A Disease Called Power

An Essay by Noris Roberts

I will begin by pointing out that this is not intended to be a partisan political statement, to offend or attack anyone in particular. I write and express what I feel and observe, as a simple citizen. I intend to declare my pain and astonishment seeing that my country is being systematically destroyed and its people humiliated and decimated. In the last 2 years nearly 4 million have emigrated, not because of a war, they’ve emigrated because they foresaw no future, because of hunger and lack of medicine, for not having personal or legal security and basically because they were psychologically affected for living in a permanent state of uncertainty.

The country’s setback is so serious that it has been recognized by most countries in the world. Nobody questions or doubts that Venezuela is going through a huge crisis, although some countries deny it, minimize it or take advantage of it because of economic, strategic, “ideological” or for their own political purposes. Venezuela was considered a “rich” country; today having an 85% scarcity in food and medicine seems implausible, a made up tale, but it’s the reality. It has been impoverished and devastated slowly, not by a war, because it’s a victim of a disease called power.

Our country is immersed in a crisis that was implanted, with cynicism and indolence, by Venezuelans, although it was not created by everyone. The task was implemented by a large number of tiny economic groups and political associates that took advantage of the good faith of the majority of citizens and because a large part of the population, sunk in years of ignorance and overwhelmed by a permanent propaganda campaign, meekly got accustomed to receive crumbs from the State and, conforming to that, got used to not making an effort to achieve anything at all. The destruction was also propelled and propped up by opportunistic groups and individuals who, like the suckerfishes accompanying the shark, aspired to acquire positions of power in order to take advantage and make overnight fortunes. Perhaps one could conclude that the general stance of the population was one of complicity and indifference, only pursuing their own economic welfare regardless the fate of the country. They remained silent, applauded, adapted themselves to the situation and ultimately endorsed what was happening. Those who raised their voices dissenting and not bowing down or openly refusing to accept what was and is now happening, were and are persecuted, censored, exiled or imprisoned. The result of all this is what we unfortunately have today as a country.

An oil country with a small population; an enviable geographical location; an example for other countries during certain periods of its history; that had some cycles of amazing development; that has hydrological resources, fertile lands, forests, jungles and minerals of all kinds; brilliant men of science, letters, music and sports, lost its way and became a regrettable caricature of misfortune, corruption and carelessness. It’s not only food and medicine are scarce; diseases that were eradicated resurface; aggressiveness, distrust and violence flourish; corruption is consented and justice is flagrantly distorted. For a long time now, decades, the country has been subjected to permanent campaigns of destabilization and alarm, caused and promoted premeditatedly by the Venezuelans themselves. The country, adrift, has seen with perplexity how some individuals became immensely rich while the country was gradually dismantled, falling into pieces and cornered in a dark moral, spiritual and economic poverty.

A country in which the State owns production lands; sugar refineries, coffee plantations, food processing facilities, cement factories, banks, hotels, sea and air transportation lines, the main telephone and Internet company; manufacturer of steel, aluminum; electricity, water supplier; radio stations, television channels, commercialization companies; builder of highways, houses and at the end…, ironically, does not produce anything because it is inefficient, but mostly because it is corrupt. In order to cover everything up, since the State is never responsible for anything, it sells the idea to the people, through continuous, grotesque, false and shameless propaganda campaigns, that against the country there is an economic war or a media war or a dollar war or electric war, which is fomented and executed by political opponents or foreign interests… If so, the State has shown itself to be absolutely incapable and inefficient to win these wars. This is clearly seen when, from 2016 to this date, an Economic Emergency was decreed (No.2.184) and renewed 13 times “to assure the population the full enjoyment of their rights, preserve internal order, timely access to goods and services, food, medicines and other products essential to life” and this resulted in one of the greatest hyperinflations in world’s history, public transportation reduced to 10% of its capacity and more scarcity of medicine and food. It is also evident that the State failed when the electrical installations, in 2013, were militarized when the so called Great Electrical Mission was announced: “We are going to militarize, that is the word, all these electrical installations that, in addition, now become security zones to protect and avoid any kind of sabotage action”. In the end, the electrical installations were, according to the State, permanently sabotaged by iguanas, lightning, cyber attacks, electromagnetic pulses, terrorists and snipers; however, there was not or has there been, proof of these supposed attacks. As a consequence of this “State and military protection” we’ve had permanent blackouts that seriously affected the economy, health, education, drinking water supply and the general welfare and mental stability of the population. The only war the State truly won was to stay in power.

Historians will capture this period and will be highlighted as one of the most macabre and nefarious of our history. The pages will not be written in ink, they will be written with tears and blood. They will describe a period in which love and peace were sung to the people, but at the same time State policy subjected them to a ferocious psychological terror, economic and social intimidation and falsehoods. It will A period that was promoted as a “great emancipatory epic”, rhetoric mounted by spiteful and perverse people, but which in fact left aside the basic interests and rights of its citizens. A period when the social pact agreed in the Venezuelan Constitution was violated; in where, with the approval and encouragement of the State, many citizens became high-level predators and others of lower level, called “bachaqueros” (large red ants), whom immorally and unscrupulously took advantage, like cannibals, the needs of others. In this pitiful history there will be a very special chapter highlighting the use of justice as a political weapon and a chapter that will have notorious components, unusual and not previously seen, of those who carried out this process, those who will have a privileged place, those who supported the surrender of the sovereignty of their own country to other countries; of turning the country into a spillway for terrorist groups and for having had close ties with drug trafficking.

It is debatable whether we deserved this or not, or whether it was caused by the naivety of a people who believed in siren calls or by not understanding the true value of freedom and the fragility of democracy. What is clear is that this is a lesson that must not be forgotten and must remain engraved in the DNA of the Venezuelans so that it does not happen again. It must never be forgotten how the ruin and the future of several generations were executed, turning a country into a grotesque caricature caused by a disease called power.

Chinatown

A Poem by Sandy Benitez

Let’s pretend we can speak Chinese.
We’ll get symbols of Chinese words
tattooed on our arms,
wear sleeveless tees
in Chinatown.

Or maybe we should just be
ourselves for once.
Order Chinese takeout,
throw out the cookies and not the fortunes,
save the chopsticks as drink mixers,
and eat with forks.

Learn how to make fried rice
from scratch.
Save the tattoo money
for a rainy day.
Go see a martial arts movie
starring Jet Li.

Why Alexander the Great Left Nubia

Stories from the Talmud retold by Mirian

Alexander the Great was famous for his military might. When countries heard he was approaching, they would all but tremble with fright!

One day, Alexander the Great had set out to conquer a small village in Africa run by women. Word got out. The Nubian leaders gathered their skirt in their hand, and with their head scarves flaying in the wind, bolted towards the queen. A quick meeting needed to be done!

In quick hushed voice they spoke in their native African tongue. What should they do? How can they ever defeat the Great Alexander. Slowly slowly a plan was devised.

The day came. Alexander the Great and all his military might approached.

They came and towered over the entrance of the village. Lo and behold! Without weapons, the women came out. One by one, led by the queen in all her regality. It was a quiet but noble and beautiful procession. Drums played suspensfully in the background and no one spoke a word, save the the excited wind blowing around them.

Finally, the queen spoke.

“I salute you, the great and mighty Alexander. You are well known for your fierceness in battle and for your great victories.”

Everyone listened intently.

“We women have protected and defended our village alone. And we have been successful! Now, if you should come and attack us and win, what would it be said? The great Warrior fought with women and won?! What kind of victory would that be?”

The Queen paused to let the idea sink in. Then she continued, “Now supposing WE WON? What would be said then?”

With a faint smile, Alexander the Great, conceded, “You are wise. I will not conquer your land. Now fetch some bread for me and my men and we will be off!”

The queen bowed graciously and returned with her whole procession back into their village. As soon as they were out of sight, again they hurried and huddled to think and talk.

He needs bread? they wondered. Surely, there is a trick to this! So they, again, devised another plan.

After a few minutes, once again the whole solemn procession came out bearing bread. By then everyone had dismounted from their horses and waited for the bread. The women passed bread to everyone. However, when they bit into the bread, they realized it was hard! Each bread had inside of it gold!

“What is this!” Cried Alexander.

“Great and mighty Alexander” The queen began, unperturbed, “would you really be satisfied to come all the way over here… for a morsel of bread?”

With this, Alexander nodded and left. But before he left, he wrote on the gate of their city: “I, Alexander of Macedon, was a fool before having come to this country of women in Africa and having received their advice.”