The Urgent Cause of the Recall Referendum in Venezuela

The following piece of political reflection constitutes a brief recounting of the affronts suffered by Venezuelans in recent years and a claim for the urgent concretion of the recall referendum this very year. Signed by over one hundred people, a group that includes various generations of poets, novelists, essayists, editors, university professors and artists. Besides proposing the start of many necessary discussions, it invites the reader to think of the importance of culture in the country to come.

We Venezuelans, writers, university professors and artists of diverse social tendencies and aesthetic and political positions, dedicated to expressions of sensibility and thought, moved by our frank indignation in the face of the situation in Venezuela today, reject the sectarian, vulgar and arrogant manner in which the current government leads the country’s fate, as a militaristic movement capable of utilizing the possibilities of democracy and invoking popular power only when it’s convenient for them.

Guided by a project of social engineering that equates the current government with the worst authoritarian experiences, it’s not too difficult to conclude —this isn’t just an idea, it’s a suffering that begins in the body— that they only want to install a single and servile “thought” in Venezuelan society; yes, they want to institute by force a society with citizens whose heads are hung low, meek, in submission and conforming to the sharing of the misery they have deliberately orchestrated; a society afflicted by shortages, sick and starving, depressed in all possible senses, deprived of the most elemental goods necessary for the proper development and formation of life itself. All of this for the single goal of perpetuating themselves in power through propaganda in all public media outlets, the most perverse manipulation of consciences, political persecution, coercion, the control of food, systematic harassment, persecution, defamation, calumny, extortion, insults, threats, absolute control of Judicial Powers, along with the blocking of the National Assembly and its functions for legislation, research, interpellation, discussion and control.

It’s no secret for anyone that we’re living through the systematic destruction of the Republic, understood in its most logical sense as a place for co-existence among those who think differently. In recent decades —from 1999 until today, punctually— we’ve witnessed and been victims of political, legal, economic and social measures that seek to repress and suppress the individual, along with all his creative potential, turning him into an acritical, obedient, impoverished mass, sunken in the blind cult of personality around the quarrelsome caudillo Hugo Chávez, the great author of this tragedy that the current president is in charge of prolonging. After destroying the country’s productive sectors, distributing gifts to neighboring countries in exchange for complicity, strategic silences and doctrinaire advisors, do we still need to remind ourselves that Chavismo wasted one of the greatest petroleum booms in our history? Yes, we need to remind ourselves and observe how the consequences are expressed in every detail of daily life. When it comes time to respond to the interpellations, there are no answers, only justifications and aggression. Some functionaries remain silent. Others ask for faith and sacrifice, while they deny any humanitarian aid for the country for the most essential items related to health care and food. Relatedly, others are fired from their jobs for adding their names to the Recall Referendum. What else can we ask for when faced by the daily scenes of people scavenging through trash bags on the streets to find the most minimal amounts of nourishment? Is it possible, by means of some supposedly socialist ideological subterfuge, to ignore the reality of people dying in hospitals for lack of medicine, treatments and medical equipment?

It’s important to remind ourselves that the current government does not follow the very same Constitution it proposed in 1999; undermining by all means the observance of the Recall Referendum for this year; boycotting, prohibiting and repressing all the civic and peaceful protests of Venezuelans (for instance, at the doors of the National Electoral Council); it persecutes, tortures and jails students. It’s no coincidence that it has also been asphyxiating the budgets of the autonomous universities, for the mere fact of not aligning themselves with their unilateral and sectarian position. Now this government intends to hand out bags of food, but it actually wants to know who their opponents are, how many oppose them (what a task!). Isn’t the creation of a “system” that instead of attacking problems multiplies them an alarming aberration? What type of “humanitarian” government brags about handing out small quantities of cornmeal, margarine, milk and sugar? These, among other matters —one of them, the most difficult one, without a doubt, is the use of hunger as an arm of political extortion— make the urgency of the Referendum more pertinent than ever today. What should be a mea culpa, a revision and correction of economic policies, is taken by the government as “revolutionary achievements” and “victories” in their tedious, imaginary battles.

Each one of us, within ourselves, holds a memorial for all the affronts and horrors that Chavismo has perpetrated in recent years. It’s not unreasonable to think these could be turned into a Universal Exhibit. Quotes, photos, videos, statistics, testimonies, speeches, forced government TV and radio transmissions, tortures, taunts. It would be a walking allegory of what we don’t want to be as a country. This exhibit —let the reader assume it as a way of not ever forgetting these years— should have a permanent hall in every country of this region that has been complicit in modeling our disgrace, beginning with the dictatorship of the Castro brothers, who today, contrary to what’s happening here, seem to be seeking another path.

We want to collaborate in the organization of a country with tenacious, creative and hard-working people. For this purpose we think that culture is tied to our current storm and will help us think of the country to come, one that’s more conscious, more tolerant, more social, more political —in the human sense of the word: knowing how to be with others, knowing how to exist amid differences— and in this way being able to defend the right to be free, capable of carrying out our desires and projects, far from the separations, the empty praises of poverty, the excessive cult of personality and the militarization of everyday life. The relationship between citizens and the State should not be based on submission and humiliation, under any government. On the contrary, it must be critical: building, organizing, proposing, creating, expanding instead of profaning, pulverizing, expropriating, kidnapping, manipulating, blackmailing.

With a deliberative spirit, freedom and the desire for a better, more just, more egalitarian life, we demand immediately a more just and plural country, whose institutions and civic life —sustained with the base of a robust democracy— are capable of being in tune with the most immediate popular demands, as well as resolving the intense social, economic and cultural conflicts that assault our daily lives at this very moment.

Culture —literature, poetry, visual arts, theater, dance, traditional popular culture, memory; in sum, independent thought, ideas, sensibility and creativity— can’t continue to be an adornment in Venezuelan social life, nor much less an instrument of domination for the established classes in the very complacent and comfortable Chavista cultural power.

The most noble function of culture —among others— is to interpolate, to interpret, to question. It implies a group of identities and visions of the world that, far from disturbing each other, converse. It’s also the point of departure for thinking about ourselves and germinating in our consciousnesses a critical, autonomous and fertile thought, full of imagination, impermeable to the will to dominate and indoctrinate. In other words, minds that are impermeable to the pretensions of the personalist, regressive and anachronistic project represented by Chavismo, a political current full of antagonisms and internal contradictions, which perhaps have yet to fully explode in all their magnitude in the public sphere.

Those who identify with these discussions should add their voices, taking advantage of the fact that at this moment of imminent danger there are still spaces for dissident expressions, facing the unstoppable disaster that overwhelms our country. It is a civic urgency that brings us together in the face of the machinery of control represented by Chavismo in power. May these words be debated, replied and multiplied, under the most varied forms, by each person, in every corner of the country, in every community, in each neighborhood, in every street, in restaurants, schools, newsstands, high schools, military bases, grocery stores, lines, universities, hospitals, in all the places where the current government —capable of persecuting even its own dissident currents, we can’t forget this— concretizes its ravages. We must remember: the very nature of this government is tied to intolerance and fanaticism. These pulsations go against any project elaborated for the common good, for peace, concordance, moderation, dialogue or critical understanding.

Today we also resist the submission and humiliation under an arrogant clique that has kidnapped Venezuela’s institutions. With our names and our citizenship, perhaps our most prized possessions, we are willing to raise our critical voices and participate in all possible discussions for a profound democracy, whose institutions can guide our current differences. We know: these desires can’t be achieved without the cause of the Referendum. Or in other words: the cause of the Referendum is the beginning of the other country, less subdued. That is the reason for this shout in the face of all attempts to delay —or prohibit— the imminent presidential recall process. This option today represents our right to justice, liberty, civility, democracy, in sum, our right to exist in the 21st century. May it be so.

Guillermo Sucre

Alfredo Chacón

Ana Teresa Torres

Elisa Lerner

Rowena Hill

María Fernanda Palacios

José Balza

Rafael Cadenas

Armando Rojas Guardia

Igor Barreto

Yolanda Pantin

Edda Armas

Gabriela Kizer

Santos López

Carmen Verde Arocha

Alfredo Herrera

Alexis Romero

María Antonieta Flores

Luis Gerardo Mármol Bosch

Patricia Guzmán

Sonia González

Carmen Leonor Ferro

Julieta León

Luis Pérez-Oramas

Vasco Szinetar

Nelson Rivera

Elías Pino Iturrieta

Fernando Rodríguez

Joaquín Marta Sosa

Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza

Antonio López Ortega

Miguel Ángel Campos Torres

Ednodio Quintero

Marina Gasparini

Violeta Rojo

Gisela Kozak

Sandra Caula

Luna Benítez

Luisa de la Ville

Marcelino Bisbal

Tulio Hernández

Jaime Bello León

Raquel Gamus

Víctor Bravo

Miguel Szinetar

Ricardo Jiménez

Diómedes Cordero

Francisco Arévalo

Mario Amengual

Alejandro Padrón

Ramón Ordaz

Luis Miguel Isava

Carlos Sandoval

Milagros Mata-Gil

Mireya Tabuas

Krina Ber

Bernardino Herrera León

Humberto Ortiz B.

Juan Cristóbal Castro

Nela Ochoa

Kataliñ Alava

Ángela Bonadies

Roberto Martínez Bachrich

Luis Moreno Villamediana

Guillermo Parra

Diego Arroyo Gil

Lorena González

Julio Bolívar

Patricia Velasco

Jacqueline Goldberg

Vilma Ramia

Harry Almela

Xiomara Jiménez

Aixa Sánchez

Sebastián de la Nuez

Vince De Benedittis

Norberto José Olivar

Juan Carlos Chirinos

Sonia Chocrón

Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez

Gustavo Valle

Fedosy Santaella

Lena Yau

Rafael Sánchez

Carlos Enrique Guzmán Cárdenas

Alberto Hernández

Miguel Ortiz

Keila Vall

Florencio Quintero

Samuel González-Seijas

Ricardo Ramírez Requena

Santiago Acosta

Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza

Cesar Segovia

Néstor Mendoza

Rubén Darío Carrero

Blanca Rivero

Graciela Yáñez Vicentini

Franklin Hurtado

Luis Perozo Cervantes

Alejandro Castro

Zakarias Zafra Fernandez

Kaury Ramos

Claudia Márquez O.

Lucía Jiménez Perozo

Luis Marciales

Sashenka Garcia

Luis Yslas

Willy McKey

Mario Morenza

Álvaro Rafael

Georges Galo

Víctor García Ramírez

Kelly Martínez

Diosce Martínez

Ramelis Velásquez

Kira Kariakin

Flavia Pesci-Felitri

Sandy Juhasz

Ana Cristina Henríquez

Daniel García P.

Carlos Paris

Michelle Roche Rodríguez

Yoyiana Ahumada L.

Geraudí González

Mariana Fulcado

Johnny Romero

Dira Martínez Mendoza

Keyla Holmquist-Holmquist

Patricia Heredia Pelaca

Anaira Vásquez

Corina Michelena

Virginia Riquelme

Jairo Rojas Rojas

Monday, 29 of August, 2016.

[This English version of the letter includes additional signatures.]

{ Papel Literario, El Nacional, 11 September 2016 }

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