Silence, everyone is silent, those voices who wish to scream remain under the soil. Their voices have been taken away, and we, the ones who have that voice, we are afraid to raise it; afraid they will take it away from us too, afraid that we will be silenced, afraid that it will be censored and that they will damage it to the point that we won’t be able to raise it by ourselves.
Silence; the crime that we all have been found guilty from. We’ve been silent, silent about the genocide in Rwanda, about the war in Syria, and now we are once again while the calvary of the Venezuelan people is happening.
We’ve all been silent, believing it’s something normal, turning a blind eye to the facts, acting like we are clueless about what is happening, with any other subject we act like we are the wisest people, but when it comes to subjects like this one we all casually become, blind, deaf and mute. Until it happens first-hand to us, and in that moment we find us asking to ourselves: ¿Where is everyone? ¿Why won’t anyone listen to me?, and we realize how mistaken we were, the mistakes we had done, and that is when it is too late, when there is no turning back, there are some who are lucky enough to live in ignorance, some of us are not as lucky as them, some of us do not even know what it is like to live under democracy in all the time we’ve been around on earth.
That is my case, my name is Mihal Mizrahi and I am one of those unlucky, I was born in a country of beautiful white-sanded beaches, of hardworking, warm, friendly people, a country in which bananas and coconuts grow freely, in the beloved country of Venezuela, on October 28 of 2002, which means I was born under the yoke of the Chavismo movement and their so called “Bolivarian revolution”, yes, that same revolution that promised not to devaluate the bolivar, not to censor the media, the eradication of crime, the restoration of the hopes of the poorest, the one that promised not to nationalize the industry, not to nationalize the banks and the payment of the external debt, yes, that same one that 20 years later has claimed more than 300,000 deaths, which has caused the migration of about 4 million people, yes, the same revolution that uses the power given from the people, towards them.
And yet, here we are in 2019, 20 years after the revolution, without any promises fulfilled, with the bolivar devalued countless times, with all the banks and the industries already nationalized, seeing how the murders increased from 1500 to 30,000 per year, how 80% of the population is plunged into poverty, where inflation reaches 1,000,000%, where prices double every few weeks and where hunger sweeps the country.
And somehow it seems ironic growing up singing the national anthem, repeating ourselves that we were never going to let ourselves be governed by despotism, but yet we have a despotic government, that the law respects virtue and honor, when “law” is no more than a word that has lost all meaning, that we do not have chains, that there is no more slavery, when all the people are slaves of this regime, where we scream “Death to the oppression” while we are being oppressed daily.
And right now I am that person who is silent, who is silent about the horrors that were happening with others and who kept silent about the horrors that were happening to me, and I am the same person who asks ¿Where is everyone? ¿How come nobody raises their voice? ¿How can this occur in what we call a “globalized world”? Because we already ran out of the same lame old excuses to justify our ignorance, now we have internet, we just have to share a post and all our friends will be able to read about what we think and to keep up with our daily lives and then I ask myself again ¿How is it possible that people care more about how many likes an egg receives (the world record egg account) than if a child ate for the first time in a few days?, this is why I’ve written this essay, to give my voice a shape, so my thoughts can reach whomever is reading this, and if I was able to influence on somebody’s way of thinking, then I can consider my mission here as successful, because that is how life is based on, chains of influence, influencing somebody means influencing on a whole group of people.
The problem of the situation in Venezuela is that nobody can really understand (because it is really unimaginable to imagine such situation) the magnitude of the problem and therefore, much less the causes, which is what I will explain through this essay.
The shortage in Venezuela is the result of many factors, the companies that produced the largest number of products were nationalized, the new directors of the companies (of course chosen by the government) have no experience, nor have they opened an accounting book in their life, another factor is the fact that it was not enough for Maduro to ruin the national industry, but now the country has to import more and more, to pay for these imports dollars are required and between the fact that the country is impoverished to such an extent that the dollars are basically non-existent (unless you look for them in the black market) and the sanctions imposed by the US and the obvious saying “the scarcer, the more valuable” , it makes it impossible to maintain a stable economy.
And the government? The government does nothing but covering with a carpet the holes left in its promises, to the point that in summer the government withdrew many zeros (five to be exact) on the bills and launched a new currency “El bolívar soberano” trying to somehow cheat the people, now logically a big question comes to the surface. If you do not have the money needed to fulfill your promises, to feed your people, then from where do you get the money to create millions of bills and distribute them ?, but again, logic is not one of the biggest strengths of the Chavismo. At that time, 1 dollar was equivalent to 60 bolivars, at the time that you are reading this essay it is equivalent to 3292 bolívares soberanos or better said 329200000 of the previous bolivars.
Recently some photos went public (or rather those photos were existing only that nobody paid them the necessary attention) malnourished children, hospitals without doctors, without the adequate materials, pictures showing children and elderly people dead in the hospital because of the lack of medicines, the sad truth is that these photos show a reality that has existed for a long time, the world was silent while the doctors operated without anesthesia, while the patients, were not receiving the necessary medication, and just when it is almost too late is that the world begins to wake up.
In spite of everything, Venezuelans have suffered the rejection of the world, for example in Ecuador a young Venezuelan man murdered his wife, which resulted in outbreaks of violence in Brazil and Ecuador against Venezuelan immigrants, the population demanded that the Venezuelans evicted their hotels, homes and parks where they slept, and demanded their exit, sounds familiar doesn’t it? (but we will get into that later).
Right in 2019 87% of the population is immersed in poverty, 60% of the population declares itself as in extreme poverty, the water is dirty and unhealthy, electricity is quite scarce and if it comes, it comes for a few hours a day, and until recently in the supermarket you could only buy food and sanitary products once a week according to the final digits of your ID, now this leads to two problems, starting with the long waiting lines on the supermarket, and continuing with the shortage of this products, for example, the day when the market was replenished with diapers (in this case let’s suppose it is a Tuesday), people bought them in large quantities even though they did not need them, to sell them on the black market for triple the price and adding the lines of people in the supermarket waiting to buy anything they can it is pretty obvious that the products will run out, now a single mother whose digits indicated that her day of purchase was on Mondays, obviously didn’t not get a chance to buy the basic hygiene products to take care of her son, and so on a daily basis, not only with diapers, but with food as well, a family of 5 would probably only have food for 3 of them and that is if they got lucky enough.
As if it were not enough Maduro oppresses the media, he imprisons anyone who is against him, the prisons are full of innocent people, suffering the abuses of jailers, daily beatings, and of course lack of food, most of the times they were not even entitled to a fair trial, and the evidence against them consisted on them having a leaflet of the opposition, and again the world was silent while being witness of the illegal arrests against those who were back then the only hope the country had left, Leopoldo López, Antonio Ledezma and in his time Enrique Capriles whose only crime was to oppose despotism and the order to mistreat the people.
But everything comes to an end, and everything comes to a breaking point, and it is at that point when you have nothing left to lose, when you realize that you have nothing left, when you see the world crumble at your feet , when you are starving, when you are sick, tired, when your freedom is non-existent, when you witness abuses, that’s when all you have left is to fight and hope, and there’s nothing to lose, you fight, you protest, it does not matter if the death can be a possible consequence, that desire and that longing for freedom that is so basic and proper to the human being, that’s when one explodes, and screams, to the four winds, and asks for help and says I’m her, I exist and I am present, and screams again with hope of being heard and rescued, that’s when the protests begin, those protests that open the eyes of those who pretended to be deaf, blind and mute, those protests in which people see through the news in astonishment, without understanding how it is possible only to see a sea of people in the street, crying out for freedom and sovereignty, without understanding how desperate they are that they had to reach that point, without understanding how nobody has done anything to help those undernourished people with sad eyes that speak on the tv begging for help, and it’s a bit hypocritical, right? Expecting people to do something without us taking the first step.
And when the government ignores the prayers of the people, when it begins to silence the voices of the people, that is when the fury feeds, when those voices will make more noise than ever, in those moments where manifestants are killed, chemical weapons are used, crimes against humanity are committed and the world witnesses in silence, that’s when the government is empowered, where we are as guilty as the same government of Maduro, in that moment in which we decide to ignore rather than acting because it is easier than accepting reality, and in that moment again I will dare repeating that, that it is where we are worse than Maduro, just like Desmond Tutu used to say “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”, and we are worse for the simple fact that the dictatorship of Maduro is no longer the one that silences the voices, we are the ones who refuse to listen to them, and the voices are still there waiting to be heard by someone brave enough.
How is it possible that we have reached that point where three trucks full of protesters transporting humanitarian aid where literally exploded by Maduro’s regime? How can we sit down to eat three times a day knowing that all that food burned in flames and because of that several people will die of hunger? When did this situation reach this level? Where is the UN? Where are the actions rather than the words? And this seems like a lot, but this is only what has been happening for the last two weeks. Is it possible to imagine what it was like for 20 years?
Previously I had mentioned that I was going to relate this to a subject that resembles this one, the holocaust, the world kept silent knowing the atrocities that were happening to us, nobody raised their voice, the result? 6 million of us dead, and some will dare to say that it does not resemble at all but alas I will quote Mark Twain with his famous phrase “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes”, we more than any other people know what harm silence does, and still , we are silent, we are silent while we are seeing our 14,000 Jewish brothers and sisters in Venezuela, it seems that we do not know how to apply what we have learned, it seems that we forgot our own history, and part of repeating each year the “Yizkor ve lo Yishkaj” “Remembering and not forgetting”is to learn from it, to use that knowledge for the future generations, but, what is it worth?
How can we remain silent after this? How can we remain silent when our Torah speaks about “Tikun Olam”, when it is explicitly mentioned in the Mishnah? Tikun Olam literally translates as “Fixing the world” and connotes social action and the pursuit of social justice, so isn’t it a little hypocritical to comply with symbolic rites while forgetting about its base? What really counts? What is the purpose of reading the same prayers every day, carrying out the festivities but missing the most basic stuff? What is the purpose of fasting on Yom Kippur when, day after day, we commit the greatest sin? Is it by unconsciousness or by making us ourselves unconscious?
Perhaps the cause is that we have forgotten what Venezuela has done for us as Jews, welcoming Jews who escaped the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War, and not to mention what they have done for Israel as a country, beginning with the vote for the creation of our country in 1947, in the Yom Kippur war many Venezuelans came to fight to defend Israel even if it was not their homeland, when the United Nations passed General Assembly Resolution 3379 on November 10, 1975, determining that Zionism a form of racism and racial discrimination; Venezuela abstained. The resolution was later revoked.
Now, many people will probably wonder, “and I as a simple citizen what can I do for Venezuela? I don’t have anything to do!” Brother or Sister, you have all the power in your hands, you have your voice, raise it! make yourself heard, create awareness of what is happening, misinformation is the best way to manage a country since it leads to ignorance, more than once it has happened to me that my schoolmates believed that I spoke Italian and that Venice was the same as Venezuela, if we do not even know the existence of Venezuela as a country. How do we expect its crisis to be known? Let’s educate the youth, they are our future and those responsible for this not to happen again, we have the power and therefore the responsibility to communicate this to the following generations, that this does not happen again and we have the opportunity to change it now, to remove the bandages that cover our eyes, the tape that covers our mouths and the noise of disinformation and ignorance that covers our ears, because before being citizens of our own country we are human beings, citizens of the world.
Today I took off my bandages, my tapes and the noise while making this essay, I have been silent for 16 years but from today on I will not do it anymore, I will not be an accomplice of this massacre, this regime, or this bloodbath and you?