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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# Protests
'I watch the news and cry and cry': Venezuelans in Ireland on the chaos back home
20 people have been killed in three weeks of clashes at anti-government protests.


THE DEATH TOLL in three weeks of violence at anti-government protests in Venezuela has jumped to 20 people after a night of clashes and pillaging on Friday left 12 people dead in Caracas.

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro is fighting off efforts to oust him as his country’s citizens battle food and medicine shortages. On 30 March, the Supreme Court took over legislative powers and was accused of attempting a coup – it later partially reversed these rulings after international condemnation. It did still keep in place other measures limiting the assembly’s powers.

Maduro has continued resisting opposition efforts to hold a vote on removing him, vowing to continue the “socialist revolution” launched by his late predecessor Hugo Chavez. Protests have escalated in recent weeks and have left Venezuelans living elsewhere around the world fearful about the people and the home they have left behind.

Ariana Cubillos Ariana Cubillos

TheJournal.iespoke to three Venezuelans living in Galway this week about how their families in Venezuela have been affected and about their worries that there may never be a safe and stable life for them in their home country.

‘It’s so scary’

Aura Pacheco’S father, sisters, brother and three cousins remain in the capital city of Caracas.

“The violence now is just unbelievable. We’ve never passed through something like this before.”

Her cousin was taking part in a protest in the city on Wednesday when police began firing tear gas at them. She fell and was injured when other protesters stood on her.

People in Venezuela have been protesting for years and when I spoke to her she said to me, ‘Aura, you have been with me many times and on Wednesday it was the first time that I thought I would die’.

“When you hear family are going through that, it’s so scary – it’s so scary,” she said.

Ariana Cubillos Ariana Cubillos

Pacheco, who has lived in Ireland for five years, returned to visit her family around Christmas last year and she said Venezuela was a very different country to the one she grew up in.

“I went to see my dad, he had lost about 10kg and my sister was more or less the same. I said to them ‘are you actually starving?’”.

She said her family does have earnings coming in and so they can afford to eat, though it is a struggle to get food even when people have the money to buy it.

The economic crisis has reduced millions of people in the country to poverty, with reports coming out of Venezeula that people are forced to sort through rubbish for food just to survive.

DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

“Every single time I see the news I cry and cry and cry”, Pacheco said. “That was the place I grew up.”

‘Trying to survive’

Edward Buenees has been living in Ireland for three and a half years and currently works part-time in a restaurant in Galway.

His father, two sisters and his closest friend are still living in Venezuela and they have told him the “situation is getting worse and worse”.

One of his sisters took part in a protest six months ago that was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. However, he said when nothing changed, “people started losing hope”.

The people who are protesting are “trying to figure out how to get food and medicine, trying to manage, to survive”, according to the 32-year-old.

Venezuelans back home have to queue for up to seven hours sometimes to get into a supermarket.

Fernando Llano Fernando Llano

“You could spend a whole day just to get basic products like milk or rice. And you don’t really go in with a plan about what to get. If there is rice, you probably don’t even want rice but you buy it anyway because you know you will use it in the future or there is someone you can trade with.”

He worries for his family.

“I feel really sad. I left the country because I couldn’t live in that situation anymore.”

When you start seeing what is normal outside of that, you don’t want to go back to the situation you left. I haven’t been there since I left and I would like to go back for a few weeks or months but not to work. The salary wouldn’t be enough to rent a room or buy food. For my family, emotionally it would be better with me there, but I know I can help them more from the outside.

‘They’re so vulnerable over there’

Maritza Rodriguez has been living in Ireland since 2014 and works as a childminder in Galway.

Her elderly parents are living on pensions of around €28 a month.

“How can you survive on that?”

I’m sending boxes with food they cannot buy in the country and medicines as well. It’s very difficult to get medcine – and even things like toilet paper.

If they are “lucky”, she said they manage to buy a chicken on one of their designated days to get into the supermarket, but that will usually have to last them for a week.

One of her biggest concerns is her parents’ health, as she knows how hard it is to get proper treatment due to medicine shortages. Her mother contracted the Zika virus last year and Rodriguez had to rely on a friend who visited Spain to procure the antibiotics her mother needed.

She also worries about the violence that is happening all around them.

Ariana Cubillos Ariana Cubillos

“This week we had a big massive protest and it’s so upsetting – the fact that at least three people died and the fact that you are not even safe now,” she said. “The military, they’re supposed to take care of you and they don’t, they just don’t let you protest, they just shoot people”

“I’m here and thinking my family are so vulnerable there.”

The 30-year-old is not hopeful about being able to return home.

“Even if tomorrow we get an election, society and all the problems happening – that’s not going to change in one day,” she said.

“If did go back, I’d like in the future to bring my babies with me – but to see another Venezuela, not this one.”

Related: At least three killed as huge anti-government protests become violent in Venezuela>

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