On December 6, 1998, I was 4 years old. I didn’t have the slightest idea that at that moment there was a national debate on whether or not to vote for a socialist military coup, much less could I think that mine and my generation’s future would depend on that decision. [Hugo Chávez’s 1992 military coup failed. He did his time and entered politics as a candidate for the presidency in the 1998 elections. –Ed.]
But I think that as soon as I began to have an idea of things, I already knew that whoever was governing us wasn’t good. The first protest I remember seeing was when I was 7 years old, when my cousins were arguing. I told them to “stop fighting and celebrate that Chávez resigned.” Yes, I was already speaking already for the year 2002. [Following a massive nationwide protest in 2002, Chávez resigned from office… for a day.]
In the year 2006, I was 12 years old, and Manuel Rosales came to make a rally in the 5th district of Guanare. I ran away from home to go see him (by the way, today I think he’s the worst person ever, but he was the presidential candidate running against Chavez). I never explained myself because I “lost”, and when the Chavist caravans passed by celebrating my house, I shouted them shameless (I do not like to say swear words).
My father was always a Chávez supporter and so were my school teachers. In my state of Portuguesa the Chavistas always won. My mom was thrown out of her job because she was an opponent to the regime. Therefore, I’ve always had an interest in the politics of the country.
In 2011 I was already 17 years old, much wiser than when I was 4 and 7 years old; The presidential primaries were coming. My mother told me that I could participate in politics, even if I wasn’t old enough to vote, so she put me in touch with a paternal aunt who in turn knew Titi Mora (an opposition mayoral candidate in Guanare). I joined that campaign without knowing much about politics, but with high convictions.
In 2012 it was the presidential elections. I gave infinitely of myself in that campaign, as it was my first opportunity to vote against Chavez. We lost.
In 2013 Chávez died, left Maduro in power, and the elections were done-over. Maduro stole our country’s elections but Henrique Capriles didn’t want to fight them on it in order to “avoid bloodshed.”
Since then, the number of deaths due to instability, lack of food and medicines, by protest, and government violence, has multiplied. My family and friends have emigrated. The persecution and repression have increased. No young man sees the opportunity to become independent and to form his own family. Many people already deny their Chavista past. They’re embarrassed at having supported that cancer.
Now I’m 24 years old, having lived under this tyranny all my life, and I’ve promised to fight against the backward legacy of Chavez: socialism, murder, and failure. Chavez will always be the image here of the old system that’s murdered millions of individuals in different continents at different times.
This week is the 20th anniversary of the assassin having come to power through the vote, although in 1992 he tried to get it by way of the gun.
But also, my sister turns 16. She’s a girl of this generation that’s only ever known Chávez and Maduro, who doesn’t know democracy or freedom, and who’s dependent on my generation to support them through this catastrophe.
It’s not easy. But there are still people fighting here. People who continue to believe in Venezuela, people who continue to insist on living free.
My intact convictions tell me that we will succeed. Long live Free Venezuela.
María Oropeza is a human rights lawyer, a proud libertarian, and the National Youth Coordinator for the classical liberal party Vente Venezuela.