It’s been a while since I’ve written about Venezuela but tonight’s events — no matter how expected — have left me feeling so infuriatingly hopeless that I had to pick up the (virtual) pen.
Powerless. Yes. Defeated. Yes. But speechless? Never.
Back in early 2014, I wrote a lot about the situation in Venezuela when the country reached its tipping point and erupted into violence and chaos. The protests lasted weeks. With the country in a media blackout, I did all I could to spread the message here in the United States. All my social media channels became razor-focused with live updates and news. I organized and attended events on campus. I protested in the streets of Boston along with hundreds of other ex-pats and supporters.
I remember not being able to sleep for two months. I remember seeing the images of students lying dead in the streets every time I closed my eyes. I remember the fear of knowing my family was out on those streets and not knowing if they were okay. I remember reminding myself that even if they were home, it still wouldn’t guarantee their safety.
But most of all, I remember the crushing powerlessness. Knowing that as loud as I was shouting, the most I could expect back was an echo.
Once again, I find myself in that black hole. Tonight Leopoldo Lopez was to be given his verdict. After spending the past 18 months in solitary confinement — voluntarily I might add — for voicing his opposition to the government, tonight a jury would decide his fate.
Did we all assume it would be rigged? Yes. Was it exactly as we feared? Yes.
Will it quash our hope? Will it stem the resistance? Will it silence our passion? Never.
On human rights alone, the entire case has been a complete travesty. Not only was Leopoldo’s defense silenced as much as possible but the prosecution did not even present basic evidence for the crimes he was standing trial for. The level of corruption exposed tonight is so terrifyingly obvious, so why is nothing being done about it?
Leopoldo will go to military prison for nearly 14 years. An entire country will once again be left on its knees. Another media blackout will render their voices useless. And more violence and chaos will erupt as protesters take their frustration, their anger out to the streets.
Last year it took me a long time to overcome the hopelessness. I thought all I had were words, and I couldn’t see past the blackness to realize how powerful I really was. I don’t just have words. I have freedom. I can inform and educate and help others do the same. I can be the pebble with the ripple effect and when I shout, those echoes are the voices of everyone who has heard my cries and added their own.
The world is not a black hole. This world is a canyon. And I’m going to keep shouting.
Fuerza y fe, Venezuela — seguiremos contigo.