Eight years after leaving Venezuela for a better life in the UK, I can finally see hope for my country after the The Democratic Unity Roundtable’s victory in the National Assembly elections
By: Linda Sharkey
I was born and raised in Venezuela. I made friends for life, played freely on the streets and grew up close to my family. Political and economic issues were for grown-ups. But my childhood was different to the young generation today.
In 1999 Hugo Chavez became President and a symbol of new hope for my country. That year my destiny and the destiny of millions of Venezuelans would change forever. Inflation started to rise and I was robbed twice at gunpoint. Also, I wanted to become a journalist, but the Socialist government was clamping down on the media. At the age of 20 I moved to London in the search of career opportunities and a better life. Eight years later, I’ve made a new life for myself abroad. Most of my friends have migrated too, also in search of a better future. Most of my family, however, remain in Venezuela – fleeing the country and starting a new life with children abroad isn’t easy.
By the time of Chavez’s death in March of 2012, economic mismanagement and corruption had weakened the government. According to Transparency International, Venezuela was the most corrupt country in the Americas. Then, under Nicolas Maduro, the successor, it entered an advanced state of decay.
In the past three years, Venezuelans have been living with shortages of food, medicine and basic toiletries. It brought chaos to supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals, with Venezuelans having to queue endlessly to get hold of basics, if there was any left that is. My family struggles every day to find milk, bread, fruit and nappies. My 85-year-old granddad struggles to find his medicine. The situation became so drastic that many made a business out of the chaos to survive: they’d queue overnight to get their hands on a milk carton and resell it for three times the original price. Sadly, that was the only way many could get hold of products, but the staggering prices have become unsustainable.
The country now has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with an average of 71 reported homicides every day. Furthermore, the desperate scramble for necessities has increasingly provoked violence.
It is incomprehensible that despite having the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuelans have to live in such state of despair.
Yesterday, the country saw an historic turnaround. Venezuela’s opposition has won the legislature for the first time in 16 years, gaining a platform from which to challenge current President Maduro. The opposition Democratic Unity coalition has won 99 seats to the Socialists’ 46 in the 167-national National Assembly, with some districts still to be counted.
People took to the streets and fireworks were set off in celebration in pro-opposition districts of Caracas when the results were announced. This opposition’s landslide win proves that people are tired and need change. Argentina has joined the fight, too, after recently electing Mauricio Macri, a conservative businessman, to succeed Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, Chavez’s close ally.
Venezuela’s opposition is celebrating hope, a moment of change and a better future. For many, this is the light at the end of the tunnel.