Americas, Venezuela, Human Rights, Opinion, Politics

Plebiscite: What Does That Word Mean in Venezuela?

Sunday 16th of July. The Venezuelan people have decided to go and express their disagreement with Maduro’s administration through a local referendum, the Constituent National Assembly (ANC in Spanish) and their desire to go through an election process to reestablish the constitutional power in the country. For the government, it is an act of treason!

We have been discussing how the political turmoil in Venezuela has affected the way we make our choices, and also how this has affected what the world knows about us. After more than 100 days of continuous demonstrations, we Venezuelans chose once more to believe in voting, to believe in a system rather than in guns or coups d’état. The government, however, has intensified its strategies to demonize any demonstration of disagreement whatsoever to their Constituent National Assembly proposal (that, according to them, is not a proposal anymore, it is a fact; even though elections are supposed to be at the end of July)

Threats, Fear, and Blackmail

Many are the stories of people who have been threatened by the government groups (armed groups, community council, and neighborhood association) regarding their participation in Sunday’s referendum, and some others have revealed how the ones in charge of distributing food are exchanging boxes full of items just for those who support the ANC. Some public workers are afraid of losing their jobs if they vote, or even if they stay at home and don’t vote at all, the requirement is to go and support the “revolution,” to defend the “legacy of Chávez.” The city is already covered with thousands of giant Chavez´s eyes in a perfect 1984 style. Big brother is watching you, from heaven? Or hell? But definitively watching you.

I’m scared, not going to deny it. I will vote against the government. Half of my life I had experienced the decline of the country and thank God that by the time I was old enough to vote I had already cleared my teenage mind and started voting against what we STILL have today. Imagine how you would feel after being the opposed to the same government for more than ten years. Because the names may come and go, but the “revolution” has stayed the same. Some argue that Chávez was better, others say that it is the same, but he had more money. It is funny to see how people say that it was HIS money, not OURS, not the people’s.

Powerful and Deceiving Labels

The government knows how to handle language. From the very beginning, it started labeling the protests as “terrorist” attacks (boys with stones against armed military forces). Because nobody wants anything to do with terrorists, terrorists are not human, and they know this very well. Labels are powerful; they can make the world see us through a different filter. They can make a young 17-year-old musician who died in a protest as either a victim or a terrorist. Many young people have died during the brutal police repression of the protests, but what do they say? The government prefers to say that they and he specifically died BECAUSE of the protest, not because the military shot him in the chest, twice, with a “non-lethal” pellet gun. David Vallenilla was his name; he was 22.

It is already Sunday. As I write these lines my legs shake, let’s call it anxiety. We have dealt with that feeling for a long time now.

Make Me Believe

My social networks are overflowing with positive messages about the referendum. We still believe. Some people say that the government has already taken so much from us, that there is nothing else to be afraid of, but I think there is. People in power have proven to play the most terrible cards once they have decided to stay in power no matter what. I do believe it can get worse, at the same time I want to believe it will get better, someday, eventually, after some time. Maybe I need some of my friend’s hope to stop my legs from shaking.

Censorship All Over The Place

The latest news is that there is no news. Yes, just like that. The government has forbidden all public TV channels to talk about the referendum. It was not necessary since we no longer trust the TV, we turn to Twitter and Facebook for news. We know TV channels are being threatened and that they may be closed just like it happened back in 2007 with RCTV. Channels want to stay on air, and maybe if they survive the “revolution,” they will then show some of the truth to us and the world.

The government said that the result of Sunday’s referendum is not binding. And there is a tweet that beautifully gathered my and many Venezuelan’s feelings about that

@AlbertoRT51To “Those who say that the process this #Jul16 is not binding: The Independence act of #Jul5 was NOT binding for Ferdinand VII.”

About Isabel Matos

Isabel is a Venezuelan translator that struggles to find a voice and to prosper in today’s political turmoil and tension. She is also an undergraduate English teacher and is currently pursuing a Master’s in English as a Foreign Language. Translator, teacher and always student, she is interested in how language shapes reality and how women and men negotiate power through discourse.

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