It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I’m at the Centro Portugués in eastern Caracas: the modern, well-kept and comfortable social club established by Portugal’s once-prosperous immigrant community here. It’s heartening to think that this was built after the Portuguese diaspora came escaping poverty, and worked their asses off to build small businesses and reach for the Venezuelan dream. Distant days.  

You had to see it: People hanging out by the pool, children playing, others eating at the wonderfully appropriate panadería-themed cafeteria. Older men and women playing domino and canasta, respectively, in separate rooms (the Iberian way). It almost felt like a normal country.

But I’m not here to have fun. I make my way to the Centro’s ballroom, where lots of these portus have seen their loved ones get married or do their primera comunión, to a meeting set-up by the Centro between the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Augusto Santos Silva, and members of the Portuguese community in Venezuela, ahead of its official meeting with Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and Galáctico’s son-in-law, Jorge Arreaza.

The first speaker is the Centro’s president, Rafael Gomes, and he gives a stirring, surprising speech. Pulling no punches and speaking with the dignified anger that comes when honest and hardworking people suffer 19 years of abuse from a government that hates them, he proceeds to berate Silva for its government’s indifference to the many aggressions suffered by the Portuguese in Venezuela, abuses that it never decried because it privileges the interest of Portuguese companies doing big businesses with chavismo. People in the audience, proudly and emotionally, stand up and clap at the end. Gomes stood up for his people against the canned answers fed by Lisbon for years.

Tough act to follow, but even by normal standards, Silva’s speech is lacking. He recites platitudes about working together to achieve a solution, making false analogies with a past crisis in Portugal. The dissonance between the speeches’ tone is overwhelming; like my friend says, Silva seems spatially lost, speaking to the Portuguese community in New Zealand. He says he’ll be meeting the Libertador municipality Mayor and thank her for the support, in front of those whose businesses the previous chavista mayor has helped destroy, too. The icing on the cake for me is when he mentions, as an achievement of the Foreign Ministry, the publication of a bilingual volume of Fernando Pessoa’s poems in Venezuela, by a local cultural center. The caviar left at its clueless best.

For him, the number of documents processed by the Consulate in Caracas and the fact that they haven’t raised the fees for consular services are achievements.

The first question from the audience comes from a supermarket chain representative, who condemned the harassment (and even imprisonment) from Sundde officers during the last days, the same people Silva just thanked. The second is from a Portuguese-Venezuelan woman who needs a kidney transplant, a procedure not currently performed in Venezuela (she’s asking for help to get one). Finally, there’s an elderly couple; the woman explains, calmly and without melodrama, how her husband’s cardioverter-defibrillator battery is about to die and they cannot find a replacement.

Silva answers in the same anodyne tone and a bored bureaucrat in the podium refers the people to a medical assistance program in the government’s website, saying that a special version for Venezuela is in the making. Let’s hope these people make it until then.

He warns, though, that they cannot intervene in Venezuela’s “sovereign” affairs, that age-old excuse for tolerating abuses and atrocities. For him, the number of documents processed by the Consulate in Caracas and the fact that they haven’t raised the fees for consular services (which has costed the Portuguese government money and is now subsidizing the fees) are achievements. The generosity.

On Monday, the meeting with Arreaza takes place. Once again, Silva gives canned lines, offers to help Venezuela (probably meaning the government), makes false analogies again between the situation in Venezuela and Portugal and meekly explains the horrors described the night before to Arreaza, while downplaying them. He also met with Maduro and, briefly, with the newly-minted National Assembly President, Omar Barboza.

I’m left thinking of the European response to our crisis, the insincere calls for cooperation and dialogue and the mountains of sanctimonious and sterile statements, all made while failing to approve (or, in Portugal’s case, even blocking the approval) of measures that may actually produce a positive outcome to the crisis.

Just like the Portuguese community in Venezuela is for Silva, our country is some inconvenient affair that the international crowd listens to calmly, hoping it to just go away. However, people like the decent and proud portus I saw, won’t allow that without a fight they aren’t quitters.  

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47 COMMENTS

      • They vehemently oppose it.Just like everyone besides you and a few other wingnuts obsessed with foreign adventures.Why not Myanmar?Why not Cuba?Why not( insert country here with problems)If Venezuelans can not figure it out then that is on them.It is not US responsibility.Your hero Trump said during the election in April 2016..

        “I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V,” he thundered. “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies.”

        Now I know he is a scumbag compulsive liar and always contradicts himself almost on a daily basis but…..which is it?Is it absolutely necessary for the United States to clean up the mess Venezuela made?Short answer is NO.

        • Ben, I agree that the US has no business militarily.

          But the answer to Ira’s question is valid.
          The question is what do those IN Venezuela think. Not us – comfortable, desk or couch or macbook commenters.

          When a large portion of the VZ people finally realize that the government is hopeless, and the situation is dire (soon?), one would think the population would start to consider help, any help, whether from the US or Europe or other friendly LatAm Neighbors. Repeat, Any help. to re-set the nation.

          Now whether those nations that you seek help, give it, is another question.

          But if everyone gives up, or is so brainwashed in the chavista way, then god help what you once knew as Venezuela.

        • Ben, thanks for shedding total light on what an idiot you are.

          I mean, you lost all validity by calling me and other Trump supporters as “wingnuts.” I mean, come on:

          What kind of adjective is “wingnut?” Where do you live? Or is it time for you to buy an updated Spanish-English dictionary?

          Wingnut!?????

          More relevant though is for you to so flippantly, ignorantly and critically categorize any U.S. intervention as “adventurism,” Jesus, is that just plain fucking stupid, and evil.

          Considering the suffering that Venezuelans are experiencing.

          As regards the rest of your post, who gives a shit? You’re a fucking moron.

          • FYI Ira, Merriam Webster since 1828:

            Definition of wing nut

            1 : a nut with wings that provide a grip for the thumb and finger
            2 slang : a mentally deranged person
            3 slang : one who advocates extreme measures or changes : radical

        • Point #2 Ben, or should I call your ignorant ass the anti-Einstein? Because it’s obvious that you don’t know shit about anything.

          The U.S. made a deal with the Soviets to never attack Cuba if they removed their nuclear missiles from there, in addition to us removing OUR missiles from Turkey which were “pointed” at them.

          Thank you for proving that only totally ignorant shmucks were against Trump and rooted for Hillary instead.

          Seriously, dude. You’re pitiful.

          • Based on my past posts you know that I did not support Hillary or Pres. Trump but I have still not seen anyone provide proof that the US Gov’t has agreed to/guaranteed that CUBA is out of bounds. Someone needs to prove this claim.

            The USSR no longer exists but somehow current US Presidents are required to live up to some agreement that I have yet to see ratified by any vote of US Reps/Sens.

          • So Ira, are you suggesting that Trump is a stickler for past deals with other countries generally, or just with the Russians? I’m asking you because you seem to have a handle on his particular thought processes.

          • Canuck, Cuba doesn’t matter. It hasn’t mattered in a long time.

            But are you actually insinuating that our non-military invention in Cuba over the past 50 years isn’t based on the deal?

            And based on nothing whatsoever, claiming that Trump would break this tradition and invade CUBA?

            My God.

            I know that Canada is pretty insignificant, but I didn’t realize how much the cold temps there affected any rational thinking.

            After all, you guys voted for Trudeau.

            Maduro Lite.

          • I guess I’ll be your Huckleberry, Trump can only be one of two things: a traditionalist or a non-confromist. I am claiming exactly that, prove the “deal” and show me why this is the one thing that Pres. Trump would respect above anything else. But those whom have assumed he will change things based on who he is and still believe what he says and not what insinuates will eventually get disappointed.

          • Ira, I’m just imagining the Trump genius at work devising a plan of invention involving his large button, his Normagian allies and their new fleet of F-52s, and a Bay of Pigs landing of pussy grabbers.

        • Gurion you have to calm down. Get medication or something. If a foreign force comes to remove the dictator you support you will be not harmed, Take it easy

    • Are we sending in the Devil Dogs? I don’t see it happening in nearly any sceanario short of the Russians setting up shop at Amuay and taking the Paraguana peninsula for themselves.

      • I never heard the term Devil Dogs.

        Except from one of my favorite cake snacks growing up in Brooklyn. Made by Drake’s Cakes.

        Can’t get them in Florida.

      • Not necessary so. Here is something that could trigger an US intervention:

        “The US Justice Department announced on Thursday plans to create a special task force to crack down on what it dubbed “narcoterrorism” by the Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah.

        The unit will be made up of specialists in money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism, the department said. It will seek to target Hezbollah’s entire sprawling network, which is thought to reach from Africa to as far as Central and South America.

        Read more: Marching for Lebanon’s future under the threat of war

        “The Justice Department will leave no stone unturned in order to eliminate threats to our citizens from terrorist organizations and to stem the tide of the devastating drug crisis,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “The team will initiate prosecutions that will restrict the flow of money to foreign terrorist organizations as well as disrupt violent international drug trafficking operations.”

        Notice that South America was mentioned and I am sure that Venezuela is under watch.

        http://www.dw.com/en/us-to-reopen-probe-into-hezbollah-narcoterrorism/a-42113854

        • I was under the impression that Hezbollah was more active in the south; Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil: Vice President of Venezuela not withstanding.

          • They do have stiff competition for dominance of violent influence in Venezuela.

            If you wondered where your beef is going or want to explain the problems of Chavista economic policy to the locals check the article I linked in the “Anatomy of a Media War”.

            Also, MCM re-tweeted an image on 12/30 that will bring this conversation back to the point of Portuguesa immigrantes.

  1. Beautiful. And it is for that Portuguese community to understand that now, more than ever before, they have become an integral part of a Venezuelan community that deeply appreciates all their efforts; and that has no problem with carrying a bit of acquired fighting-no quitting portu inside of it, quite the contrary, it wishes it had even more of that… then surely things would have been different.

  2. Wasnt this the same Portuguese officer that was saying how they had plans to evacuate their citizens from Venezuela some months ago?

    Although probably that would be even a better solution for him – no Portuguese in Venezuela, no need to get involved in the clusterfuck.

  3. Good article!

    I have a special place in hell reserved for the people that built that Centro Portugués on public lands.

    The best place in all Caracas to fly a kite was where that monstrosity now stands.

    I grew up in its shadow and have hated that place forever.

    Other than that I have nothing but admiration for how the Portuguese, along with all the other immigrant groups that built Venezuela, were more responsible for growth in Venezuela than any other agent.

    You could sub Italian, Spaniard, or Arab or any of the other immigrants in the story and hear the same thing. What a shame.

    • The beach is the best place to fly a kite, but I get your point. You gotta drive to the beach from downtown Caracas.

      Funny, but I’m now in the mood to watch Mary Poppins.

      I love kite flying!

  4. Isn’t the government of Portugal Socialist? Since when does a Socialist Party care about the well being of any economy based upon commerce between equals?

    I’m surprised Silva didn’t put his tongue directly into Arreaza’s lower sphincter

    • I dont know if I should take this seriously (probably not).

      The Portuguese government is a left-wing governenmt, yes, core social-democrat with support from more lefty parties. It is, also, getting a lot of praise from such dastardly communists organizations like the IMF because they have turn around the economy quite a good bit, from deep recession to more or less performing well. So, no, they arent “Socialists” as in lets make Romania or Albania 2.0.

      My guess is that one of the reasons for the Minister lack of enthusiasm in going head to head against the Chavistas is that his government depends on those more-to-the-left parties to get things done, and probably it would not help his government a lot to have to force, say, the Portuguese Communist Party to say “Chavistas are shit”.

  5. Conclusion: there are no longer any ties with the old country. The old country has washed its hands of those who emigrated to Venezuela.

  6. BTW, to the author, if you have a link somewhere to a transcript of the discourse of Mr. Gomes, I’d really love to read it.

  7. I hope the Minister learned something from Mr. Gomes that he can take back to Lisbon and do something useful with. And will not be so easily played by the Maduro regime in the future.

  8. My father is portuguese. Portuguese people have cared for this country way more than its shitty people. And all our families have gotten is arrasment, theft, expropiation, insults and jokes. The average venezuelan doesnt deserve anything other than what they created for themselves, despite all the hard work imigrants from all nationalities have put to improve this backwards banana nation.

    He doesn’t like the government crooks that are running Portugal. They arr doing the same thing that alba is doing. Taking the money and looking the other way. Its shameful. Most portuguese people hate chavismo and dont like the stance of the portuguese government.

    Portugal suffered enough with Salazar and posterior socialist chaos. Portuguese people are rigthly pissed that they sacrificed all to get away from that and have and alternative for their families but it was all taken away by chavismo, or better said. By stupid fuckig venecos

    • In New England a couple of years ago I was talking to a venezuelan who was working as a mechanic, who was ranting against the portuguese who had opened “panaderias” in Venezuela in order to make profits and had subsequently left the country. The ignorance of this individual almost matched the irony of him being an immigrant in USA the same way the target of his rant had been immigrants that had helped build Venezuela.

  9. FYI: I am Portuguese and Vzlan.

    No!…. No, to foreign intervention, that mess was fabricated entirely in vzla by vnzlans, and others that live there, they should find the way to clean up their shit.
    Fix it or leave, the motherland will take them back… it should…
    Stop crying.

  10. Uy Uy Uy that bitch Vero… very racist… “ average vzlans” “venecos” otra blankita más… “hard work immigrants”…. that took money away to foreign banks
    Sad bitch,you are probably single and FAT ….go back.
    Very offensive.

  11. Well maybe abandonement of all thought of a US military intervention should be contingent on all cuban military advisors abandoning the soil of venezuela …….., if the regime is free to invite cubans to exercise control over our economy and military and power plant operations in order to suffocate our liberties why should any venezuelan feel restrained in inviting US an other military to visit us and help in the restoration of our rights and freedoms !!

    • Good point. Chavezuela is not the first country to make use of Cuba’s services. Salvador Allende’s daughter Beatriz married Luis Fernández de Oña, a Cuban intelligence operative. That is pretty good circumstantial evidence that Salvador Allende made extensive use of the services of Cuba’s DI/DGI. (Imagine the uproar if some president’s daughter had married a CIA operative!)

      Beatriz Allende later committed suicide in Cuba. I wonder if . like fellow Chilean exile Roberto Ampuero, she had grown disillusioned with real existing socialism as practiced in Cuba.

  12. American Portuguese Spaniard Cuban Chinese etc :
    No intervention.
    How can this woman talk like that in a country with a large mixed race population, so much disdain: “venecos” “los feos” “the apes”… after all these years still they do not understand how vzla got to this free fall.
    Life is short, but I can be pretty long when you are miserable.

  13. I think Mr. Silva’s absolute disrespectful and outrageous attitude shows the lack of interest from his government in helping the Portuguese in any way…it seems that the actual physical distance between to the two countries allows (in their political asshole minds) them to behave in this manner. In the matter of the old lady who’s husbands pacemaker’s running out of battery, I might be able to help in this matter. May contact me at [email protected] ASAP

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