Yesterday the Police in San Cristóbal killed a 14-year boy during a demonstration.
Watching this sends shivers through my body as I remember last year’s protests resulting in too many dead bodies. Are protests starting again and why?
It is hard to write about the situation in Venezuela without getting tears in my eyes because everything seems hopeless. I went back to Venezuela this January to visit my friends and in many ways it seemed like nothing had really changed. The fruit guy was still on the corner saying hi to me, my friends were still there and the city looked the same. But Venezuela has changed since I left one year ago. It has changed to the worse.
I left in chaos last February 27th 2014. By that time several people had been killed during demonstrations, innocent people had been arrested and tortured, for what? The demonstrations did not lead to improvement of the issues people were protesting against. Returning 10 months later prices had risen to the extreme, the insecurity was still highly present, the lines to buy basic products had become longer and the society was as unorganized as ever. In addition to this, a new law has been passed that “grants power to the military to use force to control peaceful demonstrations”, according to the Human Rights Watch. In other words, the military can legally shoot people who protest! There could not be any clearer indications of things going downhill.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy being back in Venezuela. Again there were numerous comical situations and good moments, but I left with the feeling that things might turn bad, like last year. People were talking about protests starting up; just a matter of time? Why does tension always begin at this time of the year?
One of the reasons is that December is an inactive month. Christmas is a long and important holiday for Venezuelans. It is a time where people want to be happy, regardless of the chaos surrounding them. It is a time for being with the family and having a break from an everyday life that is more exhausting that it should be. In addition, people have more money in December because of Christmas Bonuses. Money tends to quiet people down. Then January comes, but it starts slowly. People are still in vacation mode, but as the month comes to an end and the economical measures for the coming year are presented people start to face the realities that lies ahead.
Another reason is that the price of oil decreased at the end of the year. For an oil-nation like Venezuela this has huge economical consequences. Venezuela does not have a reserve, which means that the effect of the oil price drop will appear already two-three months later… in February.
A third reason is that students begin classes in mid January. Students are the ones protesting, if not the only. As the semester starts the student organizations begins to discuss the current situation. By February demonstrations has been planned and the news spreads to students around the country.
As all these factors (and probably many more) come together it becomes more understandable that demonstrations begin this time of the year. The question is, how bad will the situation become? Is the killing of a 14-year boy a catapult leading to more protests, more anger, and more violence? Or will it lead to fear; fear of walking in the streets demonstrating that everyday-life in Venezuela is starting to become a nightmare? I do not know. All I know is that life for Venezuelans is becoming harder and harder every day…