As a Venezue­lan I’m cel­e­brat­ing the op­po­si­tion’s vic­tory and the first de­feat of so­cial­ism in 17 years

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

Eight years af­ter leav­ing Venezuela for a bet­ter life in the UK, I can fi­nally see hope for my coun­try af­ter the The Demo­cratic Unity Round­table’s vic­tory in the Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions

By Linda Sharkey

Iwas born and raised in Venezuela. I made friends for life, played freely on the streets and grew up close to my fam­ily. Po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic is­sues were for grown-ups. But my child­hood was dif­fer­ent to the young gen­er­a­tion to­day.

In 1999 Hugo Chavez be­came Pres­i­dent and a sym­bol of new hope for my coun­try. That year my des­tiny and the des­tiny of mil­lions of Venezue­lans would change for­ever. In­fla­tion started to rise and I was robbed twice at gun­point. Also, I wanted to be­come a jour­nal­ist, but the So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment was clamp­ing down on the me­dia. At the age of 20 I moved to Lon­don in the search of ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties and a bet­ter life. Eight years later, I’ve made a new life for my­self abroad. Most of my friends have mi­grated too, also in search of a bet­ter fu­ture. Most of my fam­ily, how­ever, re­main in Venezuela - flee­ing the coun­try and start­ing a new life with chil­dren abroad isn’t easy.

By the time of Chavez’s death in March of 2012, eco­nomic mis­man­age­ment and cor­rup­tion had weak­ened the gov­ern­ment. Ac­cord­ing to Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, Venezuela was the most cor­rupt coun­try in the Amer­i­cas. Then, un­der Ni­co­las Maduro, the suc­ces­sor, it en­tered an ad­vanced state of de­cay.

In the past three years, Venezue­lans have been liv­ing with short­ages of food, medicine and ba­sic toi­letries. It brought chaos to su­per­mar­kets, phar­ma­cies and hos­pi­tals, with Venezue­lans hav­ing to queue end­lessly to get hold of ba­sics, if there was any left that is. My fam­ily strug­gles ev­ery day to find milk, bread, fruit and nap­pies. My 85-year- old grand­dad strug­gles to find his medicine. The sit­u­a­tion be­came so dras­tic that many made a busi­ness out of the chaos to sur­vive: they’d queue overnight to get their hands on a milk car­ton and re­sell it for three times the orig­i­nal price. Sadly, that was the only way many could get hold of prod­ucts, but the stag­ger­ing prices have be­come un­sus­tain­able.

The coun­try now has one of the high­est mur­der rates in the world, with an av­er­age of 71 re­ported homi­cides ev­ery day. Fur­ther­more, the des­per­ate scram­ble for ne­ces­si­ties has in­creas­ingly pro­voked violence. It is in­com­pre­hen­si­ble that de­spite hav­ing the world’s largest oil re­serves, Venezue­lans have to live in such state of de­spair.

Yes­ter­day, the coun­try saw an his­toric turn­around. Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion has won the leg­is­la­ture for the first time in 16 years, gain­ing a plat­form from which to chal­lenge cur­rent Pres­i­dent Maduro. The op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Unity coali­tion has won 99 seats to the So­cial­ists’ 46 in the 167-na­tional Na­tional As­sem­bly, with some dis­tricts still to be counted.

Peo­ple took to the streets and fire­works were set off in cel­e­bra­tion in pro-op­po­si­tion dis­tricts of Cara­cas when the re­sults were an­nounced. This op­po­si­tion’s land­slide win proves that peo­ple are tired and need change. Ar­gentina has joined the fight, too, af­ter re­cently elect­ing Mauri­cio Macri, a con­ser­va­tive businessman, to suc­ceed Cristina Fer­nan­dez Kirch­ner, Chavez’s close ally.

Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion is cel­e­brat­ing hope, a mo­ment of change and a bet­ter fu­ture. For many, this is the light at the end of the tun­nel.

The Demo­cratic Unity Round­table won 99 seats to 46 for the United So­cial Party

of Venezuela LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Im­ages

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