Venezuelan Students Reclaim Discourse Around Their Country

Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/Staff Writer

As a Venezuelan living in the U.S. I have to clear up misconceptions about what is happening in my country on a daily basis.

On Tuesday, April 30, the image of a Venezuelan National Guard vehicle driving into a crowd of anti-government protesters in Caracas, the nation’s capital shocked viewers around the world.

From his unconstitutional nullification of the National Assembly, to his orders for national police forces and citizen militia to kill and jail protestors, Nicolás Maduro and his administration have exercised hideous abuses of power since his induction in 2013.

“It’s just a combination of human rights violations, the arbitrary exercise of power, unconstitutional elections and obviously just the incredible level of corruption,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a political science professor at FIU and expert on Venezuelan politics.

Because there are many Venezuelan students at FIU, there has been an increase in frustration over misconceptions surrounding Venezuela and the appropriation of the country’s crisis by political groups and think tanks.

“People are uneducated about the situation and like to give their opinions without having much information gathered,” said Daunid Cordero, a junior majoring in recreational therapy. “I was born in Barquisimeto and moved to the U.S. when I was 3. Unfortunately, besides my parents, the rest of my family didn’t get the opportunity to come and have suffered through many years of dictatorship.”

The attitude of superiority many seem to have over Venezuelans when discussing the country’s crisis is not new.

However, opposition by non-Venezuelans towards Guaidó and U.S. support of Guaidó takes many forms, not all of which are rooted in the far left’s ideological purity. Simply put, sometimes it’s less political and more selfish.

“I personally went to see the protest in front of the Ocean Bank Convocation Center when Trump visited FIU and I was quite surprised with the amount of people who disagreed with the U.S. supporting the change for Venezuela,” said sophomore and international business major Sebastian Rodriguez.

He recalls seeing a man holding a sign reading, “Hands off Venezuela. Cuba is enough to deal with.”

“I curiously walked to him and asked him why he didn’t think the U.S. should intervene and he responded, ‘Venezuela is in South America and why would we want to help a country that is not benefiting us?’”

Although Rodriguez was aggravated by the man’s response, he walked away, thinking of members of his own family who sacrificed everything they had in order to flee the country to start anew.

“So many Venezuelans have migrated not only to the U.S. but across the world to simply look for opportunity,” he said. “The man’s response to my question led me to understand that there are still individuals who are clueless of the desperation that the Venezuelan people are going through.”

Andrea Vacca, a senior majoring in communications, recalls a discussion that arose in a group chat for a global studies class.

“Someone mentioned that President ‘Trump should be helping more appreciative people rather than Venezuelans.’ That comment seemed like an insult to Venezuelans who were a part of the class,” she said. Vacca also believes that, before people comment on issues like military intervention in Venezuela, they must inform themselves on what is going on in the country.

So what is going on?

With the highest inflation rate in the world – it reached 2.29 million percent last February – basic necessities like food and medicine are unaffordable, despite the massive shortages that the country has.

“The absolute level of corruption shows in the way in which the government has essentially taken the wealth of this country and made it into one of the poorest in the world. [Maduro’s] management of the economy is atrocious,” said Gamarra.  “A lot of his followers say that the collapse of the economy is because of the way in which the U.S. is at sanctions against the regime. No! This is a country that has collapsed long before the U.S. started to apply the sanctions.”

Another huge misconception, said Cordero, is that “people think there is an illegitimate coup going on when Guaidó is being backed by a majority of countries.”

Those are 65 countries, to be exact, some of which are led by socialist rulers who agree that what is going on in Venezuela is a tyrannical abuse of power.

“The United States, most countries in the Western hemisphere and many countries around the world recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela,” said Brian Fonseca, an FIU expert on Venezuela. “They’ve reached this conclusion largely because of a rule by the National Assembly earlier in January to vote for Guaidó to serve as interim president declaring that the previous election held by Maduro was illegitimate.”

Despite the frustration experienced abroad, Venezuelan students can maintain a sense of optimism.

“I believe that Venezuelans around the world are being supported more than ever before in history,” said Vacca. “Non-Venezuelans have continuously followed along with current news and the situation of the country and have come together to help Venezuelans.”

Vacca has been living in Miami since the age of 4. Because things have not been looking up, she says that like many Venezuelans she hasn’t been able to visit her homeland as much as she used to.

“I try to maintain the same traditions such as playing gaitas during Christmas time and making hallacas with the family,” she says.

Part of surviving is making what you can of your new surroundings. Like these students, many other Venezuelans are proud to call Miami and FIU their new home.

Featured photo by Victor Jorges.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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