Image: Amnesty International

I find it increasingly hard to chronicle what’s going on in Venezuela. Images of empty grocery aisles, pictures of families separating at the airport, starving children, mutilated bodies left in garbage dumps, fear and rage and despair all pile up in my mind making a mess.

We’re first row witnesses to a tragedy that we have been warning about for too long, but we’ve all failed to forestall it. Now we stand before its consequences. Part of me wants to make sense of it all, another part wants to turn away, and a lot of the time I just end up stuck on Twitter, scrolling images and messages in a numb search for who knows what.

The picture of a family with a coffin on the back of a tow truck, along with the video of men chasing and slaughtering a cow, while the one filming it cheers on with “We are hungry, the people are hungry, ¡no joda!”, was last week’s glimpse into Dante’s tropical inferno. Nightmarish, fragmented scenes give us only a sample of the dimensions of despair common people are withstanding everyday. It defies our capacity to grieve, to digest, to understand. We have arrived at a place where our only reasonable response seems to be to tread on.

Maybe those fragments are the most honest testimony we can give of this time. Outrage is hard to put into words.

In 1933, journalist Charlotte Beradt began to recollect nightmares from her fellow Germans, soon after Hitler took power. She was careful to hide her project, smuggling it piece by piece until she finally fled Germany in 1939. The dreams are filled with authority, persecution and frustrated attempts to escape.

In one of many coincidences, many of the dreams she registered have to do with passports, official documents, unattainable or insufficient.

In one of many coincidences, many of the dreams she registered have to do with passports, official documents, unattainable or insufficient. Some dream that, after escaping Germany, persecution follows. Some are both beautiful and terrifying: a doctor in his room browses through a book of pictures, raises his eyes to see that the walls of his house, and all walls from all buildings as far as he can see, have disappeared. Protection, intimacy are all banned. Beradt recounts a recurring dream of being informed of the prohibition to dream, while dreaming.

She published them in 1966, as The Third Reich of Dreams.

La Vida de Nos has done a wonderful job trying to give testimony to our current struggles. Ever smaller fragments seem more revealing than political essays on what’s going on. Enza García spent four months at the famed Iowa International Writing Program; on her return, she tweeted on how many of her loved ones politely asked how things had gone, immediately asking how she had eaten and what the supermarkets are like.

On her way back from Caracas to Puerto La Cruz, her bus was stopped by the National Guard, who opened and searched her suitcase. “Nothing happened” she writes, “they didn’t steal from me. And yet, everything happened: yes, I’m back.”

Carlos Sandoval, a literary critic and university professor, has been writing very short chronicles of daily life on his Facebook wall. Last week, he commented on receiving his monthly bono alimentario of Bs. 20,500, equivalent to a dime, then going over to the university cafeteria to buy a coffee for Bs. 20,000, and not being able to pay for it since the punto de venta was down.

Igor Barreto’s 2010 book of poetry, “El Duelo”, describes the robbery and slaughter of a horse by hungry thieves. It immediately came to mind with the scenes of last week:

y el paisaje quedará guardado

en el saco ácido

de la desmemoria

His book doubles as a testimonial for a loss for words. En la caverna de la boca ya no veo palabras, solo hambre. Urgency, voracity drowns comprehension. Reality saturates our capacity to symbolize, to represent.

In the middle of these poems on horses, plains and hunger, a poem about Klaus Mann, Ernst Weiss, Walter Hasenclever, Stefan Zweig and Walter Benjamin, all of whom committed suicide trying to escape from the Nazis.

His book is unfortunately prophetic, it’s the chronicle of a descent into a place that you cannot reason yourself out of.

In his poem Aviso, he warns:

Frente a la barbarie

hay

un cierto aire de cordura

que es verdaderamente

repugnante

It is hard to write down a nightmare. It is disturbing and hard to fathom.

We are there.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Life goes on as normal here.

    Kids come over from the school next door to buy chupi-chupis for 1500 bs. But this week they’re now 2000 bs so they either pool their money or buy caramelos instead. I saw three kids actually split a caramelo last week.

    Those who used to drive vehicles, later motorbikes, now walk.

    Clients walk in with bags full of worthless bills to make small purchases of coffee, sugar, a kilo of maiz trillado. Discussions turn to the continuing deteriorating economic situation or who was the latest to be assualted and robbed…..home or farm, doesn’t matter, it’s a daily occurrence here now. Leave your place unattended for even a half hour and there’s a good chance it’ll be broken into.

    Just weighed a bag of 150,000 bs in notes of 50 bs we just took in. 3.4 kilos, or 7.48 pounds for a total of $0.71.

    Everybody complains, every day, but no one does anything.

    Life goes on as normal here.

    • @MRubio, “la normalidad de lo que no es normal en absoluto” sería el resumen de su comentario… siempre me fascinó la hiperinflación alemana en los años veinte y las fotos de montones de billletes pero nunca imaginé que podría ver algo así actualmente… no hacen falta fotos para visualizar frases como “Just weighed a bag of 150,000 bs in notes of 50 bs we just took…” porque se explican por sí mismas…

      Les dejo con tres pinceladas de “normalidad” venezolana encontradas hoy en internet que también se explican también por sí solas

      En los primeros 22 dias de enero 2018, el $ se duplicó (pasó de 111.413 a 223.743). A este ritmo terminaría el año en 11.000.000.000. Es decir 9 ceros mas desde que Maduro es presidente. Harán falta 10.000 billetes de 100.000 para comprar 1 $.
      @ricardo_hausman

      El Gobierno extiende nuevamente vigencia del billete de 100 Bs. Sí, aquel que en diciembre de 2016 Maduro prometió retirar de circulación en 3 días. Ni siquiera han pedido disculpas por los desastres que causó ese anuncio!
      @robertodeniz

      Hospitales del país se quedan sin sangre por falta de reactivos… De 344 bancos de sangre del país, 236 del sistema público no pueden garantizar transfusiones
      el nacional

  2. Here is an alternative measure of Bolivar-Dollar exchange-
    A U.S. penny is now worth 2,237 Bolivars.

    Why talk about millions, billions, and trillions of Bolivars? The penny comparison is in thousands.

    If you saw 2,000 Bolivars on the sidewalk, would it be worth picking up? I doubt it.

    Or you could say a Bolivar is worth 0.0005 cents.

    Venezuela is in the economic toilet and Maduro spends all his time flushing it.

  3. Amongst the many theories regarding the demise of Oscar Perez has their been speculation that the “civilians” involved may have been Cuban military in mufti?

  4. We just got word from our cig supplier that there are none in stock, and they don’t know when they’ll have them again.

    That should go over like a turd in the punchbowl with the locals and perhaps be the straw that broke camel’s back. LOL.

      • Yes kilo, still available though prices there too prices are rising rapidly. I drink a beer about every two months or so so I’m not very reliable on prices on alcohol. I’ll ask some locals what the going rate is for the stuff.

        BTW, stepdaughter No. 2 just called from Barcelona. She’s looking for products for her mother to sell in the bodega. We recently ran out of diclofenac potasico which is very popular here for aches and pains. Last pills we sold cost the client 2500 bs each. She finally found a supply in Barcelona, 27,000 bs per pill.

        Revoluccion!!!!!!

        • MRubio
          If the packages get straightened out, there is acetaminophen on its way to you.
          A package arrived Saturday at Vicky’s. I believe that it is the onion seeds.
          This has been a cluster___k. Vicky called Maria today. Maria said that another package is enroute. Now I just need to find out which one is still missing.
          There are meds in both that I may have Vicky split up if the other package is still missing when the second package arrives.
          Very frustrating.

          • John, spoke to Vicky late yesterday afternoon. She said she’d received a single package that was for us, “a small one”. Not sure if it’s one of the first two sent, or the last one. Sounds like though it might be Vicky’s package that is missing.

            I told her we’d wait a day or two to see if anything else arrived and then schedule pick up.

            Thanks again my friend for the fine work you’re doing.

          • There should be 5 pounds of onion seed. I paid the UPS bill for 1 box. Then Maria said that there are 2 boxes from the seed company.
            She is mistaken.
            After that Maria e-mailed me a shipping bill for 2 packages. I paid the bill and then when she sent me the receipt, they weren’t my packages.
            The packages had names and addresses that I did not recognize. I e-mailed Maria and I didn’t get a reply.
            Vicky spoke to Maria today and Maria told her that another package is on its way. The 2 missing packages were scanned together as delivered to the shipper. If she has one, she should have both.
            See what I mean by cluster….?
            I want the antibiotics and seeds in your hands ASAP.
            That is what makes this so frustrating.

        • Wait for gas/fuel to come up to regional comps, hope you are ready to conduct Econ 101 thru 301 classes. It will/would be helpful.

      • “Is beer or booze in general still available?”

        It exists, only that it isn’t cheap as it used to be.

        One beer costed 20.000 Bs the first days of past December, then 30.000 Bs on the 14th, then 40.000 Bs by the 28.

        With that progression, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one beer bottle at 60.000 Bs now.

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