“Bodies Die, Countries Don't”: What the Venezuela Crisis Takes Away From Us

Cartoon by Eduardo Sanabria (Edo Ilustrado). Image caption: May I have a coffee? Image used with permission.

The following is a reprint of an article by Luis Carlos Díaz, originally published in Spanish in Medium and reproduced here with his permission. 

Every day that Venezuela continues under the Chavismo government, which has been in power for over 15 years, the country falls further and further. And it will continue to fall because, contrary to what many keep saying, there is no stopping point: countries are bottomless.

Seriously. Two years ago, it seemed everything had already reached its breaking point, but there wasn't yet talk of people searching for food in the trash. Now, they not only look for it, but fight over it. Tomorrow they'll raffle it off or the government will fine whoever throws something in the trash… or who knows what else.

People don't talk about looting as much as they used to. They also don't talk about criminal lynchings, which have been the way groups of neighbors have responded to the lawlessness in the midst of such high crime. There is no mention of dismembered people, who have been proof of the escalation of urban violence in recent years. These things aren't talked about anymore. Not because they have ceased to occur, but because they have become normalized as part of the landscape of the country and its crisis.

Bodies die, countries don't. Things go wrong, but they can get even worse. We could give tons of examples to prove it, but we'll stick with these two: the highest inflation in the world for the fifth consecutive year and the lowest productivity in our recent history. The culprit for this is the centralized economy and the controls created by Chavism to increase their quotas of corruption. You can say that this economic crisis is part of a conspiracy of businessmen and retailers, but has anyone ever met a retailer who makes money in scenarios where he can't sell?

Thinking, as many argue, that there are opponents who want power, not now but later, so they can avoid assuming the costs that would come with a takeover right now is childish. The costs of repairing the country will only rise. Aspiring to conquer a destitute government or municipality is just as useless as continuing to protest from the opposition.

The country cannot feed its population today, and tomorrow it will be even worse off, so the faster the production model, the centralized economy, the corrupt game of exchange controls, prices and distribution change, the less it will cost to take the reins. Venezuela can't cover its own debts, so the sooner there is a change in power and these debts are renegotiated, the better for everyone.

However, in order to restore some institutions, some conditions are necessary, but that will take time. Guarantees are needed that the governance of the next term can be sustained. Because if a group of drug traffickers, corrupt politicians and torturers are in power, they'll be much worse off acting from the opposition with stolen money. That is why it's important to gain some changes in the National Electoral Council. Raising costs to the Armed Forces or the Supreme Court of Justice can be useful. Unlocking the National Assembly's status can help. But there is no guarantee of anything. You know it, I know it. We don't have a manual for living under a dictatorship.

Now, where everything is stuck is how to get to power first. That is why formulas are discussed and there are disagreements. What surprises me is how nearly everyone is lost, including those who speak with strength and security, because even for them, the “infallible plan” that they believe will work collapses quickly.

That is why they have opted to attack each other or point fingers at opponents, because it's easier; because if you put them in power, they start to stumble. A march is organized, but we don't know what will happen next. A protest faces a picket line, but afterwards no one knows what will happen in the face of the second. Disobedience sounds rebellious, but then it doesn't translate. And the opposition majority is circumstantial: the majority will support you if the issue is peaceful. If it's not, they pick up and leave, because the guarantee is certain and most know that their life is worth more than the thugs.

That means, curiously enough, that those who are doing more than others are those who are at the forefront of the dialogue playing many roles, despite being insulted. They are there without knowing what comes next, negotiating with kidnappers, using their language even when this earns the contempt of the dissidents.

But, more interestingly, we cannot stop being unhappy, because they actually need more. Because dialogue alone is useless. Because people cannot stop demanding. Because other countries would like to help but do not understand how, because it is also costly for them. Because every day is worse, every day we can withstand less, and wasting time is losing what our lives could be and what totalitarianism has denied us.

We would like simple worries. We'd like to get a little bit bored. We would like another certainty other than that tomorrow will be worse. Just to switch it up.

Also read our Special Coverage: What Is Happening in Venezuela?

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