Will Nicholas Maduro ever be overthrown?
"It doesn't take wings to make a dream come true
the hands are enough, the heart is enough,
legs and commitment are enough "
(From a song by Silvio Rodríguez)
In the past few days, various people from other Latin American countries have called me over and over again to find out about our condition. They were concerned because they learned of the food shortage in the country. Even the chief coordinator of this small international community, of which I belong, called from Rome. A clear indication that the news must be alarming! It is for this reason that I am writing this general report, which aims to present our situation from my personal perspective, from the perspective of our work collectives, our political collectives, our thoughts and passions.
We acknowledge the lack of some foods that commonly make up our diet. Specifically, this means: there is a lack of rice, it is difficult to get a liter of oil, you often cannot find pasta and I can't remember the last time I bought sugar in a shop. But still this has never been missing in our household. Just think about how, through close or distant contacts and with some circulating money, you can do it to get a food that is not essential to life, but essential to some dishes ...
There is no cornmeal in the shops, but arepas are sold1and empanadas2in the streets has not let up. There is a lack of wheat flour in the shops, so there is no bread in the bakeries, but not a single one of the bakeries in our district has closed or stopped selling sweet bread, cakes and biscuits at high prices. The only thing missing is normal bread, which has to be offered regularly at 50 bolívar, but if you find it costs 150, 200 or 350 bolívar. And the regulation of prices? Well, there is no such thing as wheat flour!
However, there is no lack of vegetables, and neither is there a lack of proteins from poultry, meat or fish, which are offered at ten times their price from the previous year. The same goes for cream cheese, ham, and other prepackaged foods. They all exist, but at VERY high prices ... And the regulation of prices? State failure or lack of sanction options, because those who made the laws also built the loopholes.
The important drugs that are needed to provide regular treatment for blood pressure, circulatory system or cancer have disappeared. You have to ask a lot of people, bargain hard, or search hard to get any essential drug.
Cleaning products for the household and articles for personal care have increased by 1,000 percent compared to the previous year. And the wonderful coffee, if you find it, is priceless. 250g of smuggled coffee costs 800 bolívar, which is almost two dollars or less than one dollar on the black market at the official rate. How much does 250g of coffee cost anywhere else in the world?
Milk powder has disappeared and liquid milk or similar products are priced at 500 bolívar, compared to 25 bolívar last year. A year ago, a dollar was officially valued at 10 bolivars and is now worth 420 bolivars. And on the black market, the dollar is sold for 1,000 bolívar, which for us drives up the prices of all products. To understand the complexities of what is going on in our large country, it is important to know the following economic data.
The financial system has sought all sorts of ways and means to evade the controls over currency transfers and basic food prices that we had for 15 years. Industry has found loopholes in the controls that have given Venezuelans access to a regular diet and, of course, emotional stability to support a family and invest in recreation, art and vacations.
Today we have uncontrolled prices, no production and there is hoarding of the few produced goods that shop owners throw on the market when they feel like it.
Poor Venezuela, right? How is it possible that this could happen in such a rich country? What is the government doing? "This Maduro is useless" 3, say some residents and heads of government of other countries, who demand respect that they are not prepared to show themselves.
Even Google dedicated an iconographic photo to us, taken in 2011 in New York, showing a store with empty shelves and showing the bottlenecks in Venezuela back in 2013, before the current crisis even occurred.
Oh dear, was Google fooled? Or did Google deceive the whole world? Media manipulation has existed since Google existed. The photo was published by them and they never apologized for spreading half-truths in this country. Life went on as if nothing had happened ...
Let us remember that 20 years ago the shelves were filled with everything we lack today. But we must also remember that the majority of Venezuelans could NOT buy these things because we neither had the money nor the job security that we have today, but with an uncertain future.
Everything that is lacking in this wonderful country today is not produced by this government, nor has it been produced by a previous government, nor will it be produced by subsequent governments. These things are produced by a bourgeois, capitalist industry that manipulates prices, and thus its profits, and is obsessed with overthrowing the legitimate government elected through global democratic processes.
In some countries around the world there are heads of government who were not elected by their people. However, this is not the case with us. And although some may not like the election result, it is and will remain the official election result. If we don't like the election results, we need to change the mechanisms and organization of the electoral process. Let's change the system, but let's not slander the elected candidate.
Maduro's government will be challenged, but industry manipulative practices will not. The hoarding of food in the large warehouses of this same industry and the reduction in production output are taking place in order to incite the people who support this government against them.
What is NOT being questioned is the financial dictatorship that exposes us Venezuelans every day to the threats of hunger and every week of uncertainty about medicines and the unease that the day will come when our guaranteed wages that President Chavez4 left us will not this month more are enough to stand up to the entrepreneurial monstrosity.
Because it is a financial dictatorship that we are experiencing, it is an industrial coup. Industry stubbornly produces too little because it no longer wants to produce; because she wants to see us Chavists, who we dare to believe in us as people with a future, on the ground. Because it bothers them that the government has created education, self-respect, a sense of the homeland, free health systems, labor, wage and social rights. This government has created the most dignified living conditions and livelihoods for the poor majorities of this country and that is not easily forgotten. Is that why there are more long queues in places where you can shop cheaply than there are protests?
The companies and the stores preferred to play with us and only produce half, so that we can fight each other over basic necessities. In a queue of 300 people only six packs of toothpaste are sold and if 50 people remain in line it is said that there are no more. If you were to sell one tube per person, you could have supplied more than 300. But no, it is imperative to buy six-packs ... we are incited to quarrel among each other!
They want to destroy the feelings of solidarity, the hope for the future and the collective construction that blossomed in our mother-fatherland.
This industry prefers to lose money to get back in government and regain its privileges, to make the headlines again, to go back to the theater without mingling with the poor, to go back to exclusive restaurants without any worker or employee sitting at the next table whose salary is sufficient to pay at least once a month for the same restaurant that the CEO visits every day.
The little that is produced by the state-owned companies has been offered by the government for five years at low and regulated prices. And the majority now stand in long lines to legitimately get these products and stubbornly defend the low prices as a form of supporting this government. At the same time, however, we also buy the overpriced meat and household and personal care products and vegetables, the prices of which are magically rising every day.
Our eating habits are changing, we eat yuca instead of rice, we drink herbal tea instead of coffee and with a lot of curiosity we try new recipes to make arepas from plantains and we even manage our courtyards. Lights and shadows of resistance with different ways and perspectives of the world, the complexity of life itself, here or there, where you read this.
These magnanimous people have not yet taken to the streets for lack of food to demonstrate that the big news outlets are still not broadcasting such news. Why is that so? The opposition does not either.
The opposition is protesting for its political prisoners, who are in fact imprisoned politicians, and a few gather and demand amnesty to get rid of Maduro.
But they do not create large rallies or massive demonstrations to protest the shortage of food and medicine. So far, the opposition has not tried to take over the frustration of the political camps. Why is that so? It seems like this is still not a business ...
Some eat at home as usual. Others are already suffering from the food shortage, the pain of death due to a lack of medication and the lack of money at the end of the month. How are the majorities and the minorities to be assessed in the resistance of the respective political models? some frozen and using their historical power; and the others in alternatives and without much government experience who are branded as disappearing from the world stage.
Twice President Chavez could not be overthrown, although they shut down the industry in 2002 and 2003 because the historical timing of political relations and alternative governments in Latin America was different, it was the best time of solidarity and integration.
Twelve years of close trading relationships and joining forces to prove that other forms of negotiation and trade are possible beyond mercantilist realms and interest payments. Those relationships saved us from a coup at the time, and our opposition may still fear it today. However, the conditions for relations with other governments in Latin America are different today and the coup d'état may come.
The North American government predicts Maduro won't hold out until December. This North American government who thinks we are a threat, as if our government did them harm or showed signs of invading other countries as they are doing.
In these 17 years of Latin American heyday, the eternal elites who ruled our country to enrich themselves and to relegate the poor to their places had enough time to study every single country, to reorganize their forces and today without measure or compassion for us to go off. They do not forgive us for wanting to try to have our own forms of government, our own way of deciding and acting from Latin America - and not determined by the World Bank or the colonialist European conception.
The time-honored family dynasties that were trained in Catholic schools and universities to rule (they don't say "to oppress") have not been able to do this for too long. It is this political caste that has removed Dilma Rousseff from her post on unproven corruption charges. But the word of a female leader of a workers' party stands against the powerful word of entrepreneurs with parliamentary immunity.
It is no longer the facts that say something about our left governments: social security, stable jobs, education in our villages - it is the class origin, the ethnicity or the gender of presidents like Dilma5, Evo6, Chávez or Maduro, who are not trustworthy for the families of good old world democracy, the heirs of the conquistadors. This caste, this group accustomed to government power, could not win elections against the Brazilian Workers' Party or the Venezuelan Socialist Party. Only the justified exhaustion of part of Chavismus in the face of our current situation has earned it a majority in the Venezuelan parliament.
These power groups, these corporations, these financial interests were able to capitalize on the Great Depression and the mistakes made by left governments. Likewise, they take advantage of the weariness that the manipulation of information creates in the population. And they destroy legitimate governments.
After the events in Brazil, the likelihood of a coup d'état in Venezuela or the deposition of Maduro in whatever way - including through the democratic mechanism of the referendum - is significantly greater after the population has been emaciated by the food shortage.
Before President Chavez died, we had the greatest collective satisfaction of all time. Our unemployment rate is 6.7 percent today, our children go to school every day and have satchels and learning materials that are provided by the Ministry of Education. That still works and there are no dropouts until they reach university entrance qualification, In the past three years, a failure rate of between 7.4 and twelve percent of all first graders has slowly established itself.
83 percent of retirees across the country have been integrated into the pension system for a total of 3,031,381 retirees. All Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Venezuela have the experience that we live on our wages, social security and pensions.
More than the lack of some food, medical supplies and medicines, what worries us is that the possible imminent triumph of capitalist industry in Venezuela, by whatever route, will result in the loss of the greatest social security, wages and education that we have ever had.
We see mass layoffs coming as the new Argentine government is implementing and the closure of the Ministry of Culture along the lines of the new Brazilian government, which is supposed to be a provisional government and already governs like a totalitarian one.
Regarding the worries of our friends around the world, we say that for us every day is a day of resistance; a day of worry and activity to defend the bond of solidarity in the face of such a great increase in individualism, so much speculation about the present and so much nervousness about the future.
Every day, the hopes must be renewed that will keep our memories alive of what has already been achieved in relation to justice and human dignity and prevent us from turning away and freezing in pillars of salt.
We need to regain trust in humanity itself and in other forms of power that we collectively and at our own pace build. Politics and its various forms of state policies for the benefit of the forgotten of history and those defeated today by the war and information industries urgently need to be redeveloped so that they are not the losers in the search for a more just and sisterly world.
Jacquelin Jiménez is an educator and member of the Order of Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Venezuela
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