The following is a response to an open letter from: Noam Chomsky, Greg Grandin, Laura Carlsen, Miguel Tinker Salas, Sujatha Fernandes, Steve Ellner, Alfred de Zayas, Boots Riley, John Pilger, Elisabeth Armstrong and 60 other academics, artists and journalists who wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress and President Donald Trump. To read their original letter, click here.
By Karla Sánchez Arismendi
It took me a while to answer your letter. Not because I did not know what to say, but because I would like to explain to you, and to so many other North Americans who agree with you, why your opinion is wrong.
I read your letter to President Donald Trump and the U.S Congress. In the beginning, I was just angry that you were uninformed.
I’m a 24-year-old Venezuelan refugee living in Ecuador. Maybe you think I’m too young to respond to you. But then I think, do you know who else was too young? How about the 77 kids (ages 12 to 16) who were captured at the beginning of January by President Nicolas Maduro’s government simply for joining a protest. Then there are the 200 protesters, most of them college students, killed by the Venezuelan government during the last five years. Had I remained in my country I could easily have been one of those killed and would, today, be unable to answer you.
As you know, Venezuela has become a failed state. After 20 years of socialism, my country has turned into the most impoverished country in the region and the number of deaths due to violence during this period is counted in the hundreds of thousands. We have become the Syria of Latin America without even being at war.
The policies of former president Chavez and current president Maduro have affected the entire region, bringing us to the crisis we face today. I’m not just talking about the backwardness, the poverty and hunger that those policies have brought to the citizens of Venezuela. I’m also talking about the destabilization they have brought to Colombia, Peru, Brazíl and Ecuador as millions of Venezuelans, like myself, have been forced to relocate.
Venezuela’s government, among other things, has proven to be a narco-state. The nephew of Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flowers, is serving jail time in the U.S. for smuggling cocaine. The government of the United States has imposed personal sanctions against other government officials for their alleged involvement in the drug trade.
In your letter, you ask for dialog. But what are the requirements for a fruitful dialog? Is it even possible with the current regime in Caracas? Dialog is not valid if the participants lack legitimacy.
The May 2018 presidential elections, in which Nicolás Maduro was re-elected, was labeled a fraud by the international community after Maduro banned opposition candidates from running.
Juan Guaidó has been recognized as the legitimate president of Venezuela by 45 governments, including Ecuador and the United States, and has the support of 75% of the country — those who oppose Maduro’s illegitimate mandate and want political change now.
For an honest appraisal of what’s happening in Venezuela, click here.
How can there be real dialog involving the government of Maduro under current circumstances? To have meaningful dialog requires truthful information and that is not available under Maduro’s rule.
Today in Venezuela, most of the independent media and research units have been closed. The government has restricted the import of paper for printing newspapers and does not provide the international media with the credentials they need to work.
Venezuela’s internet is the slowest in the Americas and it is so controlled by the government that CANTV, the main Internet provider, has blocked the platform of the humanitarian volunteer website VoluntariosXVenezuela. To learn more, Click here.
In addition, the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the Central Bank of Venezuela, (BCV) has not updated the nation’s socio-economic and macroeconomic data in years. As you can imagine, it is difficult to discuss policies without reliable data on the levels of poverty, unemployment, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation and other important areas.
True dialog also requires that all participants share the objectives of improving the lives of Venezuelans. This is obviously not the case with the Maduro government.
“Patria Socialista o Muerte” has been the motto of the Chávez and Maduro governments. It is obvious that there is very little room for democracy under the edict of “Homeland or Death”.
The truth is that Guido has the support of most Venezuelans today. Maduro has control of the military and therefore of the country. He has access to weapons and the use of deadly force. Obviously, this is not a relationship between equals and this is why an earlier dialog between the government and the opposition failed in 2017.
We cannot keep waiting. My mom is a dialysis patient in Cuenca. I had to rescue her, with the help of North American expats, from Venezuela last year because there was no treatment for her in Venezuela. She was lucky. Other dialysis patients who remained in the country have died.
Dialog will not work. Venezuelans are not afraid of an intervention by the United States and other countries. In fact, intervention may be our only hope.
Karla Sánchez Arismendi is a Venezuelan journalist who lives in Cuenca and writes for CuencaHighLife and Cuenca Dispatch.