After his death the world is mourning a socialist icon. A KU student from Venezuela says: save your tears for his people.
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was the president of Venezuela since 1998 until his death on March 5. There has been a lot of discussion about the good he did for my country and the man that he was.
In the West, he is often thought of as a Socialist hero. But when I think of President Chávez and his 14 years in power all I think of is how the homicide rate has more than tripled since he was elected.
With the elections coming up on April 14 the change he so often promised may have arrived.
“Kidnapped for a ransom and beaten”
It’s hard to talk about the current state of the country in a way other people can relate to. For me it means thinking about my aunt who had to drive her car across the border and wait a week before she was ‘allowed’ to call for insurance, or how the father of a friend was kidnapped for a ransom and beaten. However, on the police report it was safer for them to say “he fell down the stairs”.
It means remembering the girl I went to school with who was stabbed less than a block from her house because someone wanted her phone.
Victims of homicide higher than casualties of war
According to Fermín Mármol García, a Venezuelan criminologist, the murders trippled during Chávez’s time as president. To put it into context, from the 2003 Iraq invasion to January 2012, 116,705 civilians were killed in Iraq. At the same time, 124,221 people died in Venezuela.
The difference is that there was no war to justify such a high statistic. There were no high calibre guns, no massive explosions – just the results of a government that had done very little to control the violence steadily spreading on the streets.
Over 30 per cent of them still live below the poverty line. It is that 30 per cent that made up the majority of the votes who kept Chávez as president. They believed in what he had to say in his campaign and in him as a person. They had an almost blind trust that he was working on a better future for them.
If you look at the facts now, you see that out of all our presidents Chávez built the least amount of public housing, employment prospects have decreased and hospitals struggle for resources to treat people.
What it means
When I go home I can’t walk anywhere on my own. When it’s dark outside it is safer to stay inside. If I do go out, I cannot carry things of value and I better make sure my front door is locked. So in short: it means living in a constant state of paranoia and awareness.
Being able to afford to study abroad is a luxury that not many people have, I am well aware of that. But the fact that Europe is safer shouldn’t be the only, or the most attractive reason to leave Venezuela.