It was July 2017. The Venezuelan opposition had called people to protest daily against Nicolás Maduro and the demonstrations were increasingly bloodier because the dictatorship decided it didn’t mind ruling over a graveyard.
Raúl, David, Andrés and I met one night to make it through the barricades and walk as many blocks as necessary to get to Daniela’s home. It was her birthday. Although many would argue that our actions were born from indifference, our motto was “we march by day and drink by night.”
Although many would argue that our actions were born from indifference, our motto was “we march by day and drink by night.”
Daniela is one of our best friends and her dad was a high-ranking officer in Zulia’s Governor’s Office under Francisco Arias Cárdenas so, looking at the snacks, drinks and sweets, we felt a bit like hypocrites, but we told ourselves we deserved this, after weeks of choking on tear-gas, fleeing armored vehicles and seeing all that repression on social media. We had to win one from the dictatorship after everything they’d taken from us.
So we took four chairs and, surrounded by a bunch of enchufados, we started the debate we had every day: “The opposition must call for a general strike. Maduro won’t be in Miraflores in a month if the entire country shuts down”; “I don’t know, man, I think a general strike would hurt us more than it would the government”; “The government can’t throw the ANC punch, because they’ll be done. People are angry.”
We discussed, danced with our friends and had small debates about soccer. Although nobody said anything, deep down we all feared the National Constituent Assembly that could be installed in just a few weeks.
Deep down we all feared the National Constituent Assembly that could be installed in just a few weeks.
That night, Luis and Frederick, other members of our inner circle, were missing. The first one left the country in 2016, while the second thought we needed to keep on the streets, although with a pessimistic outlook of the future.
We all supported MUD’s decisions and answered their calls, like the popular consultation on July 16. I remember that day with longing, because I could see the faces of friends shining with hope.
Days later, I read Leonardo Padrón’s article about that Sunday’s process and I didn’t hesitate to share it on my WhatsApp group. “Come on, nojoda. No going back!”, replied one of my pals, parodying the phrase Óscar Pérez used to say in his videos.
On July 30, chavismo installed the ANC after elections disregarded by the international community. The disappointment of thousands of Venezuelans was palpable before the almost non-existent response of the opposition, who didn’t even call for demonstrations that damned Sunday.
The disappointment of thousands of Venezuelans was palpable before the almost non-existent response of the opposition.
The rest is history: Raúl, one of the most active about marches, left for Chile with his girlfriend and now works as a security guard; David left for Argentina, and his depression is evident on social media. He’s had a hard time adapting and finding good jobs, although he already has a foreign girlfriend; Frederick was the last to leave (so far). He’s in the U.S. and he’s still not telling us what he’s doing for a living; Andrés is still here. He wants to graduate and then see what to do.
Meanwhile, I play deaf when people ask if I’m leaving. Truth is, I don’t want to leave because I don’t like leaving the things I love behind, even though chavismo has destroyed or tainted them.
Who likes to flee from home?