No Longer a Place to Call Home

“Sometimes I just don’t tell people what is going on in our country, on the streets we grew up on and to the people we know,” she says, eyes forward with no hint of pain in her voice. “We have already cried so much and experienced such devastation and fear, but as the government controls most of the news, we feel as if most of the world just doesn’t know the full story.” Ok then, let’s hear it.

IMG by Jorge Silva, Reuters, Feb 16, 2014.

IMG by Jorge Silva, Reuters, Feb 16, 2014.

I am staying with my friend in Colombia. I had asked her of her family living in Venezuela, where civil unrest has seen citizens shot at point blank while they protest for change. What started as peaceful protests now borders civil war, with members of each side armed and the violence escalating. “I can’t tell you of the violence, because I can’t bear to watch the videos sent to me by my friends and family, but I can tell you of the terror,” she says, shifting her gaze to meet mine. This time you can hear the pain. Her voice tremors as she speaks of the friends and family still there. “People are going missing, they are being treated like animals. It’s not safe to go outside, on our own streets we aren’t safe.” “There are videos sent of students and protesters being attacked and bashed,” her sister tells me, “but the footage is removed from YouTube and other sites. The government controls the news and monitors social media, the only footage we see is from someone who has filmed it on their phone first hand, only from someone who is there, living it.” They tell me that many of the students who leave to join the resistance tell their family they don’t know if they will survive. It is an expectation and it’s a reality, but they want to do what they can for their country. “Twice my mother went to join the protests with my godmother,” she says, “my family were so angry at her. My uncle, my grandparents and sister would call and tell her if you love us even a little bit, you will not go again.” “I understood they were scared for her but I was also proud. I wish I could be brave enough to say something, to go out and protest for my country, but I am afraid.” They tell me to watch the following video. By the end we are all in tears. “In the street where my parents live in Venezuela the people are building barricades from garbage so they can protest,” she says, “My mother would often be on the street arguing with people who would complain about the road blocks making traffic worse. How can they not care about the future of their country?” But it was clear when she speaks of her last visit to see her parents. “When I was home there was a doctor and his wife who were preparing food and bringing it to the people who were protesting. They were arrested and taken away,” she says. “The students and protesters were being shot and beaten like they are criminals, but many have no weapons, it’s just because they speak the truth,” her sister tells me, voice shaking with anger.

IMG by Alejandro Cegarra, Associated Press.

IMG by Alejandro Cegarra, Associated Press.

“We are a country that, as a nation, should be well off. We are rich in resources and petroleum, but our nation is still poor, it’s people controlled and restricted and resources limited.” It seems clear there is a general unrest toward the government. Within the people, there is fear and uncertainty, where there should be hope. This is where the protests began. With a group of students disillusioned in their government. The students began protests calling for a change in government. They took their message to the world with the infamous ‘better naked than humiliated’ campaign, where students posted images of themselves naked after a student was taken and stripped during an early protest. People are fearful as crime increases and resources deplete, they are unable to access their money, and restricted from transferring their own wealth from the country. Many move their families and what little they have to neighbouring Colombia, as my friend and her two siblings did,  but some cannot and their parents and friends remain.

IMG from Juan Barreto, AFP Feb 15, 2014.

IMG from Juan Barreto, AFP Feb 15, 2014.

“In Venezuela now everything is politics, you just can’t have a conversation without it turning to politics. We are all involved. We just want to see an end without any more bloodshed.”   **Images are copyright to the parties attributed and not the property of Wild Rice Online.

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