“I am not a politician, I do not have any actual power … But I can protest and raise my voice and I’ve been doing this for 16 years.”
Ana Gabriela García is a mother, wife and a human resources manager at Vencret services in Caracas, Venezuela. Garcia has been protesting in Caracas, like thousands of other Venezuelans. Tear-gas bombs, police forces’ repression, rubber bullets, explosions, deaths, have characterized a day in Caracas, and other cities around the nation, in the past two weeks.
People are taking the streets to demonstrate their disapproval of Nicolás Maduro’s government and the humanitarian crisis in the Caribbean country. Venezuelans are calling for elections and the release of political prisoners. According to Venezuelan authorities, at least five people have died in these protests.
The protests went international on Saturday April 15, with more than 50 countries holding demonstrations supporting the #NoMas protests.
“We are in dictatorship, we are not free, there is no freedom of expression.. we are basically kidnapped inside our own country,” Garcia said.
A series of decrees ended in these demonstrations. A few weeks ago, the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) reported it would assume the powers of the National Assembly (AN- Local Legislature), mostly conformed by the opposition, and three days later backed down. However, the damage was already done.
“There wasn’t an actual retraction, because once a crime was committed, you can’t say you didn’t do it,” said Allan Brewer-Carías, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela and an expert on the Venezuelan constitution. Brewer-Carías explained that the only thing the court did “was to confess that they usurped power and violated the constitution.”
Another situation that increased tensions in Venezuela was the disqualification of the political opposition leader and former presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski. The country’s comptroller decided that governor Capriles will not be able to hold public office for 15 years. Another fact that Brewer-Carías considers unconstitutional.
Capriles was suspended for alleged administrative irregularities. However, Brewer-Carías said this political prohibition is not dictated through an administrative body.
According to the constitution, “disabling someone from running for office can only be done through a judicial decision,” Brewer-Carías said, “and this decision implies that his mandate has been revoked, and this can only be revoked by a popular vote of the people, not by the comptroller.”
In addition to these decrees, Venezuela has one of the worst economies in the world. Since 2013 Venezuela has been going through a fiscal crisis due to poor management of its economy and falling oil prices. Venezuela is now considered the country with the world’s worst inflation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated last year that inflation in the Caribbean country could reach the 1600% this year.
As a result, people are left without food or medicine. The South American country that was once considered the richest in Latin America, is now one of the poorest. According to a survey conducted by three universities in Venezuela, 85% of its households live in poverty. Because of this situation 72.7% of the population has lost about 19 pounds.
Violence is something that has also plagued the streets of Venezuela. The country is considered the second most dangerous country in Latin America. The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) predicts that there are almost 30,000 deaths a year.
“In a week someone tried to robbed me 3 times… Last week during a protest, my cell phone was stolen,” Garcia said. “We all know someone who has been robbed or kidnapped.”
Garcia said it’s hard to always walk thinking about the possibility of being kidnapped or killed.
At the moment, Venezuelans who are out of the country are looking for ways to help those who are trapped. For example, a group of Venezuelans in Miami is collecting first aid supplies to send to doctors in Venezuela. Venezuelan students at the University of Florida are helping raise funds to send to the organizers in Miami.
“I want to help my country in what they need, in the way I can, so hopefully in the future I can come back to my home,” said Andres Cubeddu, a civil engineering student.
Students send money through Venmo, an application for money transfers. The group in Miami buys and sends the first aid equipment to the medicine students of the Central University of Venezuela.
They are not the only ones in Gainesville worried about the situation in the Caribbean country. La Aurora, a small Hispanic goods’ market on Newberry Street, wrote a FaceBook post in support, along with a song by Venezuelan artist Nacho: “We want to take this moment to dedicate this song to everyone who’s feeling the pain of Venezuela… We don’t want another Cuba.”
“At this moment there is no limit … the protests will continue because we are the majority and we have to face this dictatorship,” Garcia said.
The Bureau of Democratic Unity (MUD), the opposition party, called for a massive march on April 19 from 26 points in Caracas.