The shipwreck of the poor


The Caribbean Sea has turned into the graveyard of the poorest Venezuelans, those that try to desperately flee the tragedy going on in the Homeland. Gone are the days of the heroic people that crossed the sea, over 200 years ago, between Haiti, the Keys, Cartagena, Jamaica, Chacachacare, and the coasts of the Homeland in their fight for independence. Those days are over. Now, it is the poorest, those that have no other option than throw themselves to the Caribbean Sea to reach safe, friendly lands that allows them to live and, above all, safeguard their families and children from the disaster caused by the madurismo.

They are part of those 4 million Venezuelans that, according to the most recent joint report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), have fled the country since the end of 2015; those that government insist on denying, even announcing that two of its most eminent representatives will go to the United Nations to “refute” the most serious and renowned organization in the world in this matter, perhaps considering that they will be able to “stir” or patotear, using the words of President Néstor Kirchner, the rest of the countries, or that they will go to an interview of VTV or Globovisión where they can say whatever they want without any sort of opposition.

The Venezuelan diaspora, a phenomenon that we have warned (“do not go”) and denounced (“the passage of the Andes”), is a sad reality that tears apart and divides families, emptying our homeland from the joy and strength of the youth; millions of sorrowful stories and deplorable situations that, in many cases, happen in silence, as part of the anonymity of the tragedy of the poor, neglected by the elites and the government.

One of those tragedies, of the most gruesome and ignored out there, is that of the Venezuelans, men, women, and children, that drown in the waters of the Caribbean Sea in their attempt to flee the country. Venezuelans, especially young people, often with their children, that drown in their attempt to cross the Caribbean Sea, mainly to Aruba, Curaçao, Trinidad and Tobago, among other destinations.

Very few of these stories are known; sometimes, the information given by a survivor or the unfortunate bodies found ashore, or even the remains of the wrecked ship that has been dragged to the beach by the water, are clear evidence of the tragedy. Some others are known as a result of the desperate search of the families: mothers, husbands, wives, all those who bid farewells or were waiting for their loved ones after a journey which they did not survive. There are many cases in which entire groups of Venezuelans have lost their lives, their bodies lost in the depths of our Caribbean Sea, graveyard of the shipwrecked dreams and lives of the poorest.

The case of the young mother Maroly Bastardo Gil, eight months pregnant, who, last August left her hometown of El Tigre and embarked with her two sons the boat “Ana María”, along with 31 other people from Güiria to Trinidad, where her husband Kennier Berra was waiting for her, a destination they never reached, probably shipwrecking in the strait “Boca de Dragón” located between both coastal lines. The captain of the boat was rescued from the sea the next day and taken to the island of Grenada but nobody knows the whereabouts of the unfortunate passengers.

Another example is the case of 32 Venezuelans, most of them women, aboard the vessel “Jhonnaly José”, also leaving from Güiria to Trinidad, which capsized on the way, as reported by the UNHCR itself from Geneva. Fishermen in the area only managed to rescue nine men, the rest of them are still missing in the Caribbean Sea.

Moreover, the cases of boats that shipwrecked on their way to Aruba and Curaçao have plunged the populations of La Vela and other towns of the Falcon state into mourning, like many other incidents of young people who board boats, braving the turbulent waters of our Sea, to reach the islands. There have been serious and sad incidents in which groups of about 20 and 32 passengers capsize and die, and even cases of young Venezuelans whose bodies are washed ashore to the beaches of the islands, their dreams drowned, their lives cut short, a disheartening testimony of this tragedy.

Of course, no government authority informs, reports or investigates what is happening with these human beings, how many are they? Why do they die? How does it happen? Why do they throw themselves to the Sea to leave the country? How to help them? The government does not do so because it has the cruel policy of denying this reality and, also, because of their indolence regarding the terrible social consequences of the crisis they themselves have created with the imposition of their economic package. What it is rather shocking is that the left, and what is left of the PSUV, remain silent.

What is happening in the Caribbean Sea resembles the situation in the Mediterranean Sea where thousands of sons and daughters of Africa die and disappear, desperate fleeing the dramatic living conditions of those countries ravaged by hunger, poverty, and war. The Caribbean and the Mediterranean have thus become the shame of the absolutely unfair and violent political and economic governments and systems. The situation is a slap in the face of the conscience of the world.

Although the government insists on denying the humanitarian and migrating crisis that is currently affecting the country, one of the most serious in the world, the United Nations system is compelled to take action so that the Venezuelan government respects the international law and acts accordingly to protect and guarantee the human rights of all citizens.

As was my tenet during my work at the United Nations, human rights are comprehensive; these comprise the economic, social, cultural, political, and legal factors of the people. Our position in the discussions held at the Security Council concerning the issue of the African migrants that desperately crossed the Mediterranean Sea was that, instead of addressing the issue from a military perspective, it was necessary to acknowledge the responsibility of nations and governments that caused the situations of instability and misery in the countries of origin, so in this way address the underlying causes or “root causes”, as they are known in the diplomatic jargon, of the diaspora.

Our position cannot be any different in this case, more so when it comes to our fellow nationals. Maduro’s government is responsible for the gruesome economic and social situation that affects our people, and, consequently, is the only one to answer about the fleeing of about 4,000,000 Venezuelans, including the fate of those that die in a journey by foot or those who disappear and drown trying to cross the Caribbean Sea.

This is a government that not only systematically violates the human rights of its citizens through repression, persecution, and imprisonment-kidnapping for political reasons, but it also violates the fundamental rights of the entire population, including those economic and social; therefore, the people are willing to take all sorts of risks and suffer every kind of deprivations and mistreatments to find outside the country what the State has failed to guarantee them.

The upcoming visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, former president Michelle Bachelet, constitutes an excellent opportunity for her to verify the state of permanent violation of Human Rights in the country.

This opportunity can also serve her to corroborate the continuous violation of the Rule of Law in the country carried out by maduro and the different bodies of the government, as well as by the general prosecutor’s office and the judicial power. All of this combined with the total absence of separation of powers and due process, the “judicialization of politics” as a systematic practice of government and the intolerant and violent behavior of both political groups that vie for power over the interests of the country.

I hope that the High Commissioner, with her experience as Head of State, her political acumen and profound humanity, can see beyond the walls built up by the government, the “embellishment” of reality, the “false positives”, and the hasty transfers of prisoners to hide their situation.

I hope she has the opportunity to listen and interview the families and the victims of human rights violations carried out by the government and that she is able to overcome the intolerance of the extreme right and recognize that the Chavistas that oppose maduro also have human rights. I hope she enforces the universally accepted criterion that human rights must be practiced with impartiality, non-selectivity, and without politicizing them.

I hope she is able to receive and listen to the wives of the more than one hundred kidnapped PDVSA workers and Chavista military officers, get to know the cases of former ministers Nelson Martínez, Major General Rodríguez Torres and General Raúl Baduel, as well as the cases of yet so many prisoners-kidnapped by direct orders of maduro, or anyone from his power circle, who violated their rights, mistreating them and taking them to the brink of death.

I hope the High Commissioner has the possibility to access La Tumba, the Helicoide, the SEBIN, DIGECIM, and other detention centers, and talk with those kidnapped, many of whom, such as the cases of Gladys Parada and Diagnaly Muñoz, have been there for over five years, without knowing what they are accused of, without ever having had the possibility of attending a single judicial hearing. This, in addition to the occupation, or better said, confiscation of their homes.

I hope the High Commissioner can ask the attorney general for the violation of due process, the right to defense and the presumption of innocence of the hundreds of persecuted, exiled, and imprisoned by direct instructions of maduro, or his inner circle, and their own unbridled action, in which he has used the Public Prosecutor’s Office to satisfy his own interests, grudges, revenges and persecute those who face this disastrous government.

I hope she asks the Prosecutor General about the assassination of Óscar Pérez and his companions, the death in custody of former minister Nelson Martínez, and how councilman Albán was thrown out the tenth floor of SEBIN.

I hope she can determine the state of permanent terror of the population, whose phones and emails are tapped, who live in insecurity over the peaceful enjoyment of their goods, with their reservations in work meetings and even between relatives and friends, at work, on the roads and highways of the country, as well as the dismissals and persecution of workers of the public administration that express their dissent, claims or simply refuse to support the government’s outrages.

I hope she becomes aware of the ongoing violence that reigns throughout the entire country, particularly in the working-class areas, of how people take refuge at early times in their houses, leaving the city silent and empty, for fear of insecurity. I hope that she learns about the raids and killings of FAES and other paramilitary groups in the working-class neighborhoods.

Hopefully, the High Commissioner has the chance to investigate and learn about the infrahuman conditions in which thousands of ordinary prisoners live, buried in the penitentiary hell where they die in the hands of the pranes (gangsters), masters and lords of those prisons; or burned alive, such as the case of the 70 prisoners who were scorched to dead in the prison of Puerto Cabello, for having kept the doors closed during a fire.

Certainly, the High Commissioner and her team, representatives of the United Nations, the most serious and professional institution in matters of human rights, will overcome the attacks of the intolerance and the pressure of the government, to realize that Caracas is a mirage, that the rest of the country is subject to a permanent shortage of food, medicine, jobs, electricity, transportation, gasoline; that Venezuela today is a country in ruins, ruled by injustices of all kind, a poor country out of which young people flee as they can, crossing the moorlands by foot, towards Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, even to Argentina and Chile, or crossing the jungle to get to Brazil and die in the Caribbean Sea trying to reach a place to live.

President Bachelet, High Commissioner, welcome to our battered homeland, the homeland of Bolívar, Andrés Bello, Chávez, where so many Latin Americans got refuge from the violence of dictatorships or economic horrors, where solidarity and prosperity, the good living, used to reign. Today our people need your voice, your courage. The hearts of our noble and just people are filled with hope, and thus we need to urgently stop the shipwreck of the poor of my land.