Of petrolium and 'poliedrum'

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — How can I write what I must without saying what I can’t? Well, I must hope you find hidden within my words what I can’t say out loud.

My whole country is being censored, and I am no exception. It is only natural though; that is what dictatorships do.

“We are not sure that words can always save lives, but we know that silence certainly can kill,” humanitarian activist James Orbinski said in 1999.

Recently, an acquaintance of mine was kidnapped. Only after arduous negotiations was he released. His family, as it was healing after the trauma, received one last call from the kidnappers. This time, they were asking for a special favor, a recommendation. “The family of a new victim has refused to negotiate a release,” they asked the family over the phone. “Can you give them a call to confirm our good standing as serious people? Please tell them about our recent business experience.”

 A boy with blood on his body in front of police after a 14-year-old student was shot during a protest in San Cristóbal. Photo credit: Reuters

 A boy with blood on his body in front of police after a 14-year-old student was shot during a protest in San Cristóbal. Photo credit: Reuters

In my country, surviving has become a luxury, and impunity the norm.

However, it is inspiring to witness how some risk their lives to keep the country moving. I know doctors who have saved criminals, free of charge, on a daily basis, because “it is not their place to judge.” And the criminals’ plea? “Let the doctors do their job and we do ours.”

One doctor told me that two hours after saving a gunned-down victim, he had to save the offender who had crashed in the motorcycle he had recently stolen from the victim. During this surreal episode, the victim kept quiet, “for fear of reprisal against himself or his family” given that the criminal is his next-door neighbor. When asked about the experience of saving both the victim and perpetrator, the doctor’s answer was the same: “It is not my place to judge.”

We were once a prosperous state, even a nation, yet today my country is not making it until the end of the month. We have the world’s biggest oil reserves yet the government has failed to invest in them. From an example of prosperity, we have become the go-to bucket case for resource mismanagement, the world’s most dangerous country, the kidnap capital of the globe, and a society bitterly divided along political lines.

Today, a drug lord is running the second highest office of the ‘revolutionary’ establishment, pardon the oxymoron but after fifteen years in power, the so-called ‘revolution’, has become the political establishment. Yet, as the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the ABC have uncovered, the sunny days for the international drug cartel, and its notorious top-dog, might be coming to an abrupt end.

The dictatorship, without charges or a proper trial, imprisons opposition leaders in military garrisons. Those unfairly jailed are showing overwhelming bravery by going on a hunger strike to protest against a dictatorship that wants them dead. It is actually breathtakingly courageous to protest at all against a dictatorship that has legalized the use of deadly force against dissidents, and adopted a policy of systematic torture.

But another oxymoron is spreading misery. The national currency that calls itself strong is deplorably weak, the liberator is devaluating daily. Words typically uttered in Cuba, open today every conversation in my streets: “No es facil” (it is not easy). Our currency is heading towards hyperinflation due to the destruction of domestic production, the printing of inorganic cash, the squandering of international reserves and gold stashes, the super-liquidity generated by thoughtless quantitative easing, fiscal deficit, the plummeting oil price, and the speed of the expenditure cycle.

This economic disaster is not only a self-powering cycle and self-fulfilling curse, but it is also exacerbated by the international loss of confidence in a dictatorship that cannot figure out how to keep an oil refinery working. The current devastating scarcity is the undesirable by-product of the maladministration. The complete economic collapse seems to be the inevitable final act. If the economy spirals into a downright breakdown like Zimbabwe in 2008, Germany in 1923, or Argentina in 1989, the builders of the ‘revolution’ shall be victims to their monstrous creation.

The ‘revolution’, or ‘rob-o-lution’ like how it is commonly called in the streets, has armed countless militias to defend their establishment. They have also purged the armed forces to make them a conglomerate of loyal minions. But like any other dictatorship, they fear a pinky soaked in electoral ink. Hence, the regime refuses to give a date for the constitutionally-mandated parliamentary elections that ought to be held before the end of the year. Dictators also dread students and a liberal education. Consequently, yet dreadfully, the regime has declared that all university admissions will be appointed by their autocratic finger. This dictatorship seems to be allergic to ink, newspapers, and a liberal education. It is only logical though; those who censor fear the power of enlightenment.

The builders of this ‘revolution,’ who cloak their lavishness behind a populist charade, would make the liberator ashamed of his name. While the country’s purchasing power runs weaker and weaker, the empty pots boil warmer and warmer. Some newspapers recognize the pot-bangers as the embodiment of disillusion. Yet I hear something else in the streets, I hear the open fractures of the popular support basis. And if you listen closely, you too will listen to an awe-inspiring tic-tac, tic-tac…

Venezuelan students joining the  hunger strike protest. Photo credit: worldbulletin.net

Venezuelan students joining the  hunger strike protest. Photo credit: worldbulletin.net

I profoundly reject the evil cousin of censorship, self-censorship. I invite you to join the ethic of refusal. Do not remain silent, do not become an accessory of tyranny. Even if it is by just finding out what country I am writing about, I invite you to break the dictatorship’s censoring wall and never to confuse silence with neutrality.

In an epic plot twist, the recent hunger strikes might end up starving the dictatorship. Bread and circus, the Romans called such form of government. Yet, any comparison would be a disfavor to the Romans. I call it petroleum and “poliedrum” because the dictatorship cannot buy enough bread to make it until the end of month.

cartoon credit: Wnd website, 2013.


Alfredo Malaret

International Affairs and Development Policy M.A. at Penn State University, State College PA Summa Cum Laude graduate from Fairleigh Dickinson University, holder of a Post-Graduate Diploma in Philosophy from Bradenton Preparatory Academy, former player in NCAA Division I Collegiate Soccer, former contributor for The Equinox. "I refuse to accept politics in exclusive terms of self-interested human nature and ‘strategic interests’ of states. Yet, the international society seems to be turning a blind eye while my country crumbles. Juggling with seemingly antagonistic forces, the intrinsic duality in international relations between idealism and realism, I will present the case of why Venezuela matters and ought to matter."