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As Venezuela Divided, So Did My Family

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A Venezuelan rides his bike to work in front of a mural of the late President Hugo Chávez near Teresa Carreno Theatre on May 8th, 2019, in Caracas, Venezuela. As the country goes through a political, economic, and social crisis, Venezuelan opposition led by Juan Guaidó, recognized by many more than 50 nations as the country’s rightful interim ruler, is still trying to oust Nicolás Maduro after a failed uprising attempt on April 30th.

Early on the morning of April 30th, I was forwarded a shakily shot video of soldiers with Kalashnikovs drawn, circling white armored vehicles that had stopped traffic on one of Caracas’ busiest freeways. It came by way of a Venezuelan acquaintance living in Spain, one of many whom I now know in many corners of the world, pursuing lives in self-exile, exchanging among ourselves the latest news and hearsay about the country.

I receive so many of these videos that it can be hard to verify where they come from, whether they are indeed new, and whether they make it clear who’s perpetrating the violence. But as we’ve always said in Venezuela, lo que es verdad no es mentira: The truth is no lie. It sounds obvious, because it is. What’s true to me doesn’t make it so to someone else. Fake news can be real to whoever chooses to believe it, and misinformation spreads like a contagious disease under authoritarian regimes.

For 15 years, I let propaganda come between my father and me. The late Comandante Hugo Chávez Frías had been in power for over a decade. Even though in my twenties I too was enamored of him—of the idea of a leader with a social agenda, a political outsider who looked nothing like the previous white bureaucrats—just a handful of years into his presidency, I had completely fallen out of love with his revolution. In principle, I applauded his efforts to use oil profits to fund social programs, but over time, I saw Chávez defunding and attacking the country’s independent democratic institutions. My dad, though, hadn’t fallen out of love. To him, Chávez would become something of a messiah.

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Thanks !

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