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Guest Voz: Venezuelan ex-pat reflects on life under Maduro and COVID-19

By Jennifer Barreto-Leyva

Unless you are living in Antarctica, you are probably under some kind of quarantine courtesy of the COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus.

The world seems like it’s upside down, at least from Venezuela. For example, US supermarkets have a strong and scary resemblance to Venezuelan supermarkets, a reality no one is happy to see.

As a result, Venezuelans living abroad are dealing with a painful deja vu.

It could be viewed as a twisted joke, but Venezuelans have been training for what the United States and other countries are going through for at least 20 years. The same amount of time Chavismo has been in power.

Currently, COVID-19 information in the country is extremely limited. The regime does its best to control every word written about it. Journalists are jailed for reporting on it and the internet functions at its slowest speed, just to name a few things happening.

How are Venezuelans living overseas taking this? How will it be for Venezuela after this?

I had a talk with one ex-pat, José Jauregui. José is graduating as an economist this year. He lives in Panamá and has some family yet in Venezuela. He currently works as an administrative assistant.

JBL: The world is going through an experience (empty supermarkets, limited rights to go out to the streets, etc.) that we have already been living with on a daily basis in Venezuela for more than a decade. How are you dealing what that? How does it make you feel?

JJ: I believe that the years I lived in Venezuela taught me how to deal with this kind of situation. Living in Venezuela or a Socialist country is very similar to this quarantine. For this reason, I´m feeling better physically and psychologically than other people around me who never lived with something like this.

That is the reason why I don´t feel worried or impatient about food or limited rights. Because while it is an unusual situation, it’s not the making of the government or someone who believes some prophet or messiah. It’s a problem from a pandemic virus.

I´m in a different system now and I know that this situation is going to be passing, and normal life will return sooner or later.

JBL: How do you feel hearing the reports about the current situation in Venezuela?

JJ: The situation in Venezuela is difficult. I’ve heard many states don´t have water, power (light), the situation at the hospitals and the health of people are getting worse. The problem is Maduro is not telling the truth. The regime uses excessive force to silence any voice who tries to tell what´s happening in this moment and what the reality of the situation is.

This is very difficult to learn because we are talking about people, about lives. Life is the most important thing, and if the regime is not telling the truth, many people will die from the virus, and of course from all the other shortages in Venezuela.

JBL: What political impact do you think this situation will have in Venezuela?

JJ: I think that this situation can give Maduro´s regime a good position to control and continue in power for more years. He controls the institutions and he has the law at his side, so this quarantine situation permits him to apply even more restrictions and more control on the Venezuelan people, all under the excuse of controlling the pandemic.

JBL: As Venezuelan, how have you been able to deal with the tremendous impact of the pandemic while living in a foreign country?

JJ: It’s difficult because when you are in another country you have to start from zero. The quarantine stops the whole country, so you have to stop earning money even though you have to pay rent and other services. Fortunately, in my case, I live with my family so that´s support I have that helps me to not give up hope that a good situation is waiting on the other side of this chaos.

JBL: What do you foresee for the future of Venezuela, after this pandemic/quarantine is over?

JJ: The future of Venezuela will be very difficult after this, because the allies now are focused on recovery in their countries and saving the lives of their citizens. It will require a lot of money and time.

And Maduro’s main challenger, Guaido, has lost much of his power and influence that he had in 2019 and the beginning of this year. So, basically, the situation of Venezuela is going to be the same, as now.

Venezuela will have the same problems, but obviously we are going to see a weaker opposition, and that will benefit Maduro and his socialist system.

Jennifer Barreto-Leyva is a lawyer and journalist. She is the editor-in-chief of Belleza XL, the first and only magazine for plus-size Latinos worldwide. Jennifer is also a former reporter for Fox News Latino and the fashion and lifestyle editor for Dubai Fashion News.

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