Hope burns slowly in Venezuela

Nowadays, Venezuelans have to continually struggle with frustration, uncertainty, and solidarity.

Nowadays, Venezuelans have to continually struggle with frustration, uncertainty, and solidarity.
Nowadays, Venezuelans have to continually struggle with frustration, uncertainty, and solidarity.

Nowadays, Venezuelans have to continually struggle with frustration, uncertainty, and solidarity. Every day is marked by a shortage of food and medicines, high inflation, and a general lack of personal security.

This is why we asked ourselves: how is hope doing nowadays in Venezuela?

It’s midnight, when your dreams should be the deepest, your body resting and repairing the most. Juana Candelaria wakes up agitated. She needs to leave her house as early and as fast as possible in order to get in line at the supermarket, a big supermarket, “one of those that gets a lot of everything.” She’s in a hurry because she wants to be among the first ones waiting for the food trucks to arrive.

She doesn’t know that there are already 127 people in line waiting for the very same thing.

They are all sure that “something” of “everything” that they need will be delivered today.

According to the Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social (OVCS) (Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflicts), “in July, food insecurity in Venezuela continued. This situation is characterized by shortages, scarcity, and the ever increasing price of products.” (1)

The OVCS report also points out that social conflicts continue to dominate Venezuelan protest marches, with 3,507 of them having taken place during the first 7 months of 2016. Of these, “the 209 protest marches registered in July, protesting against scarcity and food shortages, represent a 70% increase compared to July 2015.”

“Instances of looting can’t just be seen as criminal acts. The criminals are taking advantage of the population that is protesting and is fed up because they can’t put food on the table, even when they have money in their pockets. The thieves are also hungry and steal just like the police did in the city of Cumaná, and just like many other ordinary citizens did. Now, it’s all about surviving, and the struggle to survive is vicious. This is how humans and animals act, when they can’t get food for their families and children,” explained Roberto Briceño León, director of the Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia (Venezuelan Observatory of Violence) regarding the protests, lootings, and destruction that was registered in different areas of the city of Cumaná, in the state of Sucre. (2).

Juana Candelaria is scared to leave her home.

Out all alone during the early morning hours, she pushed back the fear that threatens to overwhelm her as she walks by the same spot on the sidewalk where the day before yesterday they found her neighbor’s son lying in a pool of his own blood…

“With her crucifix between her lips,” Juana Candelaria quickly continues on. Her faith rests in being able to bring back home bags full of food.

In the Global Gallup Law and Order Index, which is nothing more than a yearly global evaluation of the perception of citizenry safety, in 2015, Venezuela posted its worst ranking in history, scoring 35 points out of 100. This was also the worst ranking of any nation in more than a decade, states the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence in its report, “Venezuela has the lowest score in the world with regard to personal security”. (3)

Of the 133 countries studied, Venezuela score was only followed by Syria and Afghanistan, both countries that are undeniable caught in the grip of civil wars.

-”This is the government’s fault,” says someone standing in line; and is immediately answered with: -”The opposition is worthless.” And there’s always a third person who lies: “It’s not the opposition or the government because if I don’t work I don’t eat.”

Juana Candelaria doesn’t say a word. It’s a big problem, there’s no denying it. But she prefers to take comfort in the words that she told her son yesterday: -“Mami, the soup tastes really good.” A few vegetables, even less meat, a lot of water, and she answered her son: -“It’s because I made it with a lot of love.”

Coming from different backgrounds but with the very same problem: food, unsafe, uncertainty. All standing in the same line, and all wondering the same thing: -”When is this all going to end?”

And then there is the fact that most people keep having hope…

“Hope is the feeling that keeps you optimistic in order to achieve the goals you have planned,” as defined by the clinical psychologist, Stefania Aguzzi.

“We most definitively have to have a positive attitude in order to face the crisis,” says Stefania Aguzzi.

“It’s the first thing you should hold fast to at the beginning of every day; because it gives you a compass, a neural programming that will help you find the way to get to where you want to go,” says Karina Montes, a sociologist, life coach and organization coach.

But this positive attitude does not mean that you become inert, and just “wait for everything to drop in your lap.” Having hope is more like the biblical phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.”

“At the Christian, theological, or religious level, having hope could be defined has a burning expectation,” which is to say, “an active life thought and behavior, confidently directed towards what is coming, believing that the outcome will be a certain way, but not putting aside the fact that one has to continue to fight, work, and put a lot of effort into achieving that outcome,” says Honegger Molina, priest at the “La Anunciación del Señor” church, in La Boyera (Caracas), Miranda state.

“There’s frustration, there’s disappointment”

But, it’s very hard to keep a positive attitude and face hardships with hope when Venezuela is going through the worst multisector crisis the country has ever been in, with the economic crisis being the one that most affects everyone in their everyday lives.

“Expectations are at a bare minimum, at the most basic level, which is to guarantee survival, to be able to eat,” states Gloria Perdomo, coordinator at the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence.

Gloria Perdomo calls for concrete actions to be carried out, calling on different groups and organizations.

After observing situations in different parts of Petare, in the Sucre municipality of Miranda state, she explains that “the progressive deterioration in quality of life has become so bad that it has reached the level of searching for food. Furthermore, the focus is on finding something to eat today; you don’t even expect to be able to know what you’ll be able to eat tomorrow or next week. This is because: 1. You don’t know if you will have enough money to buy food; and 2. You don’t know if you will be able to find any food, even if you do have money to buy it with.”

Honegger Molina admits that “there is frustration, there is disappointment. And there is disappointment in leadership in general, not just in political leadership, but also in our leadership, religious leadership. The people expect more from us, from the priests, from the bishops.”

“Small gestures of generosity”

Despite everything, what gives Venezuelans a deep sense of humanity continues to appreciate.

“On the positive side, even in these extreme circumstances, and to one’s surprise, you can still find gestures of generosity,” says Gloria Perdomo.

“People that are going through a hard time themselves, will out of the blue, give some food to a neighbor so that their child may eat, or they will share food with the understanding that when they find food they will return the favor. It’s not all egoism, as if all forms of generosity have disappeared. On the other hand, there’s a lot of hardship, people do say “I don’t have anything,” or “I gave them something because I just could bear it.”“

“Venezuelans are good people”

Facing skyrocketing prices in vital items such as food and medicine caused by shortages and inflation, every specialist highlights the importance, almost obligation, to keep very much in mind and present our moral obligations.

“Venezuelans are good people, with values (…) We most definitively have to have a positive attitude in order to face the crisis. We can’t fall into a negative frame of mind because then we will get depressed, and one of the key elements of having hope is not to be allowed to get depressed,” states Stefania Aguzzi (@stefaniaaguzzi).

The clinical psychologist recommends that, “without becoming oblivious to the reality that keeps slapping us in the face; to try to minimize that reality by focusing on the small good things that happen to us. And if every day we start doing this, we might find that there are a number of good things that have happened to us and that we hadn’t noticed before because we were too fixated in all the bad things.

It’s what the life coach and the organization coach always says, that you always have to have “a vital attitude.”

“Hope gives you a neural programming that will help you find the way to get to where you want to go,” Karina Montes, sociologist and life coach.

“No matter what is happening outside, you have the tools inside to help you overcome these things. And, just because now you are a positive and optimistic person, it doesn’t mean that you are going to find Harina Pan (corn flour) in every supermarket you look. But, probably, with this new disposition or attitude, you’ll find new ways to do things,” says Karina Montes (@karinamontes).

This is why she invites you to reflect on “how the crisis is teaching me to administer things, or how the crisis is teaching me to be “resilient,” beyond just looking for financial opportunities, which also exist.”

The coordinator for the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence calls for concrete actions to be carried out, calling on different groups and organizations. She suggests that initiatives such as food kitchens, run by volunteer groups and people, not affiliated to any political organization, which have been tried in other countries.

“People may feel that they are going hungry, but there is something concrete that they are invited to do; you can help in the kitchen; wash the dishes; help cook; and that hope depends on the person,” says Gloria Perdomo.

“At the Christian, theological, or religious level, having hope could be defined has a burning expectation,” says Honegger Molina, priest at the “La Anunciación del Señor” church, in La Boyera (Caracas), Miranda state.

“The Venezuelan who’s thinking about the country is the Venezuelan of faith that is at this very moment creating projects, working in camps, who is carrying out development projects, fighting against the current in order to keep the company, large or small, afloat. This situation is not etched in stone nor is it going to last forever; it’s a transition leading to a better country, because the end result is a valuable learning experience, says father Honegger Molina (@honeggermolina).

Juana Candelaria, on her way home, her thoughts keeping pace with her bags swing back and forth.

A friend told her that she need to make a dress for her daughter, and she remembered the old sewing machine that she had inherited from her grandmother. She thought: -I’m good with my hands and sewing. What if I make that little girl her dress?

Yes, and maybe I put some colored sequins on it so that it sparkles like if it were smiling at life.

From El Universal