Venezuela, With Eyes Wide Open / Yoani Sanchez

Genesis Carmona, college student and local beauty pageant winner shot in the head during the protests, being rushed to the hospital, where she died. Photo from

They say no one learns a lesson through someone else’s head, that we repeat the mistakes of others and stumble, over and over, on the same stone. Skeptics assure us that people forget, close their eyes to the past and commit identical mistakes. Venezuela, however, has begun to disprove that inevitability. Amid a reality marked by insecurity, shortages and inflation, Venezuelans are trying to amend a mistake that has lasted too long.

Taken over by Cuban intelligence, monitored from the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, and ruled by a man who incites violence against those who are different, this South American nation now finds itself facing the most important dilemma of its contemporary history. Totalitarianism or democracy, those are the options. What is being decided in its streets is not only Nicolás Maduro’s permanence in power, but the very existence of an axis of authoritarianism and personal ambition that spans all of Latin America. A system that disguises itself with empty words in the style of “socialism of the 21st century,” “a revolution of the humble,” “the dreams of Simon Bolívar” and “the new left,” whose fundamental characteristics are its leaders’ lust for power, economic inefficiency, and the curtailing of freedoms.

But Venezuelan students have given Chavismo a dose of its own medicine. Young people and college students have been the driving force of the protests this time. Which proves that Miraflores has lost the most rebellious and dynamic part of society. Although the headlines in the government controlled press speak of conspiracies fomented from abroad, it’s enough to look at the images of the police and the armed commandos beating the protestors to understand where the violence comes from.

Venezuela is going through difficult times, like all awakenings. The oligarchs in red will not give up power voluntarily and Raul Castro will not let them so easily snatch away the goose that lays the golden egg. But at least we already know that Venezuelans will not walk the same road they imposed on us in Cuba. Meekness, fear, complicity, and escape as the only way out… those have been our mistakes. Venezuela doesn’t want to repeat them, it can’t repeat them.

2 March 2014