking the article, but the way the guy seemed to change from a person who knows what’s happening to that zealous mudero that goes all “why don’t you do it yourself?!” and “then go with a rifle alone to get yourself killed, you bloodthirsty animal!” in such a short amount of time.

  5. “…he’s filled with indignation how these Europeans (Bulgarians) managed to walk free.”

    What really happened…

    “In her book, Notes from Hell, Valya Cherveniashka writes in details the tortures. In the chapter “The Red Carpet” she describes first day of interrogation:[43]

    One of the interrogators pulled out a thick black cable and swiped it at me. The first blow cut through my heels with a pain I had never experienced. I was being whipped! I tried to twist my body to deflect each blow to my feet. It hurt terribly. Every few seconds I felt excruciating pain… I don’t remember how many times my feet were whipped. I didn’t even have the strength to scream. I fainted and they took me down. When I came to I was hung up again and the sadistic whipping continued. About ten men took turns whipping me and they were relentless. When one got tired, the next immediately took over. I did not cry, I did not moan. Somehow I resigned myself to the thought that I was going to die. I can’t explain this feeling. I thought it could get no worse. I fainted again. I heard, “Collapsed, collapsed! She fainted, she fainted!….”

  6. Let’s see if this Libyan’s attitude change when they take away HIS business.

    Me. Me. Me.

    Sounds like he became a real Venezuelan.

  7. Have any of you spoken to a regular Cuban in Cuba? This guy reminds me talking to them… they sound so articulated, educated, logic; as if they had been educated in a regular system. And however…. brainwash and propaganda always show up. Coming from a Lybian, who’s grateful to the great leader who basically kept his own country under a savage dictatorship for more than 40 years; his opinion of the state of Venezuelan democracy is interesting but utterly useless (at least for me)

    Es como comparar playas del sur de Inglaterra (…) con Los Roques. Is an interesting exercise but pointless on itself

  8. Great article and point of view from someone who knows what can happen when war comes knocking.He is right as this is not a real dictatorship like Libya or North Korea etc but these are different times and different continents.

    • This guy is an idiot.

      The author just seeked out some shmuck from Libya, and tries to develop an intelligent analysis based on his “thoughts?”

      Hey, I’m not criticizing the publishing of dissenting views, but don’t elevate some worthless point of view, a Libyan no less, as to argue against military intervention.

      Especially since it was Libyans killing Libyans in Libya, plus Muslim activists from outside.

      And what the fuck does this have to do with the U.S. bombing Miraflores at the perfect moment, making food and medicine airdrops throughout the country, and having boots on the ground to assure free elections?

      It really is unfucking believable how so many Venezuelans don’t WANT to be helped and saved from this misery.

      • “shmuck from Libya” —–does the fact he has been through REAL WAR and a REAL DICTATORSHIP and came here and made something with his life make him a shmuck?

        “Hey, I’m not criticizing the publishing of dissenting views” You are doing exactly that.

        “And what the fuck does this have to do with the U.S. bombing Miraflores at the perfect moment” —–Must be nice to sit on a computer and virtually order men into battle when you do not have to deal with repercussions.

  9. Ah yes, this guy’s view really encompasses the ni ni stand point. Just because you are not on either side then you somehow have the moral highground and you can pretend that there are two truths, both equally valid. I call BS on that. There is no debate here. There are many situations where life is grey, but here it’s pretty clear who the bad guys are. The ones who came to power democratically and then turned it into a dictatorship. The ones who have implemented economic policies that have led to the worse economic performance in Venezuela’s recorded history. The ones who have allowed other nations to completely take control of the country.

    As for the war argument. We have had more violent deaths in Venezuela than in Irak during the time chavismo was in power. Violent deaths that will continue to increase as misery continues to rise. Will some people have to die in a civil war that will ultimately topple the chavistas,yes. But so did many during World War II and I’m sure you prefer living in a world not dominated by Nazis.

    And this is the most telling quote of all “A person must be autonomous. You work, you produce, you move on”. Problem is dibshit is that this government’s main aim is to reduce your autonomy to cero so you can depend on them for everything. That’s why young people go out and protest, becasue the government has taken away. Jose Vargas I hope you follow up with this guy a few years if chavistas are in power. Let’s see if he manages to survive in Venezuela.

  10. Call it Stockholm syndrome, or what you will, but what I feel after my interview with Hamza is a renewed appreciation for Venezuela. This is our lowest point, and yet there are dozens of countries going through far worse situations than us right now. Instead of feeling we are on an unalterable path to becoming one of them, I’m thankful there’s still hope things might turn out for the better, somehow

    https://www.noticiasaldiayalahora.co/nacionales/25-anos-de-prision-para-los-incurran-en-crimenes-de-odio-en-las-redes-sociales/

    You guys not even close to the lowest point yet, Chavistas on beserk mode already showing their true colors about whats about to be the future of the country, i wouldnt call it stockolm syndrome, you just building your ¨happy place¨to black out when the pain comes knocking.

    • I give up.

      This country has turned into The Game of Thrones, with totally unbelievable plot twists.

      The most unbelievable of which is how so many fucking Venezuelans didn’t, and don’t, see the writing on the wall and argue against the ONLY solution that can fix things.

      Might isn’t always right, but it often is.

  11. If you feel optimistic remember that all those kids underage Yuleizy is churning out in the cerro are the future of Venezuela. Hordes of derelicted uneducated malnourished kids raised in violence who never knew better.

    Venezuelan culture won’t stand up again by itself , never, without outside factors that apply some well needed electroshock.

  12. “I can stand here and yell ‘¡Maldito Maduro!’ In a real dictatorship, I wouldn’t last half hour. In Libya, for 42 years, if you talked down the government you would disappear… In Libya, we never had elections. Here you’ve had elections for a lifetime. Here you have a constitution and if you follow a constitution then you can’t have a dictatorship. A dictatorship is ‘I sit’ and that’s it!”

    He’s contrasting Venezuela with traditional “hard” dictatorships like the USSR, Nazi Germany, Cuba, Francoist Spain, Albania, and Libya. “Hard” dictators feared having anyone know what wrongs they did, or having anyone know that others opposed the regime. They established strict control of mass and private communication (all typewriters had to be registered; photocopiers were kept in locked rooms guarded by security police) and political activity (only the state party was permitted). The police recruited legions of informers, both to detect any dissent, and to intimidate potential dissenters. This was because they thought that if the people at large saw them do an egregious crime, and could respond collectively, the whole people would reject the regime, its security troops would defect or desert, and it would fall. That’s what happened to Marcos in the Philippines, Somoza in Nicaragua, Ceausescu in Romania.

    Venezuela is an example of a relatively new phenomenon – “soft” dictatorship. Zimbabwe is another. The regime rules by force, but it doesn’t have to maintain total control. The key is that the regime has a source of money to pay its security troops, and a bloc of supporters whose loyalty will not be affected by anything the regime does against others. This is usually because of ethnic or tribal loyalty. It can even allow semi-functional democratic institutions: rigging elections by harassing opposition organizers, controlling mass media, leveraging state resources. As long as the actual vote-counting is honest, the regime can buy a lot of legitimacy. (There is a risk: if the people are truly opposed, the opposition may win, as in Nicaragua in 1990.)

    The mark of the “soft” dictatorship is that it is just as empowered as a “hard” dictator to ignore the written law. It has complete political authority. That is what exists in Venezuela today.

    One further note: People from low-trust societies often do not understand how democracy functions in a high-trust society. I think this explains much of “Hamza”‘s cynicism.

    • Heh, it’s funny that Hamza mentions that people aren’t killed by dozens daily in Venezuela, another person who forgets that exactly DOZENS of persons in Venezuela are murdered daily by the criminals that chavismo openly supports as weapons of domination against the society.

      • The victims of crime are random, not specifically opponents of the regime, killed by official agents of the regime (as in the USSR, Nazi Germany, North Korea, or Gaddafist LIbya).

        I’d also suggest that for the regime to “openly [support criminals] as weapons of domination against the society” is proving counterproductive: many Venezuelans condemn the regime because it fails to stop crime. And I don’t see how fear of street criminals, kidnappers, etc., would cause anyone to support the regime or be afraid to oppose it. Those who would blame the opposition for the crime threat are already chavista.

  13. I think one bit to consider is this: There are always going to be political leaders who are more corrupt than yours. And you hope to find one that is less corrupt than the one currently in charge.

    The goal is not to slide backwards into a political and economic abyss, but, to get out of the current hell hole and move towards something better.

    The little people are always the ones that get hurt first, and the most. That doesn’t mean that a sanction is “bad”, only that the political class is more immune than previously thought.

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