Carta abierta a María Auxiliadora Álvarez / Igor Barreto

Open Letter to María Auxiliadora Álvarez

The poet from Caracas was recently honored during the activities of the XII World Poetry Festival. Upon the occasion of this award, Igor Barreto sends this open letter to his fellow poet.

Dear María Auxiliadora Álvarez,

Many of us are surprised that you accepted the tribute from Chavismo in the recent edition of the World Poetry Festival in Caracas. It was just over a year ago that dozens of students died in the streets of Venezuela, executed with a coup de grâce for protesting against a new type of dictatorship. Of course it doesn’t look like Pinochet’s dictatorship but essentially the quadrature of its political behaviors are the same. During these past seventeen years, even while being aware of the continuous human rights violations confirmed by international organisms, some intellectuals who call themselves progressives or revolutionaries, in a true act of cynicism have supported this contemptible “process” (as Chavismo refers to itself). They defend a useless utopia, that, as Mandelstam said, was a failure for haven chosen not the path of humanity but of authority. Szymborska also spoke of the Marxist utopia as an island where any trace of doubt is condemned: “The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here / with branches disentangled since time immemorial.” These references seem to be mere abstractions, but we live that failure and it can be felt like the coldest metal.

The populism and Stalinist recipes of the old Stalinist manuals created the collapse of our productive economy, bringing shortages and hunger. Corruption has impoverished the country and death surrounds us at each step. Drug trafficking has turned the nation into one giant airplane runway, with the grotesque enrichment of many government officials, some of them with court cases pending abroad because of those crimes. Venezuela is living the hour of its decomposition. Its most intimate fabric has given in to the worms, like the dog lying by the side of the road after being run over.

You probably saw the horde of the government’s political party, the PSUV, kicking the faces of the journalists from the newspaper Últimas Noticias right in downtown Caracas, or the photo of the other journalist who was (recently) thrown from a second story, simply for doing his job. You’ve heard people talk about the “Gate of Tears” which is nothing more than the immigration gate at the international airport in Maiquetía through which our young people pass to never return. Did you by chance know about the agony and death of Franklin Brito, who died in a hunger strike under the impassive glance of president Chávez? Franklin Brito could have written this verse by Celan that says: “We dig a ditch in the air...” The enumeration of torturous acts could continue almost into infinity, just like the fearful or complicit silence of the poets who accompanied you during those days in Caracas recently. They are mute at the foot of the dead letter. It would be interesting for everyone if you would explain your acceptance and complacency. What is the reason for your visit to Venezuela from the United States? What are you looking for? You were invited to participate in a monochord World Poetry Festival, in which the only chord that vibrates is the one officially approved. That Festival is an “International congress of fear,” as Drummond would write.

I was able to see you on a news program on Vive TV celebrating the virtues of this literary event without antecedents in Venezuelan culture. Indolence, vanity or indifference have been your three forms of turning your back to the country that today in its majority demands a more just course. Or maybe you turned your back and didn’t see some of your friends going to the supermarket the day that corresponds them according to their national I.D. card.

{ Igor Barreto, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 5 July 2015 }

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