Original art by @modográfico
The video is jaw-dropping: a group of men surrounds a cow in what looks like a typical Venezuelan finca (farm). They’re carrying sticks and they throw rocks at the animal.
You know where it’s going and you can’t bear it. No need to keep watching. You press stop. As someone shouts in the background, this is what hunger looks like in Venezuela.
Hours later, reports of over 40 animals killed this way at a long-expropriated farm lit Venezuelan social media. Looters ravaged them for their meat in Palmarito, a small town in Mérida state, far from the mountains and in the middle of the Panamerican highway.
Sweat on the palm of my hands and my heart pounding on my ears as I scroll down through @leoperiodista (a renowned local journalist). A few minutes later, the video spreads like a stomach bug through my WhatsApp groups.
My building’s chat is the first.
“THIS COUNTRY IS DOOMED.”
“ESTO SE LO LLEVÓ QUIEN LO TRAJO.”
A few minutes later, news reach the Caracas Chronicles chat, recently turned into our virtual support group.
“Did you see the poor little cow video?” Alejandro asked.
“I can live a perfectly nice life without seeing that,” answered Javier, the common stance.
“That’s simply savage,” my girlfriend Astrid replied. “You can be as hungry as you want but why kill that cow like that?”
It was 5:00 p.m. on a beautiful Thursday afternoon and we were trapped in a hobbesian discussion on how our current crisis is tearing down all traces of civilised society still remaining this far.
This is how Venezuela takes over your life.
After the cow video went viral, reports of widespread looting in Merida’s Panamerican Highway piled up on Twitter. By 9:00 p.m., four people, including an empanada street vendor, had been shot dead, most while trying to breach into stores and some Polar trucks in the towns of El Pinar, Arapuey and Tucaní.
The phone rings. It’s Astrid:
“I don’t think I’m ever going out again.”
“Why?” I reply.
“I’m scared. I can’t even have coffee at the panadería anymore, it’s too expensive.”
I felt a punch in my stomach; there’s nothing she enjoys more than coffee.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “It’ll be fine. I’ll buy you coffee next time.”
She takes a long breath and I can see her face when I close my eyes.
“I’m worried. I should’ve bought more milk the other day, It was dumb of me to not know it would get more expensive. Now I’m not paying that much for milk.”
I get it. She’ll see prices twice times higher than two days before, and then she’ll feel guilty for not buying when she could. What can you say to that? How do I make her feel better?
Long gone are the days I could escape the shitshow and try to live a normal life. Now, fear has taken over every corner of my mind. It’s haunting. There’s an unspoken agreement not to disclose it, to spare the heartbreak, but it’s there. In my head, in the thoughts that pop over and over again.
I check my phone one last time before bed.
“My dear neighbors, good news: the garbage was finally taken away,” I read in the condo chat. “Not all of it. Maduro is still at Miraflores,” a doña replies. Some other neighbors post nutritional advice on how to meet your daily requirements of protein without eating chicken or meat.
Just before falling asleep, I tell Astrid we’ll be fine.
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