Venezuelan protests Show Unity and Strength in the Face of Maduro’s corrupt Dictatorship

Venezuela has been under a dictatorship for the past 20 years. When former President Hugo Chavez died in 2015, Nicolas Maduro—a former bus driver—took over the presidency, worsening the political, social, and economic state of the country. Since Maduro’s arrival, the international community has recognized countless human rights violations in Venezuela. As the circumstances deteriorate, the country has received more attention, becoming a subject of mainstream media and celebrity opposition against Maduro’s government.

Entrepreneur Richard Branson organized Venezuela Aid Live, a concert that took place on Feb. 22 in Cucuta, Colombia, located near the Colombian border with Venezuela. The concert’s purpose was to reopen the country’s borders to allow humanitarian aid and the funds raised from the event to reach the people who need it most. Major Latin American artists, and Swedish DJ Alesso, were invited to perform and speak at the event attended by  300,000 people. Lele Pons, Alejandro Sanz, Carlos Vives, Diego Torres, Paulina Rubio, and Danny Ocean were a few of the names in the lineup.

It was an exciting day for all Venezuelans. Those of us who couldn’t attend were glued to our phones, computers and televisions, watching a concert that advocated for a message of peace. Friday was the one day where we all calmed down for a moment and listened together to music that we’ve known since childhood. It was so inspiring and hopeful to watch these artists come together on one stage and take a break from the constant bad news. So, it’s incredibly heartbreaking to find out that just a day later, on Feb. 23, the humanitarian aid that was supposed to enter the country was destroyed by the Venezuelan army. Following Maduro’s orders, they destroyed food and medicine that the population needed; that is, Maduro directly attacked the Venezuelan people by not allowing them to receive the things they need to survive—which is a human rights violation.

The pictures that surfaced from the confrontation on the Colombian border were unbelievable, not only because of the violence—which left 285 people injured, 255 of which were Venezuelan—but because many Venezuelans rescued the boxes that were least affected by the attack and passed them from hand to hand to prevent them from getting burned. The fact that the surviving goods weren’t stolen or that the trucks didn’t get raided is shocking and inspiring.

When I was in high school living in the city of Lecheria, I remember seeing a car crash that involved a truck full of basic food that was on its way to a grocery store. The hauling truck had fallen on its side and the backdoors were completely open, so it was quickly raided by people. However, these people were not criminals, they were people living in a country where basic foods like rice, chicken, meat, and beans are unbelievably expensive. For them, the accident was an opportunity to take what is usually hard to afford. I even remember wondering at that moment why I didn’t go up to that truck and get whatever I could carry. So, to me, the fact that the trucks on the Colombian border weren’t raided is extremely hopeful because people understand that surviving in Venezuela is no longer an individual task, but a collective responsibility for us to stand with one another.

The pictures from the Brazilian border weren’t beautiful either. Trucks carrying humanitarian aid were forced to remain in Brazil because of the border conflict. The efforts to get aid from Brazil to Venezuela turned violent when the Venezuelan army established a checkpoint in indigenous territory, specifically that of the Kumarakapay. The army opened fire and killed two civilians and left 15 injured when the Kumarakapay tried to stop the army from destroying the humanitarian aid.

These acts of brutality aren’t uncommon. Venezuelan people have been victims of their government for years. But this doesn’t mean that it becomes any easier to hear that these events are taking place. The hard thing to understand is that for Venezuela to get out of the situation that it’s in, what’s happening now is the answer. Dialogue has been attempted before, and it’s honestly funny to see how useless it’s been.

Venezuelan people are standing up against the government, protests are taking place and the wonderful thing is that there’s a strategy. I encourage you to go up to a Venezuelan and say, “Cese la usurpación,” because they will most likely respond by excitedly saying, “Gobierno de transición, elecciones libres,” which is a list of what we want: an end to usurpation by the government, a transition government, and free and fair elections.

The acts of violence that are happening in Venezuela are horrible, but this time is different. Now, the world’s eyes are on Venezuela and international entities are holding Maduro accountable. The opposition is calling attention to the Constitution and, instead of just rightfully claiming that Maduro’s government is unconstitutional, they have followed through by declaring Juan Guaidó as the Acting President of Venezuela according to articles 233, 333 and 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution. This decision is being supported by over 30 countries, the United States included. The most important thing is that now Venezuelans are working together because we have unity, a face that we can support—Juan Guaidó’s—and more hope than ever before.

I love the fact that for the first time in a very long time—almost my entire life—I’m optimistic about what’s going on in my country and I’m happy that I actually believe that we’re doing okay and moving forward. I think now I can join in with my Venezuelan peers and chant, “Vamos bien, Venezuela.”

Oriana Gonzalez is a third-year literary journalism major and gender and sexuality studies minor. She can be reached at orianag@uci.edu.