#28 2019

The Testimony of a Political Prisoner

“We were punished every week. They took our food away, they would turn off the lights, they cut off the water, we were locked away for days to see what we would do, and what we did was stay firm on our feet.”

Venezuela still has a long way to go concerning LGBT rights. For example, Venezuelan law does not recognize same sex marriages or partnerships. When Rosmit Mantilla, politician and LGBT activist, openly criticised the lack of progress regarding the issue of LGBT rights, he was imprisoned. For two and a half years he was both a witness to and a victim of torture. For The Dissident Blog, the journalist Cristina Raffalli has compiled his story from this period. 

On Fascination

“How is it possible that the greater the amount of nonsense the more passive is my spell state?” asks the Venezuelan writer and architect Federica Vega in his essay where he explores how a fascination for the devastating

Caracas—the City of Flies

The flies of Caracas have taken control of the journalist Luz Mely Reyes’ life. Over the past year a great amount of garbage is seen to litter the neighbourhood where she lives. The inevitable flies follow her around; they

“We’re Living under a Systematic Censorship”

President Nicolás Maduro was recently sworn in for a new six-year term of office. No democratic country recognises him as the legitimate leader of the country, but that doesn’t stop the regime. The leaders in Venezuela have

(the business of living)

Carlos Egaña is one of Venezuela’s most prominent poets. Like many other poets of his generation he mainly publishes his poetry online. Internet has become a second home since traditional media are dominated by the state

Waking up to Everyday’s Nightmare

Amnesty International reports that in Venezuela between 2015 and June 2017 more than 8 200 people were executed without trial. In his text the Venezuelan writer and editor Héctor Torres describes the Kafkaesque lives that

The Censor’s Evil Dream

In February 2018 a delegation from PEN International visited Caracas to examine the state of the freedom of speech in the country. The outcome of this visit is a report by the Mexican writer and journalist Alicia Quiñones.

The Country of Broken Mirrors

The crisis in Venezuela is worsening. The political, economical, humanitarian, and social developments in the country have in the year 2018 forced two million people to flee their homes. “The country, a fragmented mirror,

Super-Cheap Scenes

With her blog called Escenas baratonas (Super-Cheap Scenes), the writer Margarita Arribas Zamora has renewed the well-known Venezuelan genre costumbrismo (depictions of daily life). Here we are invited to share in a few

“I Came Here to Remind You that Our Freedom Ends”

In February 2018, the journalist and chairman of Venezuelan PEN, Milagros Socorro received Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression. Here, we publish her moving acceptance speech. 

Liberating Writing from Venezuela

Reading the newspapers in Venezuela or hearing the news on television or radio you may well get the impression that there is no cause for alarm—all is peace and quiet. The distribution of food functions, so do the health services, the legal system, and the schools. The official picture is that people are neither starving nor fleeing the country. They are free to move around without any restrictions and to express themselves freely. Early on in 2018 President Nicolás Maduro held a speech to the nation where he claimed precisely this. He said: “We ought to be grateful that Venezuela is not in a state of collapse or in any humanitarian crisis like Colombia. We have a nation that loves its government.”

Such absurdity. Such outright mockery—a slap in the face. The Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić once wrote: “Erasing the memory of a place, making it seem as if whole lives and societies have never existed, must be one of the ultimate forms of censorship.”

Reality, or rather the apocalypse taking place outside of the reality depicted in the state owned daily papers, the TV and radio broadcasts, and the politicians’ propaganda machines could not be more contrastive. Venezuela is a country on a steep downward slope with a soaring inflation, a starving population, almost non-existent health services, and a systematic censorship of the media. In 2018, 23 047 people were murdered, which means 63 killings per day (the data is from the independent institute Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia). According to UNCHR more than five thousand people are fleeing the country every day. Among them are many writers, journalists, and intellectuals. The dismantling of the rights to free expression has made it impossible for intellectuals to remain and to pursue their profession. To leave the country has become the norm; the norm is not to stay.