The dangerous privilege of those who want the U.S. to stay out of Venezuela | Opinion
Please don’t try to Venezuela-splain this crisis to a Venezuelan.
It’s nearly impossible to accurately depict, with words alone, the scale of chaos that has descended upon my home country of Venezuela.
You’ve seen the headlines, maybe read a story or two. Toilet paper shortages. Hyperinflation. But it’s hard to convey in words just how actively threatened the people of Venezuela are by this complete state of crisis. From fatal power outages at hospitals to cold-blooded torture against opposition leaders or systematic persecution against members of the press like myself.
Perhaps numbers can paint a better picture: In the last seven days, with massive protests and a constitutional crisis in full swing, 850 protesters have been jailed, of which 77 were people under the age of 18, some as young as 14. According to Foro Penal, a Venezuelan human rights NGO, 35 lives were ended at gunpoint by President Nicolás Maduro’s repressive thugs.
That’s why when I hear Americans say that the world’s most powerful nation should “sit this one out,” I immediately identify that statement as coming from a position of privilege. For example, when Sen. Bernie Sanders says the U.S. should just support “self-determination for the Venezuelan people,” he forgets that over the course of two decades, chavismo — the political movement started by Hugo Chávez in 1998 — took that right away from us.
Sanders, just like the countless other progressives around the world who have taken to social media to explain Venezuela to Venezuelans, sounds like a person who has never been afraid for his family’s safety and well-being.
It saddens me to see politicians, activists, and even a “woke” filmmaker like Boots Riley use their platforms to turn their backs on an entire people over identity politics. It only highlights the privilege that having been born on U.S. soil represents.
Now, to better understand what’s been happening recently you should either watch the amazing five-minute explainer from comedian Joanna Haussman or read on as I try to break down why what’s happening in Venezuela is not a coup, and why my country needs global support more than ever:
In May 2018, Maduro called for and held sham elections that were widely contested by Latin American countries, Canada, the United States, and the European Union.
On Jan. 23, after Maduro’s last period officially ended, lawmaker Juan Guaidó — who is not “some guy,” but rather the president of the last democratically elected institution, the National Assembly — assumed the functions of the executive branch in an interim capacity in accordance with articles 233, 333, and 350 of our Constitution.
A carefully measured game of global diplomacy was set into action by the opposition, with three goals in mind: an end to Maduro’s illegitimate hold on power, the creation of a transitional government, and open, free elections.
This crisis isn’t about left versus right. This isn’t about Trump or his own record when it comes to human rights. This is about the harrowing reality that more than three million Venezuelans have sought to escape, and the horrors that millions more still face every day.
And believe me, an international armed conflict playing out in our homeland is not an ideal outcome for any Venezuelan. But what I do know is that the alternative to Maduro’s departure from power is another two decades of suffering and death for my fellow Venezuelans.
That is why Venezuela, at this crucial time in its history, at the pivotal moment that could usher in a new period of peace and democracy, needs the support of the U.S., Canada, the E.U. and every other nation around the planet in order to exert diplomatic and economic pressures to put an end to Maduro’s reign of terror and corruption.
So, unless you’ve had the barrel of a gun thrust upon your temple, or you’ve had to run from gunslinging colectivos or you’ve felt the sting of tear gas in your lungs, please don’t try to Venezuela-splain this crisis to a Venezuelan.
Instead, try talking to one, and ask: “How are things back home?”
Roberto Torres is a Venezuelan reporter who moved to Philadelphia in 2015. He reported on local politics and Latino issues for Al Día News and in 2016 became lead reporter for Technical.ly Philly. In 2018, he received the Philadelphia News Award for Business Reporter of the Year.