Venezuela’s ghosts still hover
I was in the kitchen slicing sweet peppers and listening to the radio when a voice from Caracas, speaking clearly and in perfect English, made me stop the knife in mid-air and forget about dinner for a while.
In a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, this mother of three was telling the BBC’s James Menendez that she sometimes has to visit seven or eight supermarkets to track down the food she needs for her family and, even when she finds what she was looking for, she has to stand in long line for hours. Competition is fierce, and products are so scarce.
Right now, chicken and eggs are a problem, she said. You can’t find them. If you find deodorant or toilet paper, you find only one brand. Certain medicines have disappeared.
The situation reminds me of a conversation I once had with my mother. I asked her why we didn’t leave Cuba earlier, before 1980. She said we couldn’t, which is true. There was no way out for us for a long time. But she also said something else.
She said that change didn’t happen all at once. One year, chicken would disappear, but one could still find eggs. Then the eggs were gone, but there were potatoes. Then there were no potatoes but, by then, it was too late. A decade had passed, and then another. Needless to say that freedom had disappeared long before the last potatoes.
In the meantime, one hopes and waits, because most people don’t want to leave their country or die in a street protest or spend years in prison. The big difference between Cuba and Venezuela is that Venezuelans have taken to the streets — an option that would have been unthinkable in the Cuba I grew up in.
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