Ruben Blades on the Crisis in Venezuela
For several years at the turn of the millennium, working on the library of Gustavo and Patricia Cisneros, I had the opportunity to visit Venezuela and get close to some people who remain sufficiently dear to me that I’ve been much distressed by the news coming from there. This fragile country, experiencing a faltering revolution much like that in what my former wife used to call “My Egypt”, is “once again under attack from right wing extremists backed by international imperialism.” Still, politics are never so simple as Us vs. Them, tending more toward Us vs. Us, in our case being Us vs. U.S. even. This morning a young friend from the neighborhood, Aura Sosa, directed my attention to a statement made by long-time Harlem resident Ruben Blades, one of my favorite salsarios since my generate days uptown, who I think speaks some increasingly uncommon sense. Read it and reap:
VENEZUELA February 18, 2014
Even though I was not born in Venezuela, I’ve respect, affection, and gratitude towards this nation and its people. So I think it appropriate to outline an opinion about the current situation in the neighboring country. I fully understand that the position expressed by me is not going to satisfy some but that’s not surprising. Intransigence is precisely what defines the groups at issue; the government and the opposition.
These two political factions have had, each in its time, the opportunity to really serve the country but failed, perhaps because each has chosen to serve their own agendas, failing in the attempt to integrate the majority of the country. It is perhaps for this reason that the demagogic arguments made by the representatives of both sides sound off-key to independent ears. Neither really has majority support, hence the paralysis. Both arguments have a bit of truth but both refuse to join together to create w common ground appealing to all Venezuelans.
The country is sadly polarized and today Venezuela hurts. Theabsence of a solution is due to a lack of leadership unifying the country to fight together rather than divide. If you are in favor of the opposition, are a bourgeois parasite CIA agent, a sell out to the Empire. If you favor the government are a communist thug, sold to Cuba and Castro. Neither of these definitions speak to Venezuela’s needs, perpetuating hatred and unreasonable expectations, personalizing arguments and preventing the possibility of an intelligent and patriotic dialogue.
The government has monumentally failed in the task of public administration and has squandered, in an unusual and irresponsible manner , the economic balance in Latin America. Changing laws toward consolidating his ideological arguments, condemning those that do not toe the line seeks to impose. Maduro seems to possess insufficient clarity, sagacity, and management skills required by a president to lead a complex country.
Capriles, on the other hand, does not have the charisma or the programmatic approach to convince skeptical independents, more or less the popular sector that identifies him as heir to the rapacious policies of the Adecos and Copeyanos old, disqualifying him as an option, preventing his gaining the support of those who do not like the current government and its judgments.
The need for new players that present an objective and patriotic, not demagogic or ideological agenda, is vital right now. With the initiative of the students, the formation of truly independent parties could overcome partisan rage and class hatred, and be the beginning of a movement towards nationalizing reason.
Something similar occurred in Panama. I remember at the time of the Noriega dictatorship , some groups of opposition to the regime attacked me for not joining them. They falsely accused me of supporting the dictator and even siding with the military government. I imagine you are in the same situation. Many Venezuelans refuse to participate unconditionally, refuse to endorse the hype, slander, and the other propagandistic ways that traditional politics seek to conquer adherents; tactics that both government and opposition have used yesterday and today.
At this point I find it truly incomprehensible how its happened that a country with both natural and human resources of such quality, nobility and talent, is now mired in a precarious situation, without understanding that when it falls into a pit , first thing you have to do to try to get out is to stop digging yourself in deeper. That’s why right now I trust more in the potential of the students arguments than in the government’s or opposition’s.
With the love and respect I have for these people, I venture to suggest the students prepare their arguments objectively, towards convincing their parents and neighbors, across Venezuela, to organize outside the sterile divisions created by government and opposition, and make those results public. Act with maturity, demonstrate ability, and clear the System with the clarity of musicians.
Hopefully, achieve a basis for the discussion of the country could be, and not try to force todays two sides into a conflict of interest. Do not force them to choose between the alternatives of cancer or heart attack. Students of the country, from El Guajiro to Cumana, raise your life affirming agenda and present it to the two groups that are currently struggling for more for power than anyone’s good. Tell the country what you want, and make it clear that you will not accept as alternatives the proposals by either sides in this dispute.
There is no doubt that President Maduro, as Head of the Venezuelan State must take responsibility for the safety and physical integrity of Mr. Leopoldo López, and in the same manner, for everyone’s legitimate political rights to participate in protest. But it is also necessary that the demonstrators did not unleash violence. One must argue peacefully, there is no reason to shout or whollop the other to validate what you say.
Some may think that I meddle in matters that do not concern me as I am Panamanian. I do it for the love and support that Venezuelans have given me for over 40 years, making my music and lyrics their songs. For this, Venezuelans have my love and my respect.
Venezuela Live !
by Ruben Blades (translation by google translate & Kurt Thometz)
Mr. Blades will be performing April 25th at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.