Odalisque

            Caracas is a lot of things. Caracas is, primarily, a chaotic African metropolis. It is Lagos, Bamako, Conakry and Mogadishu with their tropical crime, their endless slums and their governments of prostitutes. Caracas is also a Latin American city of the eighties, not only because it is conformed by pharaonic ruins from that period and before – from the glorious times (which also makes her being Rome in the year 400) – but because it is drowned in crime, violence, misery, third-worldism and Bye, bye middle class! (Brazilification). It is Medellin in the days of Pablo Escobar and Bogota in the FARC’s best times. Caracas is also Beirut in the Lebanese civil war, divided between East and West. It is Teheran and Cairo, cities once bathed in opulence but now turned into dust. Caracas is like New York; it will go from social scum to lighthouse in the world. Caracas is Heaven’s Branch on Earth. Caracas is Hell’s Branch on Earth. Caracas is Brazil. Caracas is Puerto Rico. Caracas is Dubai. Caracas is Mumbai. Caracas are many. Caracas are few. Caracas is one. Caracas are all.

            Caracas is Caracas. 


PHOTOS: Donaldo Barros

The Kicks of a Hanged Person

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While the eyes of the world are concerned with Ebola and the Islamic State, in Venezuela - formerly the most stable and dynamic democracy of Latin America - a dictatorship is consolidating itself. In recent months, the socialist regime of HIM Nicolás Maduro, heir of Hugo Chavez, has increased the persecution of opposition leaders, arresting many and forcing others into exile. Now, the latest victim of the witch hunt is the former congresswoman and opposition leader Maria Corina Machado.

The new nemesis of the revolution appears to be a woman of a wealthy class and bourgeois femininity, a harmless butterfly that is no threat to anyone: but beyond her delicate appearance, María Corina is a rapacious eagle. Her popularity was consolidated when she was elected as congresswoman of the state of Miranda, Venezuela's second most populous state, in 2011 and subsequently after she interrupted President Chavéz in one of his speeches to complain about listening him speak for eight hours and then, impressing many, accused him of being a robber due to his expropriations. Later - after being beaten, kicked and pushed by the stairs by chavistas in the National Assembly - María Corina took a major leadership in the opposition movement after the February protests and the arrest of Leopoldo Lopez. Because of this, Machado managed that Panama ceded its chair on the OAS so she could express the oppression in Venezuela which costed her the wrath of the Venezuelan regime which unconstitutionally dismissed her from the National Assembly.

María Corina after the violence she suffered in the National Assembly. 

María Corina after the violence she suffered in the National Assembly. 

Now Maduro's government is accusing her of an imaginary plan to murder him and conspiracy and, if convicted, Maria Corina could face up to 16 years in prison, joining the list of political prisoners - students, mayors, judges and opposition leaders - and violations of human rights of the Venezuelan state. Freedom of expression has become a caged bird, a parrot in Caracas' suburbs. 

Here, in the North and South, freedom is gone and human rights are a sunken dream. Here, a cowardly dictatorship pursues an admirable woman for opposing his brutality, like the dragon and the Virgin - who always steps on the snake - in the Book of Revelation.

My blood boils with so much injustice. When will the abusing stop? When will they respect the Venezuelan people? We have become warlords; a country dominated by violence and abuse. We are a humiliated, trampled people. We are forced to make endless queues in the market and people die every night. What have we become? In this persecution of Maria Corina I do not see Venezuela. I do not see my country, the civilization of black gold. I see the dictatorial Cuba of Fidel, I see Perón's broken Argentina. We have disfigured the face of Venezuela and La Tierra de Gracia bleeds. In the air, only the sweaty terror of a petrodespot oligarchy before its imminent end is felt. A red halo of violence and abuse is felt. The kicks of a hanged person are felt. 

It is time to say enough!

"María Corina is accused for saying the truth"

"María Corina is accused for saying the truth"

The Devil's Fingerprint

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I thought no further action of this pantomime would impress me until I heard the news: worthy of the classic totalitarian measures of the Cuban regime, the government of Venezuela has approved a new dystopian law. This new law makes the installation of a fingerprint machine to control the purchase of basic goods mandatory at all public or private supermarkets and pharmacies. With what excuse? To combat smuggling.

We can not deny it. In Venezuela there is smuggling: supermarket food is purchased and resold by peddlers on the street at really expensive prices. But does that means that the nearly thirty million Venezuelans living in the country are thieves smugglers? That the food shortage is the fault of the people? Obviously not, but apparently our government, the biggest thieves out there, see it that way. The reality is simple: the smuggling that the government fights is a fantasy, an empty air created to distract the masses. There's no food in the markets and people are being killed in the streets, but the problem is smuggling.

The fingerprint is not only mandatory but it must be also purchased by pharmacies and supermarkets with their own money, another sample of the government's attack to the private sector.

This new measure is a step for the installation of communism. It is simply a modern version of the Cuban rationalization notebook. Now we are just numbers, numbers controlled by an Orwellian machine.

The MUD (The main opposition coalition), following a long tradition of stupid "solutions" to a brutal regime, has asked us to bang pots (cacerolazo). I'm sorry to say this but doing noise, even as much as we can, will not change the opinion of a tyrant who murdered nearly forty people during the months of February and March. These opposition measures seem like a joke, a bad joke that has no idea of what he has in front: the installation of the Cuban rationing system. It is time for us Venezuelans to ask for respect. The only fingerprint I want to see soon is Maduro's in his renouncement letter. 

The Death of a Beauty Queen

Genesis injured being taken to the hospital. 

Genesis injured being taken to the hospital. 

Yesterday, in the middle of the scandal caused by the antidemocratic apprehension of Leopoldo Lopez by the totalitarian government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, the social networks (That are one of the few free and not censured media in the country) were shocked by the news that Génesis Carmona had suffered from a shot in the head by forces allied to the government after protesting in the city of Valencia as part of the nation-wide wave of rallies against the government of Maduro. Génesis, with a bullet inside her head, was taken to the hospital where she unfortunately died this morning. The young woman wasn’t famous and much less a celebrity. But the simple fact that she was Miss Tourism Carabobo 2013 drew the attention of a whole nation.

Venezuela is universally known for two reasons: Its beautiful beauty queens and its soap operas. Being a beauty queen in that tropical South American nation is the equivalent of being one Hollywood’s celebrity in the U.S.A. It’s a country where every year families sit together in their homes to watch the Miss Venezuela Pageant on the television in order to escape their problems. It’s a country where a beauty pageant is not antifeminist but an entrance to an artistic world. It’s country that is proud of having the most beauty titles in the whole world. It’s the country of beautiful women.

The beauty obsession in Venezuela, as an autochthonous native tradition, is seen with certain negativity abroad while inside that nation it doesn’t goes beyond a simple cultural tradition. The typical Venezuelan, drowned in anxieties and problems, sees the impossible every night on their television. He or she sees the housemaid marrying her bourgeois boss in the soap opera. He or she sees a meek girl become a dazzling woman representing the country internationally in the Miss Universe. He or She sees the naïve “Miss” become one of the mot important actresses in national television and even join international one (Let’s take as an example Alicia Machado, Miss Universe 1995, who appeared in the American sitcom The Nanny and in many Hispanic soap operas). In some extraordinary cases, the “Miss” goes beyond showbiz: Irene Sáez, Miss Universe 1981, wasn’t only mayor of the successful municipality of Chacao (The wealthiest one in Caracas) and governor of the state of Nueva Esparta but also a candidate to the presidency in 1998 and named the 83rd most powerful woman by The Times of London.

The Venezuelans see their dreams and desires in the beauty queens; they see a wonderful escape from their day-to-day problems. The Miss Venezuelas are epitomes and personifications of the Venezuelan people. They are their dreams and desires turned into women. They are a representation of Venezuela’s two prides: Beauty pageants and soap operas where the beauty queens commonly act in. But the fact that a “Miss” of a minor rank was shot today in such a brutal way only brought me recent memories: Mónica Spear.

Miss Venezuela 2014 

Miss Venezuela 2014 

In early January of this year, the actress of soap operas and the fourth finalist of Miss Venezuela 2005, Mónica Spear was with her husband and daughter on a vacation in Venezuela because she lived in Miami. The family was on a bleak highway in the Western part of the country (In the same state where Génesis was shot) during the night when the car had a minor accident. The family waited for assistance when a group of criminals, all minors of age, tried to mug them. The Berry-Spear family locked themselves in the car, fearing for their lives, and were shot by the criminals. Mónica and her husband died instantly and their little five years old daughter was injured. Thinking of that poor little girl writhes my soul: The desperation, the terror, the blood, the screaming and then the silence. There couldn’t be anything harder for a child than witnessing the death of her parents in such a macabre way. After the murder; the country was shocked in a way it hadn’t been in a long time. It was and it still is adapted to death (25,000 violent deaths the year before). But this time was different. A beloved actress and beauty queen had been killed in such a brutal way.

In that scandal-grief, many recurred to a simple but true quote: Life imitates art. Mónica had died many times in the soap operas in different ways. Now, the death Génesis leaves me thinking. The Universe is no more than a symbolist piece of artwork. Mónica’s death reflects a reality: The personification of the Venezuelan culture, Miss and soap opera actress, and hence Venezuela in its entirety being killed in a shooting. Now, Génesis reveals us another symbolist image. The very same personification and allegory being shot by the forces of the government. A government, the one of Nicolás Maduro, which shoots against Venezuela; killing her. A government that shoots against their helpless citizens. And like Simón Bolívar said, damned the solider that shoots against his people.

Rest in Peace, Génesis Carmona.

The Autumn of the Patriarch - Venezuela

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In March of last year, the Caribbean warlord and president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, died after a long battle with cancer. The death of the socialist leader shocked every sector of the Venezuelan population after fifteen years of a chaotic socialist revolution.

The next month, the dubious National Electoral Council declared his chosen successor - former subway driver and chancellor – Nicolas Maduro, president. The opposition accused the results as fraudulent and the country plunged into a tense terror. Maduro was declared president despite everything and continued to guide the socialist revolution.



Almost a year after, the twelfth of February of this year, a stampede of terrified students are running sweating. The National Guard and gangs of armed motorcyclists lash out against them. Stones, birdshots and shootings fly through the air. A student drops dead in a pool of blood. The social networks are flooded by images and videos of the murder. A young man runs to assist in the mob surrounding the dead body. Later, he dies in the same way. Meanwhile, the national television turns a blind eye. The former opposition channels, now censured and denying reality, transmit Flipper and some soap operas.



The Venezuelan people canalize their frustration watching the events in some international Colombian channels (NTN24 and El Tiempo) but suddenly and with no excuse these are taken out of the air by request of the state. An informative blackout starts to develop.

The chaos and the violence continue in the street. Flipper and health shows on the television. Hours before, a pacific student’s demonstration for Venezuela convened by opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was unfolding in Venezuela Square in the capital of the country. This one was due to the shortages of food, electricity, water and lack of security in the nation.



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Further one, almost as a routine, it was suppressed with tear-gas and birdshots. Even so, the protest continued and the most feared happened. Gangs of violent and armed paramilitary motorcyclists attacked the protests.

Sixty-six injured and three dead. Twitter exclaims it shouting. The television shows Flipper.

The country suffers. The protests continue today. The government of Maduro, totalitarian and Orwellian, arrested opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez today (Who was accompanied by a gigantic demonstration) with false charges while the murderers of the students are free. Democracy continues dying.



The media and the government act like if we were living in paradise. But this is quite the opposite. Living here is not easy or pleasant. Living in a country where you don’t take out the phone in the streets for fear of being shot. Where you don’t go to dine outside for fear of being kidnapped. Where you roam the city in search of basic products like toilet paper or powder. Where you can spend days without water in your shower or where there are nation-wide blackouts. Where you can’t find the medicines you need. A country where corruption has created an elite of multimillionaire thieves. A country where 25,000 persons were killed by crime in 2013 and many thousands more kidnapped or mugged. Even worse, were less than 10% of these crimes were punished. And the most frustrating: We are a nation rich in soil, minerals, people and most of all oil.

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I ask you, Mr. President: How could the country with the biggest oil reserves in the world are like this now? They don’t give us an answer. Just murdered students by a dictatorship, political persecution and a group of irresponsible and mediocre channels that silence the truth.



And thus like that we will continue with the Chavismo. Thus like that the violence, the shortages and the Totalitarianism will continue in a bloody country where liberty of expression does not exists anymore. Thanks hypocrite media, your sadism has taught us to never believe in you again.

Being a social communicator in Venezuela has become a shame. It has become being a coward. And the biggest title they deserve: it has become being an oppressor.

EXTERNAL LINKS

Art in Revolutionary Venezuela: Abandonment and Isolation

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Yesterday I discovered, after reading an article in El Universal (One of Venezuela’s most important newspapers), that urban "art" (Yes, the truth is that urban art and I don’t have the best relationship) had been chosen for the Venice Art Biennale. For me, it seemed like a bad idea. Somehow, it only fuels the idea of rt enacted in the Bolivarian Revolution: A mix of naive appearance between the folkloric, the indigenous, the Marxist, urban art (Since it’s artists are usually related to the slums) and the political art that attacks the "Tyranny of the Fourth Republic, the fascist right and the exploitative bourgeoisie”...

It's time to restore the national talent, and I don’t ask for high culture (Because I believe that it no longer exists in the visual arts, there is only a valuable hybrid with low culture created after the Second World War), I just ask for our big and small artists to be valued. Like all leftist "anti-imperialist" revolution, the value that avant-garde once had has been disappearing for being considered "oligarchic and bourgeois". The Museum of Contemporary Art (Which has pieces by Miro, Picasso, Rodin, Vigas, Soto, Vasarely, Bacon, Reveron, among others) is almost empty of visitors just like the Museum of Fine Arts (which has pieces by Picasso, Andy Warhol, Egyptian Art and much more). The disappearance of about fifteen artworks (including Matisse’s Odalisque with Red Pants, which was found by the FBI last year at a hotel in Miami Beach) has been reported since, approximately, 2001.

1998, with the beginning of the Revolution, the word “people’s jumps to the foreground. Museums, in disrepair, have become centers of populist exhibits and extremely native art (and by that I don’t mean Soto and Cruz Diez, I mean Amerindian baskets. Overused ethnic art), creating a favorable environment for the ideas of the demagogues who killed our art. In these "exhibitions of the people" there is no rigor or judgment.

Museums, disastrously unified and full of the kind of political Latin art worthy of the Cold War, are no longer an international jewel and they have closed themselves off to the Western art styles, adopted by most artists. With no museums that promote contemporary art and the international wonders we have, a large group of Venezuelan artists were forced to leave the country and like that Venezuela isolated herself from the global art movements: Brewing the populist Bolivarian art...

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Nevertheless, I just hope that this dark period of our history and culture will be over soon, and that art originated in Castro’s ideology disappears from our museums, giving way once again to the avant-garde and to our great talents. I hope we can see once again our stolen art on the walls of the museums and we can see the infrastructure of these remodeled and even being expanded. I hope that within a few years, insecurity and her companions (the other Venezuelan tragedies) will not be obstacles to, finally, re-enter to the Museum of Fine Arts and admire the Marilyn Monroe of Andy Warhol who expect that the once excited great crowds return and rejoice with their colors.