An Interview with Raquel Aponte
The nation of Venezuela is spiraling. In the wake of political and economic woe, thousands of Venezuelans have marched through the streets, taking part in what some are calling the beginning of a new revolution.
The protests come amid signs that the state is shifting towards an all-out dictatorship. Venezuela, like the U.S., has a checks and balances system with multiple government branches. When the citizens aired their disapproval of the Socialist President, Nicolás Maduro, by electing 109 seats of the opposition party to the National Assembly (his party won just 55 seats), the Supreme Court, in the interest of Maduro and the Socialist Party, voted to strip power from the Assembly.
Organizations and world leaders, including the UN, weighed in on the matter, criticizing the move as a path toward autocracy. With widespread food shortages, massive inflation, and the state on the brink of economic collapse, the action sent Venezuelans into a frenzy.
Thousands gathered in protest around the country. In Caracas, protesters were met by militarized police and violence ensued. Three people were shot dead including a 17-year-old student.
Since then many more have died in protests, riots, and lootings-gone-awry. I sat down Raquel Aponte, a Spanish Instructor at Rock Creek who was raised in Caracas, to discuss the state of her home-country.
Tell me about growing up in Caracas.
Oh, it was wonderful, I had a great time. After the economic boom people flooded to the city from all around the world. It was ethnically diverse and I loved it. We’re Venezuelans; we’re gregarious, we love to party. It was a lot of fun.
“If you can afford it, you get out.”
How has it changed?
Well, it used to be safe–there was security. My friends and I would walk the streets in the middle of the night with no problem, but now you’d face gangs and robbers. There’s also food shortages all around the country, we call it the “Maduro Diet.” Many people are out of work. Now, rather than a growing population, many are fleeing the chaos.
You have many friends and relatives back in Venezuela. How are they doing? What are their thoughts?
Most everyone from my high school, especially those with kids, have left. If you can afford it, you get out. But a lot are still back there and it’s awful. You have to take the day off just to wait in line for food. They’re frustrated and scared.
“All they want is a fair election.”
Do you have hope for some sort of rebound?
There’s been so much suffering that the conversation has changed. People want a systemic change and a huge majority of the population is young. They’re a driving force; their energy is good. If they get an election, I have hope that change will come.