Visiting the Teleferico: An Act of Defiance, Not Treason

A blackout left people trapped in the Teleférico de Caracas. Instead of blaming an incompetent government, people called victims “traitors” for trying to live a normal life.

Photo: Mintur

In Venezuela, we’re trapped in so many ways that it’s difficult to count them.  

Public spaces to go for a walk or to take your kids are becoming increasingly rare, thanks to a combination of incompetence, negligence and a lack of public policies. The risks of being mugged (or killed) and the poor maintenance of spaces keep many at home, and if you add the low budgets in a crude hyperinflation to the equation, you get a clear image of how we live here.

One of the few venues for a relaxing, outdoor experience, for both locals and tourists, is the still affordable, government-managed Teleférico — cable car — that takes you to the top of the Cerro El Ávila, a lovely way to enjoy the city and its impressive, beautiful mountain. This is surely why those trapped in the cable car during last Saturday’s blackout had decided to visit the Waraira Repano.

The cable car system stopped around five in the afternoon, with users trapped above the void, cold twilight as the night slowly creeped in. Numbers for emergency services failed and not a single authority appeared with an explanation. Evacuation of those trapped finished well after midnight.

Some probably thought about power cuts before going, but constantly thinking about the risks we face would keeps us from doing anything. And even if power cuts are becoming more and more frequent in the entire country, people carry on, just like living in the most dangerous city in the world doesn’t stop us from stepping out.

But for some, this is an act of treason that makes us the regime’s accomplices.

“How come you ‘get on with your life’ in a country that has collapsed? Don’t you care? People go to the Teleférico and the beach as if nothing happens, so bien hecho, for trusting a system managed by chavistas.”

By this logic, all those trapped in the dark, including children and older persons, dangling from a wire or stranded at the top of the mountain without knowing what to expect or without any info about rescue proceedings, at 7ºC (yes, for us this is very cold), are guilty of wanting to enjoy a different afternoon.

Just because life in this country, with its cash, food and medicines shortages, its failing transport system, its staggering criminality rates, its empty supermarkets and all the many families chavismo ripped apart, is not normal, it doesn’t mean that those of us who remain here shouldn’t try (or even aspire) to have a “normal” life. This is not the visitors’ responsibility, it’s the government’s.

Life in Venezuela goes on despite every obstacle in our paths. People fall in love, get married and have children. Schools teach kids and universities remain open. There are less students and teachers, but those who remain here carry on. People have birthdays, weddings and funerals. The vast majority might not celebrate like we used to, but we try to mark the occasion in the best way we possibly can. The economic crisis has taken away many rituals around which we used to nurture our common heritage, were we bonded as families and as a nation. But people continue to breathe and dream in whatever space possible, and with those few friends and family left.

To think that those opposing Maduro should put our lives on hold and concentrate exclusively on ousting the regime is comparable to the totalitarian logic applied by regimes like North Korea or Cuba (and now Venezuela), where even children are indoctrinated to save the Revolution.

Carrying on with our lives in Venezuela is, in and of itself, an act of resistance — but most importantly, an act of defiance to a regime that wants us out, dead or under its control.