Friday, March 15, 2013

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead...

Okay, so that is probably not the most appropriate title for this story, but it has been replaying over and over again in my mind since I found out that the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, had died.

Chavez was a bit of a dictator in some people's eyes. He changed the limit of presidential terms to none, and he never lost an election. He has been venezuela's leader since 1999, when he overthrew the last government. I was following the last election which was last fall, and I prayed for Chavez to lose, however then I remembered that even if he was president, I'd still get to go to Venezuela, because the program never let that stop them before!

Then in December I heard he had cancer, was very ill, and was off to Cuba for treatment. The world never heard or saw from him again until he was pronounced dead at 16:25 on Tuesday, March 5th 2013. Venezuela stopped that day. The evening class at Venusa was cancelled, and everyone was sent home. I was already home but I was called later and told that there would be no school until the following Monday and to stay in my house. That first night was terrifying. Everyone assumed that there would be total chaos and madness. In other parts of the country, or what they showed on the news, there were people storming stores and robbing them as they stocked up on supplies as if a hurricane was coming. Although perhaps a hurricane of sorts is upon us.

The next day I was already bored to death, but my family assured me that it was pretty calm around town. So, with that news, I went to meet some friends in a smaller town. There were rallies in the centers of towns and people were mourning. Everything was closed for three days, by a governmental decree. There was also a dry law put in place that prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol. That was supposed to last 7 days, and was extended so that it ends this Saturday (the 16th). Chavez was the news 24/7.

I escaped (that sounds dramatic) to a small town about three hours away from where I live. I went with my house sister to visit her real family in La Azulita. It was a little village that was absolutely beautiful and I spent my Thursday and Friday there. In their park, there was a 24/7 Chavez commemoration. Loud speakers, tents, and the color red tend I flood the plazas these days. I walked by it to get wherever I needed to go, but I never once felt endangered. These people are mourning a man they love and believe to be great for them. It is a great loss to a lot of them, and a new chance at a beginning for the rest.

As I watched the funeral on tv, I became frustrated. The vice-president (who isn't supposed to take over as president according to the constitution but is anyways because it is corrupt, and who also can't be a candidate for the election while holding a public office but will anyways) started off his speech as a sweet and touching eulogy and turned it into a political campaign to gain followers for himself and his party. Jesse Jackson, turned his heartfelt eulogy into a way to push the US's agenda of supporting a different style of government in Venezuela. I couldn't stand to not only watch a funeral/commemoration that never ended and watch everyone play on emotions to gain ground politically. It was disgusting.

Now the only break we have had in Chavez news was when the new Pope, Francisco I, was elected. Chavez is still ever present in the race between his hand chosen successor, Maduro, and the opposition, Capriles. There is a lot of political tension and dirty verbal attacks and tactics being used. Venezuelans tend to use a lot of emotions in their politics. However, I am in a safe city, and I hope the elections bring forth some stability. People in other areas are going without turkey, cheese, bread, and other foods because there isn't enough to go around. Here, it is hard to find napkins. Prices have skyrocketed and anyone in the party, nightlife, or liquor business has lost an incredible profit.

The bars open tomorrow though and I expect them to be packed.


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