Fight or flight? For young people in Venezuela, that is the question

fight or flight
Those who’ve stayed in Venezuela are there to fight. Hugo Londoño/flickrCC BY-SA

05 July 2017 | | The Conversation

“Daily marches against the government of Nicolás Maduro are in their third month, with people marching daily on the streets of Caracas, Maracaibo, San Cristóbal, Valencia and many other cities.

Dressed in tee shirts and red-blue-and-yellow hats or shrouded in the tricolor Venezuelan flag, young people, women and retirees demonstrate by the thousands, carrying signs saying “Don’t shoot!” and shouting Sí se puede, sí se puede, “Our weapon is the constitution!” and “Who are we? Venezuela! What do we want? Freedom!”

At least 79 people – including passers-by and security forces – have died in the daily exercises of democratic participation that began in April. Among the dead are a 17-year-old protester who was shot dead in mid-June.

Once called la generación dormida – “the asleep generation” – Venezuelans born in the prosperous, democratic 1980s are now very much awake. As living conditions shift from precarious to intolerable, they face a critical decision: do they stay or do they go?

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Venezuela is facing international criticism for a clampdown on protesters. Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Since at least 2013 when Maduro was elected, the country has been a laboratory for bad public policy.

Following the implosion of “21st-century Socialism”, the 15-year-old economic, social and political system established by Hugo Chávez, the current administration has proven itself inept at economic management but adept at polarising society, exacerbating violence and truncating the dreams of its population.

Many thousands have fled Venezuela, seeking a better life. Venezuela does not publicly circulate emigration information, but estimates suggest that between 700,000 and two million Venezuelans have emigrated since 1999. That leaves the majority of Venezuela’s 31 million people in country, either by choice or by necessity.

Now they are fighting for the future of their country, marching every day, despite knowing that this government is trying to silence dissidence through excessive use of force.

Young professionals go to work every day (if they still have jobs) to put food on the table and plan for what will follow the “pacted transition” that many see as the most likely way out of the current chaos.

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