Americas, Venezuela, Opinion, Politics, World

Venezuela and Nicolas Maduro: 1984 is a Novel, Not a Script!

A few years ago, I read 1984 for my English class. I almost burst into tears when reaching the final pages, discovering how awful the future is in our own Orwellian Venezuelan novel written by Nicolas Maduro.

George Orwell was an English novelist with a profound awareness of social injustice that marked his works and life. Two of his best-known novels were Animal Farm (written in 1945) and 1984 (written in 1949). For our English classes at the university, we had to read with our students both of these works and discuss all the symbols and allegories that are displayed through their characters. There is no class where students miss to point out how similar our reality nowadays depicts more and more aspects of both novels, particularly 1984.

Ministry of Love

In the novel, this is the ministry in charge of chasing and sending those to jail who don’t follow the party’s rules and commands. They are tortured until they accept to love and embrace Big Brother. In Venezuela, the police, military, and other armed forces have been fighting against what they call “terrorists”, meaning any citizen who dares to protests against Nicolas Maduro and the government. By protesting they close streets or organize demonstrations. These people are sometimes caught and sent to trial under the accusations of “treason” to the motherland.  In August 2017, 600 people were arrested for political reasons. Although this number has decreased, we still have 317 people in jail waiting for a judge to decide upon their future.

The ones that have been arrested have repeatedly described experiencing a living hell at the hand of the ones who should be protecting the people – policemen, and guards. Victims have claimed to have been verbally and sexually abused, beaten and forced to eat toxic material while they were being questioned or while waiting for a “fair” trial. Room 101 looks like a playground compared to the stories these Venezuelans have to tell.

Ministry of Truth

Orwell depicted a state organization in charge of all the information available to citizens. In 1984 they would change the information in history because it was not “accurate”. They also created a new language called Newspeak. It was intended to be the party’s new official minimalist language, that would prevent future crimes, because actions, language, and thought would be aligned under the veil of the party.

In Venezuela, only in 2017, 46 radio stations and 3 TV channels have been canceled. The state under Nicolas Maduro has decided not to renew their permissions to operate in the country and therefore the media has been left out of the picture. Besides this, journals face continuous threats and printing resources are more difficult to find than ever. Many of them have gone completely digital in order to continue existing in Venezuela. The cherry on top of this awful cake is the new “Law against hatred” that took effect a few weeks ago.

It establishes that:

“Those who publicly, or through any means suitable for public communication, promote or incite hatred, discrimination or violence against a person or group of people, because of their real or alleged membership of a certain social, ethnic, religious, political group, or sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or any other discriminatory motive, will be punished with imprisonment of ten to twenty years”

Doesn’t it sound just great? Big flaw, the law doesn’t define hatred anywhere. So, be careful with what you tweet, Nicolas Maduro and his Venezuelan Ministry of Truth may come and get you.

Ministry of Plenty

They control food, goods, and domestic production. Every once in a while, they publish numbers to make people believe domestic production is on the rise and the country has enough food for everyone. Up to this point, I challenge you to discover if I was talking about 1984 or Venezuela.

Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan government have created this new boogie man called “Economic War”, that is responsible for every single problem in the country. No food in the supermarket? Blame the right-wing company owners, who promote the economic war and let the people starve. No money for imports? Blame Trump, who decided to penalize “Venezuela”, since he leads the economic war. Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan government have now a food plan in which they deliver boxes of food to “all the country” to fight the economic war. The truth: it is not enough for a month, it changes according to the area you live in, you have to belong to the party to get it in most of the cases since its delivery depends on the community committee.

Ministry of Peace

The one in charge of the war, of course. We already have a Ministry of Domestic Affairs, Justice, and Peace, so you can check that box already. Venezuela has bought more than 5.657 million dollars in guns and military equipment from Russia, China, and Spain so far in the 17 years of revolution. Out of that quantity, approximately 1.535 million dollars have been spent in 2017. Nicolas Maduro and his government, however, do not reveal official numbers. All this information is taken from NGO’s that are constantly surveilling those actions. Each tear gas bomb used against civilians in street demonstrations costs around $40, which equals 10 months of salary nowadays.

I bet Venezuela is not the only country that can check some boxes from the Orwellian reality, and I wonder if Orwell thought of the scope his work was going to be able to cover. And, spoiler alert, it does not have a happy ending. It is now up to us to decide if we are going to let this 1984 script fully developed in Venezuela.

Be careful, Big Brother is watching you.

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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