Terry Glavin to the Canadian Left: ‘Put ‘Em Up! These Are Fightin’ Words!’ – A Lesson in What Journalism Isn’t

The first paragraph of Terry Glavin’s op-ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen titled ‘Venezuela and the Canadian Left,’ reads something like the opening scene in the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which takes off like a rocket, as a drug-addled journalist and his attorney zoom through the desert in a convertible towards Vegas. Glavin’s opening paragraph reads just like that scene, minus the drugs but with 68 words chock-full of paranoia, panic, an alarming tone and inflammatory language about high inflation rates, food shortages and chaos: Fear and Loathing, indeed.

He concludes that first paragraph with what sounds like a caped villain in a bad opera who thinks he sees his enemy get his comeuppance: “Maybe,” he says, as he twirls the tips of his moustache between his finger tips, “the glorious Bolivarian revolution we’ve been hearing about all these years isn’t quite proceeding so splendidly after all.” BUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

But how wrong is Terry Glavin!

Venezuela isn’t “convulsing in riots” over food shortages and high inflation rates, as dear Glavin would like us to believe. In fact, Mark Weisbrot, who has been there (or perhaps more likely still is), dispels those myths popularly peddled in the Canadian media, in a piece he wrote for the The Guardian.

Weisbrot writes:

Major media outlets have already reported that Venezuela’s poor have not joined the right-wing opposition protests, but that is an understatement: it’s not just the poor who are abstaining – in Caracas, it’s almost everyone outside of a few rich areas like Altamira, where small groups of protesters engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas. (emphasis added.)

Weisbrot’s article explains in a bit more detail the issue of inflation, pointing out the monthly inflation actually began to fall on February, and that the return on government bonds were actually “the highest returns in the Bloomberg dollar emerging market bond index” that same month. It also explains that shortages are mainly affecting the poor, because the residents of the areas where the real protests are happening, he says, “have servants to stand in line for what they need, and they have the income and storage space to accumulate some inventory.”

Whether you believe him or not, Weisbrot’s reporting –his assessment of what is going on from the ground — substantiates facts with some context and analysis. With Balance. Journalism 101.

But not Glavin, it seems. He’s on a different kind of trip, perhaps confident because he’s on the op-ed section and can therefore let loose.
Glavin goes on for the next few paragraphs in the same manner as before — totally unhinged, like a tweaker on a speed binge determined to infect everybody at the party with his derangement. In one sentence 46-words-long he manages to insult the dead memory of Chavez, calling him an “unhinged caudillo,” and then brings into the mix Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Moammar Ghadafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Naomi Campbell and Susan Sarandon. The man is clearly on a mission, and everything he says gives him that kind of distinct you’d-better-join-or-get-the-fuck-out-of-the-way feel about him.

Finally, five paragraphs into the beast, Glavin gets to the point…or rather, gets if off his chest:

In Canada, El Commandante’s fan base carries on, goose-steeping in and out of the mouldering crypts of Israel Apartheid Week, Hands Off Iran and Canada-Cuba friendship clubs, moaning obediently into megaphones about CIA plots, Yanqui imperialism and whatever other cribbings they can manage to remember from that column the Toronto Star’s Linda McQuaig wrote after Chavez died last year, the one where Chavez shows up as “a feisty mix of Robin Hood, Che Guevara and Michael Bublé.”

I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why this is not what any sort of journalism — conventional or not — sounds like. A supposedly and presumably impartial journalist does not attack legitimate movements, groups of solidarity and support, as a “fan base” that’s “goose-steeping” around other clubs; it does not associate legitimate calls for international solidarity and personal convictions with “moaning obediently into megaphones” and yelling out “cribbings” half-remembered from a year ago. In short, it does not insult the people or the events it is covering.

Glavin then puts his sight on President Nicolas Maduro, who he blames for a number of charges including “subjecting all dissenters to harassment, bullying and persecution, resorting increasingly to the ministrations of motorcycle-gang paramilitaries and arrest-warrant fabrications involving treason, CIA collaboration and subversion.” He, of course, does not substantiate any of this with any other sources or documents other than his very own words, which he spews with fire and brimstone.

For instance, had he taken his time to calm his nerves, perhaps step away from the screen and clear his head, or have a drink, he would’ve read a report by the Organization of American States — the very organization Washington’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, appealed to asking for intervention to stop Maduro’s terrible crackdown — which instead applauded Maduro’s efforts for peace and expressed solidarity with his government.

The March 7, 2014 Statement reads, in part:

The Permanent Council hereby declares:… Its appreciation, full support, and encouragement for the initiatives and the efforts of the democratically-elected Government of Venezuela and all political, economic, and social sectors to continue to move forward with the process of national dialogue towards political and social reconciliation, in the framework of full respect by all democratic actors for the constitutional guarantees of all. (emphasis added.)

Do your research. That’s another fundamental lesson our university professors cannot get tired of drilling into us. And it’s simple now, what with the Internet and all those search engines.

But Glavin stands his ground. Damn you and your technology! I got intuition! What else could he be thinking, right?

He goes back to belittling the members of the grassroots group Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front as “undead legionnaires” who only managed to catch this professional journalist’s eye because they were “far outnumbered in Dundas Square by scores of lively young Venezuelan ex-pats who had gathered there to demonstrate their solidarity with the student-led protest movement back home.”

Of course, once again, Glavin fails to mention that this so-called “student-led protest movement back home” is being headed by the minority of students that belong to the middle classes. The majority of students, who belong to the working classes, and who are not protesting, though they are demonstrating and continuing their every-day activities and community project, would be worth mentioning when speaking of students and “lively young Venezuelan ex-pats.”

Glavin also fails to mention what Weisbrot actually noticed about the students protesting when he was there: that “these people are not hurting. Their income has grown at a healthy pace since the Chávez government got control of the oil industry a decade ago.”

Glavin also doesn’t mention that the protestors are the ones who have rigged such ingenious and peaceful protesting tools like barbed wire extended across a street. The peaceful plan unfortunately backfired when an unsuspecting motorcyclist had his head severed from his neck this past February.

But it might not be all Glavin’s fault. Just doing a Google Search does, indeed, prove hard to find any mainstream news articles talking about it.

In any case, once you finally digest all the words on the first page, the second one comes by and seals the deal, so to speak.

***

Here, Glavin finally introduces some voices into the reportage other than his own, though you wouldn’t be faulted for confusing them. Much like Glavin, Montrealer Sylvia Guimarey, “a pro-democracy activist in Venezuela’s Canadian diaspora” is also baffled at the quintessential question: “Just why (does) Bolivarianism still hold such sway over so many Canadians who fancy themselves to be ‘progressive’?”

““Why?” Guimary asked…“Why is it taking so long for Canadians to understand that this is a total autocratic system now?”

Another activist in Montreal, Daniela Becerra, part of SOS Venezuela Montreal, “is similarly stumped.” But his writing doesn’t necessarily make it clear who’s the one thinking “(s)ome of the pro-government activity in Canada is clearly coming from such Caracas-supported initiatives as the Centro Cultural Simón Bolívar, run out of the Venezuelan consulate in Montreal.”

In notoriously Glavin fashion, we are also not told why this is “clearly” the case. Perhaps it’s because we, the readers, should just admit that we are too stupid to realize the obvious, and that’s why he doesn’t attribute that sentence to anyone or any organization in particular. Yeah, what any journalist worth his salt would do.

Glavin then manages to, in one broad stroke, paint all people who sympathize with the political left as ignorant boobs who follow something but “don’t have a clue” why.

And finally, to conclude his maddening trip, Glavin leaves his Canadian readers who have the audacity to sympathize with the left, with one last piece of advice: support the protestors, because they are “fighting for democratic institutional reform,” lest you become what he apparently despises most — “the radical-chic mélange that passes for the “Left” in Canada.”

And there you have it. An honest and raw account into the heart of everything journalism is not, as seen through Glavin’s defiant and honest fightin’ words.

THE BEAST GETS CLOSER…IT GROWS BIGGER

Originally written on Sunday, May 5, 2013

4:43 p.m.

A Much Needed Change of Pace

I’ve just returned from a small, personal excursion to the London Museum of Archeology and the Medway Valley Heritage Forest, IMG_20130503_205244 which seems to surround the former. Despite the Museum’s small size (it was just a bit bigger than my apartment, minus the separate/divided rooms) it held a few interesting artifacts and facts about the First Nations that settled in and around Canada. These included the tribes that settled at the Lawson Site, which apparently bordered the edge of what now is the Museum; at the back, past the parking lot, a re-creation of that village had been propped up, displaying a Longhouse (and a smaller Longhouse), Tents and a few other landmarks that created a vague, though palpable resemblance of what those pre-modern times of hunting and gathering must’ve looked like. But more inviting that the Museum itself, at least to me, were both the forest behind the recreated Lawson Village and the Heritage Forest, the latter of which I traversed until I found a nice, quiet place by a stream that seemed to flow with crystal-clear water, and where I sat alone with my thoughts as I tried to return to those simpler times, traveling inside a cloud of smoke that seemed to linger in the air for just a few moments before entirely vanishing, just like those figures in my mind…Yes, it was among all that nature that I felt the most free.

The path was long and sinuous, resembling a snake that stood still. The sun was beaming with full force, though its strength diminished a bit since it had to poke through the foliage that rested so very high above my head, at the very tips of awesomely huge trees which seemed to, indeed, scrape the sky. At my sides, through the intricate web of trees and branches that separated the darkness and bowels of the forest from my apparently forsaken path, an orchestra formed and carried me along with its tune: a marvelous melody of birds’ songs that repeated their beautiful pattern with clock-like precision every four seconds or so, and then the response from their aviary comrades which would come shortly thereafter, extending and fulfilling a melody that uttered a love story. The shrubs shrouded from time to time, and twigs snapped as little but lightning-fast feet scurried around the floral-maze…It almost felt like eyes were peering at me from behind the bushes, but they were kind eyes – at least they felt as such – which made the path no longer feel deserted and forsaken, but rather like a live, breathing organism that accompanied me. The Snake, it seemed, had regained its life…And perhaps, I felt, it was my presence that had had something to do with it.

As I continued walking, enjoying that serenade emanating from within the very Soul of the Forest, the peculiarity of being alone in a new place – though not really alone – became apparent to me again, just as it had on those now long-gone days when I had traveled the Venezuelan streets alone, armed with nothing but my recorder, my pen and enough money to refuel on ice-cold beers. Yes, the magnificently impactful experience of being alone in a new city, or country, or forest, or house, will never leave me…I’m not sure if that is an experience that most travelers share; I have met so many experienced travelers from all over the world and with so many IMG_20130505_142025different personalities, goals, vices and stories, that a really focused conversation or analysis of their feelings at being alone once again has never materialized. But, as in many things in life, and without at all descending into that banal “individualism,” which really is egoism (and, sometimes, border-line anti-social tendencies), that plagues most of the world, if not all of it, I must admit that in this case, the feelings of other travelers on the matter is really of no concern to me, at least in regards to my purposes, which focus on deep and critical self-analyzing and on the creation/implementation of a revolutionary process for self-evolution.

Into the Grinder

What I mean by all of that, is that I’ve realized that it is when I’m thrown head-first into the Grinder that I feel most alive, most free, most useful. I wither with routine; I find myself rotting, both from the inside and the outside, whenever I have (or choose) to do the exact same thing every day…and that includes the things that my eyes see, that my ears hear and which, thus, create the images and ideas that my brain propels. It is the excitement and panic that I feel – the Fear and Loathing, in the words of the Good Doctor – that seem so wild and pleasing at the same time. It is knowing that things have changed, that the walls have morphed, that the ground has gained life. It is knowing that at any given time, I may find the Stairs that Lead Straight Up, just as likely as I may find the Elevator that Plunges Downwards. It is knowing that happiness and utter despair are both new friends and foes that wait for and lurk behind me, and that I may come out all the better at the other side precisely because of them. It is knowing that I am taking steps nearing either the Head or the Tail of Snake…but that I am, indeed, taking them.

As a matter of fact, I will never forget the steps I already had the pleasure of taking in Mexico, or Cuba, or Venezuela.

Particularly in the latter – in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela – I experienced some of the most amazing things in my life, including, in its own way, a desolation of the soul that blinded me from any reason and which nearly destroyed my sanity and my health…Yes, for some odd reason – and certainly without being a masochist, for I abhor unnecessary pain (and likewise, cherish the opposite) – even those depressing experiences taught me something; they made my brain and my thoughts react a certain way which, sooner or later, would come to form some of the most powerful convictions in me. Of course, in retrospect, if I could choose to do things differently – to have taken a different path among the Long Snake that was that trip – I certainly would do so; but, for that, I’d need to think like I do now, which is physically/metaphysically/mentally and any other kind of degree of impossible, given that it was precisely those experiences from which I learned and eventually evolved into the Beast that I am today…Indeed, as a Wise Fool once said, He who makes a Beast of Himself, gets rid of the Pain of Being a Man….And pain, there is!

And it is in this way that my experiences here in London thus far, and those to come over the course of the next year, are surely to teach me something…For much more than just becoming a Journalist – a profession which I admire with all the Integrity in me, and which I’ve devoted myself to entirely – my time here will be used more like narcotics for an addled brain: uppers, downers, herbs, medicines, whatever you want to call it, the experiences will all cause new chemical reactions, feelings, thoughts and behaviours to go along with it. And all of this will accumulate to a Refined Me; to an individual that, much like the Snake, has Shed its Old Skin. The essence remains – the soul is intact – but the Ideas Grow.

The Individual who Propels the Great Wheel

I remember thinking at some point today – as I rode the bus through what I could only describe as one of the quaintest towns/cities wherein I’ve had the pleasure of residing, however briefly – that while it is very true that Ideas Never Die – a maxim not only true and widely known, but which has regained its fervour after the unfortunate death of Commander Hugo Chavez – they are insufficient to really Propel the Great Wheel forward. As important and powerful as they are, it’d be a sin (to put a religious twist in there) to allow the Idea to remain static and to eventually become sedentary, if not regressive, within the context of the ever-changing societies and conditions around the world. I had in mind, at that moment, the aforementioned events of Chavez’s death, and the subsequent battle between the two opposing (political) sides.

Though it is very true, again, that the Movement and Revolutionary Fervour that he revived in Latin America will continue – for, as we’ve agreed, Ideas Never Die – the Greatness and the Supremacy (not in terms of class or any other such exclusionary terms, but rather in a sense of greater preparedness, both physically and ideologically), of the Individual (now in the true sense of the word) is vital…Nay, Unforgivably Necessary!

Indeed, to conclude with the Venezuelan example and the political implications for the Latin American continent, if we allow the ideas that Chavez left as his legacy – what we could, to use his own term, call 21st Century Socialism – to stagnate, to become an unchanging model, then it only becomes dogmatic; worst, it becomes antagonistic to the context of the society. My faith resides fully with President Maduro, for he’s proven himself capable – at least thus far, in his short terms as both interim- and elected-president – to not only continue Chavez’s legacy, but to nourish it and allow it to Grow and Evolve. Nevertheless, new Individuals must be born and moulded with the Revolutionary Ideas that are overtaking the Continent, so that they may lead said Ideas towards their Ideal – so that they may continue to nourish them and perfect them.

And it was with that thought, as I rode the bus, that I regained the consciousness of being, once again, alone in a new place…and with all the tools that are therefore necessary and available  to Mould a New Man out of myself…To pry deeper into my Real Self; into all my “Wild Dogs,” as Nietzsche would say. For my ideas and convictions, as ingrained and solid as I know they are, hunger for Change and Evolution and Progress

Alas, I am getting Closer to the Head of the Beast!!IMG_20130503_202245

******

Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Patria, Socialismo o Muerte!

RESPUESTA A LAS MENTIRAS DE LUDMILA VINOGRADOFF SOBRE VENEZUELA

La señora Ludmila Vinogradoff, alguien que funge de “periodista” venezolana (usando el termino muy, pero muy ligeramente), corresponsal del diario ABC de España, había escrito en su blog un artículo titulado “Fascismo puro y duro”, donde supuestamente y según ella, documentaba la “represión” y “violencia” contra el pueblo venezolano por parte del gobierno, al cual ella, como el resto de la oposición derechista nacional e internacional, no reconoce como legítimo. En este artículo, ella se había permitido incluir algunas imágenes de policías/militares que apaleaban/golpeaban a una mujer en el suelo, como obvia evidencia de la “represión” en Venezuela a la que hacía alusión. Mas ocurre que la foto es vieja, y muestra eventos registrados en Egipto.

Esta descarada y falaz mentira, la cual la hubo enmascarado tras el concepto de “periodismo ético”, fue descubierta en Facebook por un grupo no gubernamental que no obstante apoya al gobierno (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151539413853886&set=a.301781968885.147942.294742043885&type=1&theater). La susodicha “periodista” ha eliminado – bajo la presión de la crítica- el artículo de su página, pero en su lugar, escribe uno intitulado, “Represión y cacería de brujas”.

Este nuevo ‘artículo’ – si le cabe la nominación a esta cadena de calumnias, mentiras, suposiciones, especulaciones y rumores no verificados por aquella que dice ser “periodista” – remítase el lector a este sitio: (http://abcblogs.abc.es/bochinche-venezolano/2013/04/19/represion-y-caceria-de-brujas/), es simplemente una repetición de lo anterior, pero esta vez – ojo! – no hay fotos para evidenciar una sola de las “múltiples violaciones” por parte del gobierno, que esta señora describe.

Comienza el artículo diciendo que quiere “rectificar y ofrecer disculpas por la publicación de las fotografías” que presentó tratando de mostrarlas como evidencia; dice que fue un “error no haberlas verificado antes de publicarlas…” Pero, caramba! ¿Se tratará acaso de una “periodista” novicia? ¿O qué, desconoce quizá normativas éticas, morales y profesionales en relación con la elaboración de un artículo o informe de esta naturaleza? ¿No conoce el procedimiento a seguir encaminado a la publicación de un artículo y/o fotografías, especialmente tratándose de un trabajo cuyo contenido se encuentra en la mira de la controversia? O quizá solo atisbó que sus lectores tendríamos el criterio y la capacidad analítica de los borregos y que terminaríamos creyéndolo todo y que no nos importaría verificar la veracidad de lo que escribiera? ¿O, que para cuando alguien al fin descubra su mentira, ya muchos de sus seguidores/lectores le habrán creído y asimilado? Cualquiera sea la respuesta, la verdad inconcusa es que a esta señora, como “periodista”, le falta mucha trayectoria, sobre todo adiestrarse en cuanto a profesionalismo.

Sin embargo, ella continúa su diatriba calumniosa e infundiosa contra el Gobierno Revolucionario y contra el Presidente Maduro, además de otros funcionarios a quienes también injuria y lastima sin documento alguno.

“La práctica de la represión y la cacería de brujas con métodos fascistas contra toda manifestación de protesta y disidencia de la oposición han continuado”, escribe la corresponsal.

Habla de denuncias que “truenan por todo el país”; de grupos universitarios denunciando el aprisionamiento de “jóvenes detenidos por protestar” y quienes “fueron atacados, golpeados y agredidos salvajemente por las fuerzas represivas del Estado’”; cita a un líder de estos grupos diciendo que conocen de “más de 400 compañeros” que han sido “heridos”, y “mas de 150 jóvenes” que han sido detenidos “por ejercer sus derechos”; habla de “supuestas torturas” de jóvenes….

Sin embargo, contrariamente a la manera en que empíricamente expuso sus denuncias previas de “represión” por parte del gobierno -valiéndose de fotografías inexistentes- en su nuevo y desesperado intento, todas estas “evidencias” de violencia, tortura y represión truculentas, presentadas con tal magnitud, no son acompañadas ni respaldadas con una sola foto….

¿Sera que no existen?

Esta “periodista” también tiene el descaro de calificar de ‘pacificas’ las “manifestaciones” que surgieron tras el llamado que Capriles hizo a la gente para ejecutar “protestas de…cacerolas”. Se muestra indignada frente a lo que según ella, estas “manifestaciones pacíficas” han sido objeto de “satanización”. Del mismo modo, tiene la audacia de expresar sus condolencias por las “nuevas” victimas caídas.

No obstante, la “periodista” en cuestión, no hace la menor mención en torno a las ocho muertes que derivaron de esas “protestas pacificas” (http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2013/04/16/violencia-opositora-deja-cuatro-muertos-en-venezuela/; https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151533565953886&set=a.301781968885.147942.294742043885&type=1&theater). No habla del líder del partido del PSUV, José L. Ponce ni de su esposa, quienes fueron asesinados tras el “ataque violento al CDI de Baruta”, o del asesinato de Johny Pacheco, “defensor del CDI…en Baruta” (http://www.aporrea.org/ddhh/n227321.html); tampoco menciona el hecho de que GRUPOS OPOSITORES quemaron viviendas del mismo pueblo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ochNFsQPF6c), y oficinas del Partido PSUV (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151532339318886&set=a.10151532338563886.1073741862.294742043885&type=1&theater). Deliberadamente soslaya las declaraciones del joven que admite haber expuesto viejas fotos de cajas electoras cuando eran quemadas, tratando así de eliminar evidencia de “fraude electoral” de este año (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Yr3sGL_g0c); no dice nada en relación con LAS VERDADES que Capriles OMITE cuando habla de “fraude electoral” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjhH6vfGmUI&sns=fb), y nada respecto de los insultantes comentarios que también hizo contra los extranjeros que “están de visita en Venezuela”, exigiendo que “PAGUEN” lo que él cree que le “deben al pueblo Venezolano” (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151539406993886&set=a.301781968885.147942.294742043885&type=1&relevant_count=1).

En otras palabras, esta “periodista” no menciona absolutamente nada que pudiera comprometer, o aún derrotar (en el mejor de los casos) a la oposición. Todos estos videos, fotos y artículos han sido documentados en periódicos públicos en Venezuela; sin embargo, los medios privados no han dicho una sola palabra al respecto.

También quiero poner de relieve un par de “verdades” narradas por la señora, mostrando su buen desempeño periodístico, el mismo que ha estado ausente a lo largo de prácticamente toda su narrativa: Menciona ella la “‘actitud gorila’” que según el diputado de la oposición Andrés Velásquez, se hace manifiesta en el presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, Diosdado Cabello, al privar del derecho de hablar en la Asamblea, a los ministros que no reconozcan al presidente Maduro. Hecho claramente plasmado y estipulado en el Artículo 187.10 de la Constitución, mediante el cual la Asamblea Nacional representada por el presidente de esta, tiene potestad de extender “voto de censura…a los Ministros o Ministras.”

Además, verdad de Perogrullo es que si el triunfo hubiera recaído sobre el candidato opositor, a nadie se le habría ocurrido hacer algún llamado al recuento de votos y, consecuentemente habría sido Capriles el “legitimo” presidente. Justamente esto mismo es lo que sucedió cuando Capriles se erigió como gobernador del estado de Miranda con solo 38.000 votos, y entonces muy orondo aceptó la victoria sin interponer disconformidad. Pero como la MINORIA POLITICA -representada por Capriles- no quiere aceptar esos resultados, entonces aducen que no dejarles hablar es “inconstitucional”.

Finalmente – después de haberme entregado a tan ardua tarea como es la de leer toda esa sarta de mendacidades que no habían sido ni siquiera bien formuladas – Vinogradoff cita a la “directora de la ONG Control Ciudadano”, Rocío San Miguel, quien aparentemente anuncia que todo el “aplastamiento” de disidentes y protestantes ha sido “suficientemente documentado”….

Pero está claro, esta “periodista” ni siquiera pretende hacer alución a esa documentación….

Vale seguir???

¿Cáncer inoculado? (En Cubadebate, por Eleazar Díaz Rangel)

Articulo Original: ¿Cáncer inoculado?.

 

Julián Assange es hoy otro personaje invisibilizado. No se crean que sólo lo hacen con los pobres, como durante tantos años ocurrió aquí y sucede en países latinoamericanos.

También desaparecen de los medios a personajes que en algún momento estuvieron en el epicentro de la atención mediática de todo el mundo y, de pronto, “dejan de ser noticia”. En nuestro caso, Assange fue el hombre que entregó a cinco de los diarios más famosos del mundo centenares de miles de mensajes que enviaron las embajadas de EEUU al Departamento de Estado desde decenas de países, incluido Venezuela, pero hubo dos circunstancias que lo bajaron del pedestal: una, que cuando Assange observó que en esos diarios dejaban de publicar cables que afectaban determinados intereses, políticos y de empresas transnacionales, cortó sus relaciones con ellos y, la otra, que Estados Unidos comenzó a perseguirlo y debió asilarse en la Embajada de Ecuador en Londres, donde aún se encuentra.

Hace muy poco concedió una entrevista a Elizabeth Carvallo para Globo News y denunció que “la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional de EEUU, que es la principal agencia de espionaje electrónico de EEUU, admitió ante el Congreso que intercepta 1,6 mil millones de unidades de comunicación al día”, y fue más allá, dijo también que Internet es “la máquina de espionaje más importante que jamás se haya inventado” y que Google y Facebook “se ven parte del sistema”.

Un país con esa capacidad de nutrirse de información de todos los mortales sobre la Tierra y de interceptar casi todas las llamadas telefónicas que hacemos y los mensajes que enviamos o recibimos, es capaz de cosas mayores.

“…En el caso particular del cáncer, se conoce que, desde 1975, se ha empleado el Fuerte Detrick como instalación donde radica una sección especial dentro del Departamento Virus del Centro para la Investigación de Guerra Biológica, conocida como “Instalaciones Fredrick para la Investigación del Cáncer”, bajo supervisión del Departamento de Defensa, de la CIA y del Instituto Nacional del Cáncer.

“Las investigaciones ultrasecretas están encaminadas a desarrollar un programa especial del virus del cáncer, sumamente agresivo y letal, para el que existe inmunidad y fue identificado como Virus Humano de la célula T de Leucemia (Htlv). La insistencia de estos laboratorios de lograr los mecanismos para elaborar artificialmente células malignas o cancerígenas, sumamente invasivas y capaces de propagarse en el organismo desarrollando una metástasis incontenible, se ha mantenido a lo largo de más de cuatro décadas. De acuerdo con estos proyectos, las enfermedades cancerígenas serían capaces de inhibir cualquier defensa ante su ataque al organismo humano, diseminándose a través de la sangre o de la linfa luego de ser inoculadas en el mismo mediante diversas vías. La alteración del material genético de las células humanas que provoca el cáncer por vía artificial en estos laboratorios, son la premisa básica de esta arma desarrollada con la venia del Gobierno norteamericano. Para ello se elaboran células madres o stem cells, mediante mutaciones monitoreadas y preconcebidas, convirtiéndolas en un fenotipo maligno más heterogéneo de rápido desarrollo”, según escribió Percy Alvarado Godoy, luchador e investigador antiterrorista.

Ahora lean el comienzo de un informe escrito por Robert Burns en 2007, de la agencia AP: “En uno de los secretos más duraderos de la Guerra Fría, el Ejército de Estados Unidos exploró la posibilidad de utilizar venenos radioactivos para asesinar a ‘personas importantes’, como líderes militares o civiles, según documentos desclasificados obtenidos por The Associated Press”.

Seguramente el presidente Hugo Chávez no conocía esos informes cuando, a fines de 2011, expresó su extrañeza de que personalidades como Cristina Fernández, Dilma Rousseff, Fernando Lugo, Lula da Silva y él, hubiesen tenido cáncer, y señaló que no podía ser casual que algunos poderes foráneos pudiesen tener responsabilidad.

Muerto Chávez, enterado el alto gobierno de que muestras de la biopsia enviadas a laboratorios especializados de Brasil, China, Rusia, y con nombre supuesto, EEUU, coincidieron en que se trataba de células únicas, de un cáncer extremadamente agresivo, y aparentemente desconocido, es cuando el presidente encargado Nicolás Maduro, anunció que se designará una comisión de científicos de varios países del mundo para conocer del caso. Más recientemente, el ministro Rafael Ramírez declaró estar convencido de que Chávez fue víctima de un complot y fue asesinado. Dijo a BBC Mundo que “Estamos seguros de que el imperialismo y lo más oscuro de las agencias de inteligencia… tienen el manejo de tecnologías que nosotros desconocemos”, y le pidió al periodista que no le pidiera “que te demuestre en este momento la profunda convicción que tengo, lo estudiaremos y evaluaremos. No se ha podido demostrar cómo asesinaron a Yaser Arafat, pero a Yaser Arafat lo asesinaron”.

Ante esos hechos y opiniones, hay razones para la duda y parece lógica la designación de esa comisión de científicos, y esperar sus resultados para despejar las dudas

MY ADVENTURE IN THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA (CHAPTER 1 – ROUGH)

CHAPTER 1: DECISIONS TO FLEE AND ALCOHOLIC TENDENCIES TEND TO MIX; LIGHTNING AND THUNDER AND STEEL BIRDS; TOUGH LESSONS ARE LEARNED QUICKER IN LATIN-AMERICA  

In my experience, there is almost nothing more exhilarating for a young adventurer than traveling to a new country on his own. The seasoned traveler,  as with most things in life, gets accustomed to this, so they may disagree…But I suspect that even they, despite the numerous lands they’ve conquered, will always feel that tingling sensation in the pit of their stomachs as they board a fantastic machine which they know will fly them to new and far-away lands… maybe not always new, but certainly always far from whatever refuge they might call “home.” It is the very nature of traveling that in itself already is different, exciting, hectic…You wave goodbye to people you know and usually love; you run around the airport with a bag on every limb while holding the passport tightly in your mouth; you worry about your luggage constantly, or at least until the mean-looking guard that looks like a goddamn club bouncer, or like Bruno – the brute that works for a pig-feeding gangster in some violent movie you once saw – chooses you for a “random” full Body Check for apparently no reason at all; you wait for hours on end for your flight eating $8 dollar eggs and washing it down with a $9 beer. From that point forward, I guess it depends on many factors like your age, whatever romantic, professional or other type of relationship you may find yourself in, personal finances and a slew of other things. But in the end, as you walk down the tarmac, pass the stewardess welcoming you and demanding a boarding pass, and stumble through narrow lanes looking for your seat among tight clusters of confused-looking people, the reality that you are about to soar through the open skies and over vast oceans towards a New World in a Steel Bird designed by fallible men just like yourself hits you , and you can’t help but allow the Adrenaline to wash over you like a bucket of freezing water hitting naked skin in the middle of the Arctic. Then it all seems to climax – quite literally – when you look outside the window and find yourself slicing through a sea of clouds some 30,000 feet-high at more than 470 km per hour…at least that is the way I feel whenever I fly. And going to Venezuela was no different.

The decision to flee to that country had come somewhat rashly and during a hectic few months in my life which were antagonized by failed relationships, a dismal professional future and a rather dangerous alcohol-consumption-pattern — a trifecta of disappointment and turmoil that seemed to come together all at once. About three or four months prior, my girlfriend of four years had decided that she’d had enough and called it quits. To be completely honest, problems had been brewing for a few months before that, manifesting themselves in the typical way relationships heading down the crapper do – less calls, less need to be around each other, more arguments over stupider things, etc., etc. So we decided to go to Cuba. We didn’t go to forget our troubles, because I think we pretty much ignored them the entire time, despite how obvious they were. We just wanted to have a vacation together – perhaps subconsciously anticipating the end – and since I was adamant about Cuba (for personal reasons), we chose the enchanted Island. But, in retrospect, I believe that it was that trip that was the culminating event. No relationship – I’ve come to believe – that is already on the rocks has the slimmest chance of surviving if the parties take a trip together; it’s just way too much time for them to spend together alone, usually around alcohol, with no family or friends to deter them from killing each other. In the end, even if you don’t fight, the obvious tension is only boiling in the background like a teapot ready to go off, while you put on a brave face so as to not to embarrass each other in front of your new trip buddies…but eventually it will boil and the steamer will make you go deaf. And that’s just what happened. After a couple of months since our return to Toronto, the wonderful saga that had begun in a sunny summer day during a history class in a high-school four years back, ended just as quickly one cold evening in her bedroom. We had just finished rolling around her sheets one last time – quite passionately and savagely, even with a hint of violence – perhaps instinctively,  because just as we ended, even before we finished cleansing each other’s sweat off one another, we began arguing, and before we knew it, the edifice had crumbled.

Compounded onto this terrible situation was a debilitating bout of unemployment – which hasn’t entirely let up – and which obviously had an impact on my already tattered nerves. I mean, a man can only take so much rejection, romantic or otherwise. At first, I’ll admit, I wasn’t running full-speed ahead to the job-bank; but it didn’t take long to realize that even those who were trying hard were being left behind, university degrees and all. After searching and applying for so many jobs that most of my days would be spent writing cover letters and making half-a-minute phone calls ending in “not at the moment” or, in the best of cases, in an apologetic, “…but go ahead and email us your resume anyway,” I realized that these were times of war, and that I had better bust in the scene kicking, punching, biting and clawing if I had to, lest self-preservation should fail too. Simultaneously, and almost unbeknownst to myself and to most people around me, my alcohol consumption had gotten so out of hand that most events, parties and social gatherings would go by with no trace in my memory. I mean, I know I attended them and that I even acted decently…most of the time. I’d have to be reminded of this, of course, by the people I was with the following day: why we were where we were, or, more generally, what had happened. For the most part, I was told, I would be ok – for a drunk and given the setting, but even then, they’d say, I was dangerously pushing some boundaries. What’s more, I had begun conjuring images in my brain of the violent retribution I would cast against all those bastards who refused to hire me. I was convinced it was due to political reasons – that the swine knew what a young journalist with fire in his belly is capable of, and that they were afraid of it; that they did not want their own incompetence and collusion with ineptitude and corruption made public by a young reporter wanting to hold the whole diseased world by the balls while demanding answers. So, amid these converging assaults on my psyche, it became evident to me that what I needed to do was to get away…to Flee…to leave the whole fucking thing behind in search of a New World of Possibilities…or at least to go somewhere where the booze was cheap enough.

And so the search for countries to visit began. But it wasn’t hard to arrive at Venezuela. Because despite the fact that I was battling very real Monsters – and that I was being both aided and poisoned by alcohol, vengeance and bitterness – I was also solidifying my political views and personality, and as a result everything that had to do with socialism and capitalism – and with Politics in general – had begun to take an important role in my every-day life. I had already visited Cuba, and though it was only a seven-day stretch, I had gathered some good information through thorough and extensive conversations with practically anybody I could find, from bartenders and custodians at hotels to shopkeepers and pedestrians on the street; so going there again would have been a lost opportunity to see and learn about a new place. (As a matter of fact, that was one of the things that strained our relationship while in Cuba: On more than one occasion, I had found it infinitely more interesting to continue my conversation with the bartender regarding life in the Socialist Island while sipping on all-you-can-drink-rum until 5 am rather than playing crazy eights with my girlfriend and a group of Spaniards, Italians and Canadians that we had met at the beach. Though she was much better at keeping her composure and limiting her violent outbursts than I was, she complained quite lively, on more than one occasion, and reminded me that “she was there too”). But I knew I wanted to visit a Latin American country, feeling the need to reconnect with my roots. I would have gone to the Motherland – Ecuador – where Socialist President Correa is also doing amazing things, which family members either living there or in the exterior but frequently visiting, constantly corroborate; but unfortunately there was no job that I could find there through AIESEC, an international agency that places young travelers in different internships across the world — at least none that interested me. But as soon as I saw that Venezuela was an option, I knew I had to end up there, if for nothing else, to find out, once and for all, just how beautiful the women were…and, of course, to personally put to the test this supposed “Dictatorship” the Western Media kept (and keeps) hollering about like desperate sirens looking for lost sea-men. Fortunately, the agency was hurting for English Teachers, for there was a backlog of jobs that had not been filled from a while back for whatever reason – most likely due to lack of organization, which I would unfortunately come to find out was rampant with those goddamn kids. (Later on I also found out that the staff members that work in AIESEC would receive some kind of stipend for every new “contract” they could secure – at least that’s what I understood from what they told me. The stipend was to be put into a pool that was to have various purposes. Among them was giving financial support to interns who, in almost every conceivable possibility, would end up needing it. But many times there were problems accessing this pool of money for one or another shady reason. I suspect this stipend, on top of the need for teachers, was also behind the very rash acceptance of my application). In any event, the T’s were crossed and I’s were dotted – and more alcohol consumed – and before I knew it, I was buying my ticket to Caracas, Venezuela for the 28th of September, 2011.

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As we crossed through a particularly dense cluster of clouds, the reality of the situation dawned on me. Actually, it had begun to dawn on me as I waved goodbye to my parents and brother at the gates and awkwardly made my way through the various checkpoints with what I now know would be way too much baggage to take for a three or even six month period; it continued dawning on me as I ordered a plate of greasy breakfast food for nearly 10 dollars and almost just as quickly threw it back up; but the most real ‘Point of No Return’ dawned on me as the fantastic Steel Bird zoomed forward on the runway and then began pointing its nose upwards, rushing all the limbs and all the blood in my body backwards into the seat as we gradually lost sight of the airport and the streets, until all we could see was just the general outline of the landscape, en route to a country I had never been to and with not even my cell-phone to accompany me (I really forget why I didn’t take it; I think I was afraid of roaming charges). In my previous adventures I had always traveled with my girlfriend, who naturally helped cushion the great blow that being alone in a new country for the first time represents. But this time there was nobody traveling with me. But this not only failed to worry me – it in fact was one of the main things that excited me…And at that altitude, the compounded effect was one of utter ecstasy, completely oblivious to the series of events both wonderful and terrible that would transpire over the next few months.

My first connection was in Huston, Texas, after a two-and-a-half-hour stretch from Toronto’s Pearson Airport. I arrived there sometime in the afternoon, but my connecting flight wasn’t until around 1 or 2 a.m., so I made my way through the colossal airport with my lap-top bag and a carry-on full of some clothes and books, and found somewhere to eat and have a beer, which I knew would be ridiculously expensive, but with five or six hours to wait, I figured I could spare some cash. Before I realized the first couple of hours had passed, however, I was already finishing my 6th or 7th beer and was about $90 lighter. I would have kept drinking, but I just didn’t know if the money I had would be enough to hold me over in Venezuela until my job started paying me – I wasn’t even sure that I wasn’t already under budget – so I decided against it and stumbled to the seat nearest to the gate to wait for the plane, where I met a Mexican man who said he was an engineer traveling to Caracas for the installation of a turbine in some energy plant. He wore a cowboy hat and boots and a denim shirt and jeans, and in the state of mind I was in, he looked just like some kind of Oil Tycoon, and I expected him to yell a “yee-haw” and swing his hat against his knee at any moment, blasting gun-shots from a nickle-plated gun like some cartoon-character…but he never did. I also thought of taking out my notebook to jot some notes down regarding our conversation, which had turned to something about private vs. public management of business, but I was too tired and too buzzed to pretend to care enough, particularly since I was sure I would get the chance again in Venezuela.

We arrived in Caracas after a grueling 5 – 6 hour flight through a turbulent night-sky that kept violently exploding into flashes of lightning and thunderous roars. Nevertheless, at that speed and altitude, a ray of lightning and its accompanying thunder are very special things to see and hear. It’s almost as if someone were slowing the entire scene down to take a picture and then…FLASH!…What was Dark as coal one second explodes into a White-Orange Fluorescent Instant the next, which seems to linger like a Ray of Insight…the entire machine shakes violently and for as long as that moment lingers, the clouds outside the window resemble an Electric Ocean. The whole scene seems to capture a moment of Clarity – of Freedom and of Truth – inside Chaos and Violence…It’s really quite a thing to see. It fills you full of Fear and Excitement, like the first time a beautiful girl lets you slide her underwear down her bare legs and you feel your heart pounding in your ears, knowing exactly what’s going to happen, yet not really knowing at all. Yes, the entire scene is feral and orgasmic…surreal. Then, everything goes dark and quiet again; so calm that a rhythmic drumming coming from within your chest seems to take over the entire cabin, though no one else seems to hear it. At that point, the eerie calmness seems like that moment when you wake up after a slight bout of dreaming where you are falling; when you open your eyes just as you throw your arms and legs about violently, but realize you’re all alone in the dark. The entire flight went like that, moving in and out of those two states: the orgasmic chaos outside the window and the paralytic stillness inside when it was over, at least until I fell asleep, soothed by the rocking of the plane. I met the Mexican man again the following morning after getting off the plane, and after I was duped out of 50 Bolivares Fuertes (BS) for every kg the bag was over. I can’t remember the exact number of Kgs I was over, or how much I paid now, but I remember that it was quite a bit so that I had to make change. Unaware of the double exchange rate and feeling queasy from the beers last night and lack of food and sleep, I went to the first House of Exchange and did the deed  (really there is only one official exchange rate, but the black market is quite prominent in this sector). Just as soon as I stepped away from the window a couple of American tourists enjoying their Golden Years strolling through Caracas in white cargo shorts and straw hats, told me that I had been duped; that, had I looked around just a little bit, I could have found someone who would have bought my dollars for at least twice what I had just gotten. I guess they may have been trying to be nice, but I failed to see the humour in having waited for me to exchange the money before sharing that information, given that I saw them walking around there seconds before and that they had seen me approach the exchange window. In any event, I was in no mood for more disappointments this early, so I thanked them dryly (for their useless information) and went on my way to pay my fines. It was while taking our belts, shoes and other metallic objects off to pass through the security check once more to board the plane going to Barquisimeto that I met the Mexican man again. I told him what had happened and he gave me the same run-around as the American couple as he let out a big laugh – a mixture of incredulity and pity. Then we chatted some more as we took our possessions and moved on. The time was around 7:00 a.m., and the next flight was scheduled for 8 a.m., so we decided to go have some breakfast at a little place that stood directly in front of the boarding tarmac.

However, here we received our first taste of what unfortunately has come to be known as an unofficial Latin-American Tradition – the tardiness and informality with which most events are treated. Within about twenty minutes, a message came on saying that the plane would not be arriving until 8:30. Fine,I thought, no big deal. Then a second one came on about 15 minutes later moving that time to 9 a.m. At 9, as a mob was starting to form around the young, attractive stewardess with lost eyes standing by the tarmac, a third message came on saying 10 o’clock. This would continue to happen two or three more times – each time riling up the mob more and more , causing outbursts like “what the fuck…here comes another hour wait!” and “who the hell do they think they are?!? People have places to get to!” I was genuinely angry, but for some reason this didn’t really seem to faze me. Perhaps it was because I knew what would happen within about 45 minutes from the time the plane got there and we boarded; or perhaps it was because I was just so tired; or perhaps it had to do with the fact that the Mexican man had kindly decided to pay for my breakfast after hearing how I had been taken by the thugs in the Exchange House. In any case, when the plane finally got there around noon, I calmly boarded the plane and wished the man good luck with his enterprise and looked for my seat.

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I kept my eyes open just long enough to see the roads disappear behind the clouds, and then I dozed off for about an hour. I woke up as I felt the tires hitting the ground at Jacinto Lara International Airport in Barquisimeto. When I stepped outside I took a deep sigh, relieved to have finally arrived and having gotten that long and arduous trip over and done with. Then I took another one – longer this time – as I thought (in a mix of Panic and Excitement) about everything that was to come…Particularly about what the hell the people that were supposed to meet me looked like.

MY ADVENTURE IN THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA (INTRO: ROUGH)

INTRO: A QUICK GLANCE AT THE PEOPLE, LAND AND SEA; FULL SPEED AHEAD AND NO WINDOWS; THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN MAKES A POETIC DEATH-BED

It was a dream-turned-reality from which I could not awake. Every day was a unique and surreal experience – it was like being in a roller-coaster that took me high up as often as it plunged me downwards. There was madness in all directions, and I constantly had the feeling that at any point something could happen – be it an unforeseen trip to the beach, a drunken all-nighter at the Local Bar, or a political protest overtaking the streets. And it is this volatility that made the experience unforgettable and something to be woven into the quilts of time immemorial.

The everyday life of Venezuelans seems, to me, to be lived in a constant kind of tension and movement, except on Sundays, when after three or four in the afternoon most streets look like ghosts-towns because everything closes. According to what I was told, this is due to something called La Ley Seca (the dry law), which forbids any booze being sold on Sundays and most commercial activity ends extremely early. As always, however, the reality is different, and knowing how to look you can find what you need at any-time, anywhere. In any case, the whole Chavez Phenomenon, for better or worse, has created a transcending energy that has everyone on their toes and ready to give this or that opinion, about anything! It’s easy to get narrowed into a political debate, but it won’t always end nicely. However, despite the obvious political tension, there is also a pulsating alertness in every Venezuelan:  No time for the slow-walker, no time for the car fumbling with the signal lights! You hurry to cross and avoid the old, blue Chevy speeding down the curve, or the barrage of motorcycle-taxis cutting-off the Chevy…Learning to cross the streets is perhaps one of the first things you have to learn as soon as you get there – that and how to get otra cerveza, if you are not a Spanish-speaker.

It was these kinds of small details that made the trip interesting and exhilarating. Every-day life was a curious and fantastic high-speed experiment.

I remember the first day that I decided to move around Barquisimeto alone, without the help of Gabo, the kid with whom I ended up bunking (him and his family) for about two weeks before I found my own apartment. By this time I had already been warned about what areas not to visit because of the danger and at what time to avoid going out altogether (around nighttime, so between 7 and 9 pm, it was advised that I not travel alone, and that if I must, that I do so by marked taxi only). By this time I had also ridden in the taxis and carreritas – larger dilapidated station wagons painted a faint and rusting blue or green and running on fumes and good will. There could be up to seven or eight people jammed in there, sometimes having to leave the trunk doors wide open so that the people could fit a little more comfortably – and I use that term very loosely.  I had also ridden in the rutas – buses just about one and a half times’ the size of a large van, in the same pitiful condition the carreritas were in, and jammed to the very balls nine of out 10 times.

Riding these beasts is quite an experience for anyone who has never been in a Latin American country, or in any poor country around the world, for that matter. I’m not one of those people, but even I had to get used to it. If you sit at the back you will surely be breathing in fumes that will leave you disorientated by the time you get out; and that is if you manage to muddle through the sea of sweaty and noisy people that sway from side to side as the ruta violently avoids traffic jams by cutting in through wedges between cars and motorcycles that the regular, cautious and prudent motorist of even the smallest vehicle would avoid at once to wait instead for a clear and safe opening. The movements are brisk and violent, but even the oldest Venezuelan grandmother gracefully sways her body with the car without the remotest effort, all the while talking to whomever is beside her about this or that, whether they know each other or not. Even sitting down is an ordeal because you are so close to each other, that you can feel the fucking bowel movements of the fool in front of you holding on to the bars above him…Venezuela is, among the Latin American countries which are already known for their beautiful women, one of the most prestigious for having women that to us, regular folk, seem like they were chiselled directly by the hand of god; having them rub up against you isn’t the problem…the problem comes when the sweaty, 200+pound mastodon keeps shifting around and trying to get himself comfortable in the one place he is sure to sweat the most, perhaps develop a rash…But nothing, not even the looming possibility of being mugged, beats the candor and freedom that a bus ride is in Venezuela, with every window opened wide, the warm but powerful breeze hitting your dampen face and neck while in the background the bus dances to the beat of the streets, the constant chattering of the people, and the booming Latin music blasting out of the radio all the way up front but audible even at the back. (Almost everyone I met, Leftist, Rightist and the odd one that didn’t give a shit about politics, told me that mugging is a very real issue, but their accounts of the frequency and real level of danger all differed. Those who were against Chavez painted a picture of a Sodom or Gomorrah – I remember one day one of the kids I was traveling with quickly told the rest of the group and myself, who was lost in the scenery outside my window, to quickly get out of the bus; once outside he told us that he had seen that one of the two kids that had gotten inside the bus was wearing a gun under his belt, which became barely visible as he sat down. At the moment I was alarmed and relieved that we had escaped an ugly situation. But in retrospect, after everything I can now say I know or at least have a better, more personal understanding of, I wouldn’t put it far past them to have told me something like that to scare me and try to convince me of the hell they said they lived through because of the president; but I just don’t know either way.)

Anyway, the first time that I traveled alone was therefore obviously quite an experience, almost as exhilarating and frightening as the first day of junior high or high-school, when the voice hasn’t quite fully developed and the acne hasn’t fully cleared, but despite all the odds you are hell-bent on leaving your goddamn mark.  I had all my directions and numbers to contact in case of an emergency written down and tucked safely, as was the copy of my passport and money. I had a breakfast of arepas, a very traditional flour-based tortilla that Venezuelans seem to eat almost as frequently as they breathe. They were good but never my favourite out of the plethora of dishes that the best doñas, family-restaurants and sidewalk vendors had to offer. And unless they were fully stuffed with some kind of cheese, rice, meat, vegetable or all of the above, they weren’t that filling either. So I topped it off with a couple of beers and a smoke and went on my way to the corner to grab the carrerita whose number I now forget. Well, there isn’t much to be said about the experience itself; it was not much different than what I finished describing in detail above, but for the fact that it was the first time I went alone. It isn’t a big deal to the experienced traveller, and though I consider myself having some personal world experience to back my talk and walk, the first time that you get in the back of a taxi with only two working doors that have to be violently pushed open from the inside while the driver fumbles with the clutch to keep the car going, your very first thought isn’t comfort or safety. Though later, as you zoom at 130 km per hour down the highway with the back doors wide open at the top and bottom, your legs hanging outside and the car behind you coming so close before he switches lanes that you can almost touch; the music in the ambience so alive that you couldn’t believe it is 7 in the morning and that the sun could be this bright; the individuals in the car talking among themselves and including you in the conversation despite the fact that no one knows each other; the driver tapping his arm to the music and joining the conversation from time to time, if not with opinions then with obscene and hilarious jokes that relax the political tension behind the radio messages from the President or the Opposition parties interrupting the music; with the range of mountains adorning the side…With all this going on, you just tend to forget you are in a foreign country, supposedly at the whim of the criminal, one of which could be sitting beside you and you just…Let Go…

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Work was work and will always be work anywhere in the world. Other than over-stringent rules – most of which were broken daily – and occasional run-ins with the directors for a few minor infractions, work was enjoyable. So I did it with enthusiasm where it mattered, but at certain points every emotion ceases, and sometimes it was hard to draw more enthusiasm from a dry well.

Teaching English takes a real teacher – or teaching anything, for that matter. Someone who has a real gift for it, who has the patience and the charisma to get through to young and sometimes obtuse minds, and I wasn’t one of those persons. I enjoyed many of my conversations with the students. It was refreshing to see many people put in their hardest efforts to learn another language, something which I dare not do.  People of all ages, genders and professions – from young secondary students to Business men and women and absolutely everything in between – showed off their skills admirably…Yet, the job was simply far better done and enjoyed by other Profesores, both Venezuelan and interns alike, who seemed to have a better grasp on things of this matter and who seemed to excel at it. At first, almost with a cynical idealism, I was determined to get through to all these people, particularly because they were being duped, in my opinion, into paying ridiculous amounts of money for their kids or themselves to learn English, and they did it happily and on time because it was a private enterprise and therefore had to be efficient and worth it. When I came across the first stubborn minds I did not weaken in faith; I was resolute in getting through. I tried being as approachable as possible, as direct and articulate, and when I did not know the best way to explain something, I asked one of the better teachers. But alas, sometimes you need a bulldozer to crack open a peanut, and I refused to learn to drive one. I quickly found out that I did not have the patience to try to teach something to somebody who either doesn’t want to learn or simply cannot understand quickly; the same cynicism (or naiveté?), I believe, that fueled me at the beginning burned me out. So I learned teaching is not my thing and that if these people couldn’t learn – especially if they didn’t want to learn – then I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it, and that’s when I began having more fun at work, enjoying every second I wasn’t in those small rooms that looked like the interrogation rooms in the movies, with mirrors and everything. It would damage my reputation to go into detail regarding how I and the other Professionals enjoyed that free time…but imagination was always a better thing than reality…

The time away from work, however, the few hours we had to ourselves, were far better spent. No snow-blizzards like the one roaring outside my window [when I originally wrote this] stopped you from going to a party here or there, at this or that person’s house, in this or that park, at absolutely anytime and with no specific half-life. I met young minds like mine from all over the place, and a certain special thanks go to all those special ones who listened to more than I actually said, and who know who they are. Some of my most memorable and perhaps even criminal memories are of the many wild nights that were spent in hazy dances of Friendship and Lust, fueled by strong drink, powerful marijuana and an intoxicating sense of Freedom that left everyone feeling vulnerable and trapped in a state of Trust – in a Trance you could not shake yourself awake from…at least until the Music finally stopped. It seemed like the world was literally a phone call or a Facebook message away, always ready to enjoy Rum, Noise and an invisible but pervading Energy that seemed to emanate from the intestines of the City and inebriate everyone. These were definitely places to let loose and lose control – if only for as long as the moon stayed bright.

But there is so much more to Venezuela than its wonderful parties and invigorated and wild youth. There is a world to explore in this vast and mountainous land. Everything from the morning walks to work, stopping to eat Empanadas at any kiosk or small establishment, to trips to the beach early in the morning and back before the Sun hid as you enjoyed that last trace of a fiery and melancholic sky, to trips that took all night and half the next day, through mountains and valleys and dilapidated towns, to arrive at a place that looks like a postcard…every action and any opportunity sparked flames in all directions and you had a feeling that Freedom was something tangible, something to be held and clutched into Gold, or to see Glowing in the Night-Sky…

One of the most beautiful places I visited was a great canvas of golden sand as far as your eyes could stretch your imagination, only interrupted sporadically by what a dear friend told me was something she’d never seen in other deserts that she’d visited in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt – shrubs and small trees propping up from within the sand like slender fingers. Now this was a real desert: we walked a good hour or so into the bowels of the sandy oasis with no way of anticipating the end. There were huge sand hills erected like breasts of a Giant Golden Goddess lying naked on the ground, and every time we reached the top of we rejoiced as if we were discoverers…but there were many goddesses. About 45 minutes (North?) of the desert was a beach called Pedicora (pedicoda?). The water was a deep blue and amazingly tepid, and the sand white as paper. The Caribbean Sea, at that very moment and under that very Sun, became, to me, a monument to the Freedom and Fear I simultaneously felt; its seemingly endless waters were menacing but inviting, and I would not have cared if I had made a bed at the bottom of the Ocean for the rest of my days.

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