By Jennifer Barreto-Leyva
CARACAS — The day has arrived when I couldn’t be any more proud to be a woman in Venezuela. It’s all because of Venezuelan Presidential Candidate, Maria Corina Machado. Machado challenged President Hugo Chavez in such a way that so far no man has ever dared to do before.
It was on Saturday night, January 14, 2012, after 8 eternally long hours of being subjected to President Hugo Chavez’s annual Memoria y Cuentas (a loose Venezuelan version of the State of the Union address) when something happened.
Congresswoman and Presidential Candidate, Maria Corina Machado, with the courage that only a Latina can have, stood up and faced President Hugo Chavez, as no one has ever done before in Venezuelan history, and called him a liar and thief.
Her outburst was because of his abuse of expropriating without giving the mandatory compensation by law for every property.
“Expropriating is robbery President Chavez, you’ve been so far on an 8-hour broadcast telling jokes, personal anecdotes and describing a country that doesn’t exist,” said Machado. “ I’ve seen with my very own eyes women fighting for a milk can, in desperate search for medicines, people shutting down their businesses, being robbed, kidnapped, and having a worst life style and quality of life while you are telling us everything is great and can’t be better.”
The entire country was shocked into silence. The tension could be cut with a knife. The adrenaline rush all Venezuelans felt was literally indescribable. For the first time in 13 years of Chavez being in power, someone, a very brave woman, had the courage to tell him — looking him straight in the eyes, face-to-face, doing it like nobody else, what 80 percent (or more) of Venezuelans have been thinking, living, feeling during these last 13 years.
What came next was predictable; at least something that shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone.
Chavez, in his usual arrogant, overbearing and offensive style, responded to Machado, telling her pretty much that she was a nobody and she wasn’t even on his same level. Breaking his own national broadcast record, he concluded his address after 10 hours.
However, while one woman lifted the nation, another shamed and repulsed us. Congresswoman María León (she belongs to the PSUV and is a major Chavez supporter) stood up and demanded Chavez judge and sanction Congresswoman and Presidential candidate Maria Corina Machado because of her disrespectful behavior towards him.
This comes from a woman who prides herself on being a passionate human rights activist.
María León’s concept of human rights and respect is extremely curious, when she, on behalf of all Venezuelan women, was the number one supporter and female host of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his recent visit to our country.
Since her courageous confrontation, Machado has gained the respect of her opponents in the race for the Venezuelan presidency, as well as, many Venezuelans. Many have said that while Machado maybe wasn’t their first choice in the primary election, she definitely has earned their respect and admiration for being so brave.
For other countries, this may seem like a bizarre occurrence but as I once described on Latina Lista in a post, Venezuela is a bipolar country — where the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Shame battle it out on a daily basis.
Learn more about Jennifer Barreto-Leyva
Jennifer Barreto-Leyva lives in Caracas, Venezuela where when this 5″11 venezolana is not defending the rights of her clients as a lawyer or inspiring people as a motivational speaker, she is an outspoken defender on the rights of plus-size people.
Jennifer is Miss Plump Venezuela and the first Latina who participated and won the Miss Universe for Plus-size title. She is also the first venezolana plus-size model and, consequently, is credited for introducing the plus-size modeling division throughout Latin America.
Since 1999, Jennifer has penned a regular column, Tu Rincon con Jen, for the only online site dedicated to plus size people in Spanish, gordos.com. In addition, Jennifer is also taking her message about body issues as a blogger with Estilos Blog, a celebrity blog based in Florida.
Because of her sassy outspokenness and willingness to force the issue that beauty does not lie with a person’s weight, Jennifer has found her message much in demand from South and North America to Europe and Asia.
As a result, Jennifer has launched the first spanish-language magazine in history for plus-size people — Belleza XL.
In addition, Jennifer continues to provide constant inspiration for women of all sizes through her blog and Facebook page. She says that she always knew that when it came to defending who she was, no one was going to do it for her.
I saw myself different (as a child), not only when it comes to my size but my beauty as well. I’ve always had to deal with people’s cruelty because they think I’m ugly and have no hesitation letting me know that. I had to be strong and mature when no one around was. I’m beautiful because I’ve decided and feel that way, not because everyone else says it is so.