The Trinidad Guardian / Let’s get something straight from the start. Venezuela is currently in the throes of “a grave political, economic, and social crisis”, to use the words of a recent study by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Additionally, more than two years ago, prior to the current mass exodus of Venezuelans from their country, President Nicolas Maduro was himself declaring a “catastrophic economic crisis.”
The man flew here to negotiate a credit facility to ensure that basic household supplies did not run out in the neighbouring republic. So when I see some sycophants and other charlatans speaking on this issue, I am not sure they realise they are in fact regurgitating rather dated propaganda even the Venezuelan authorities have stopped promoting.
There are thousands of Venezuelans here in T&T and even more in countries such as Colombia not because they have read and internalised inaccurate “western media” reports, but because of the unbearable nature of their lives back home.
It was at the onset of the current crisis that the authorities out of Caracas were ascribing “fake news” status to reports of hardship resulting from the country’s rapid economic decline-whatever its actual origins.
But when it became clear that the real situation could not be covered up through official censorship and the persecution of independent voices, the propaganda message began to turn attention even more intently to purported political sabotage.
Some charlatans have toed this line with complete disregard for the realities confronted by the people of the country they claim to love. It is therefore conceivable that an entire press conference can be staged without specific reference to the confirmed realities of life in that country, because their real area of interest is not people, but the political power structure they believe coincides with their own fantasies.
One ideologue writing out of Bridgetown last week, who had gone sight-seeing in Caracas, even declared boldly that “the situation that we experienced at the street level in Caracas was one of unremarkable normalcy.”
He went on to add to the list of errant non-resident media including Caribbean journalists who, he said, had refused to embark on their own fact-finding missions. Uncharacteristically, I responded on Facebook to challenge this erroneous assertion and pointed to the efforts of my own colleagues here in T&T and I did not care to mention the work done by Guyanese journalists on the situation in villages adjoining their South American neighbour.
I also did not add that only last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, had issued new “protection guidance” in the context of “the continuing outflow of Venezuelans to neighbouring countries and beyond.”
Myanmar can clearly do with some of these guys in the face of official denial on the question of fleeing Rohingya. All it would take would be a few days of sight-seeing in Yangon, and some nice tourist dinners.
Now, if this “outflow” was the usual traffic between Colombia and Venezuela on account of longstanding familial ties, there would hardly be the need for the UNHCR to issue such guidance on the treatment of Venezuelans at such borders.
Why all of this contemptuous posturing on the question of Venezuela is also noteworthy is that it adds to uninformed ethnic stereotyping and xenophobic feelings surrounding the growing numbers of Venezuelans among us-exactly what past generations of West Indians confronted in major overseas capitals they dared establish as their homes.
We were called noisy, uncultured, uncouth people who didn’t speak English the way it should be spoken and whose food stinked up the overcrowded compounds we occupied in London and New York and Toronto. Our women were whores and our men inclined to indolence and infidelity.
Even among people who looked like us, American historian John C Walter once noted we were described as being “arrogant bastards” while some back home were decrying the “traitors” who had inexplicably fled their version of paradise.
Today’s “arrogant bastards” call press conferences to repeat dated lies.