Violence and Other Questions

Cuban revolutionary singer Silvio Rodriguez provides a brief analysis of the roots of violence in Venezuela.


There are many types of violence. There’s religious ancestral violence, daughter of fanaticism and intolerance, those things at the same time being sons of ignorance.  There’s the very old political violence, which was started by the first human being to attack another in order to keep what he had. However the violence that devastates many cities and barrios of Our America tends to be economic, with its distant origins lying in inequality, exploitation, misery, and ignorance, fermented by the rage that in coming into the world one finds that anything that guarantees a dignified existed is prohibited.

In reference to this kind of violence,  which is what has been talked about on Segunda Cita [the author’s blog], I think the Venezuelan government has taken some effective measures, developing what they call ‘missions’. And, even though this principle of fundamental social service is a recent practice, today Venezuela is already seeing the fruits of thousands of humble people who have had their pain attended to, their cataracts operated, and at least two million who have obtained literacy.

As it happened, I had to visit Venezuela during its previous governments. I remember that at the time there was the same violence, despite the fact that the country had the resources to be one of the most prosperous nations of our hemisphere.

It never managed to though, in the sort of proportions that it could, with the sort of social wellbeing that its wealth seemed to guarantee, thanks to the appeasement of those administrators and the disdain of the majority of the rich towards the humble people, whom they maintained marginalised.  From those trips I remember the news of bloody events in the shanty towns that the rains would frequently wash away. And the warning that “You should never think of going up one of those mountain sides [where the Caracas barrios are]”.

Today violence came to the streets of Caracas, and it doesn’t surprise me. It wasn’t in vain that so long ago those who were excluded, took roots, and because of human growth, now invade the future city that Perez Gimenez [Venezuelan dictator from 1952-58 ] designed.

I know quite a few people who have fled the terrible reality of violence. But it’s obvious that the majority have stayed, supporting the projects of the Bolivarian government with their work and their hope.

No one wants violence for their children, their family, or for themselves. The majority who practice it also wouldn’t have adopted it if they had been fortunate enough to live a better life. If they hadn’t seen their children die without the doctor that they needed, they would be other people. If they had had the chance to study, reality would be different.

But the statistics of daily or yearly deaths, victims of violence, isn’t the chilling thing. The terrible thing is knowing these numbers could have been, at the very least, much less, but they continued to be nourished. Who were the authors of these bitter statistics and of the fear one gets on hearing them? Which injustices, which bad governments, how much complicity, and by who?

Marginal violence was manufactured by inequality, by indolence, and by selfishness. Convinced that there is no perfect political system, although there is a perfectionable one, I leave it to you all to name who most generates such things. Chavez is the first modern president of Venezuela who has taken correct measures to start to stop and reverse, through deep attention to the human being, the old and serious problem of violence, among others.

Long live Chavez, dammit!

Silvio Rodriguez is a very well known Cuban singer, guitarist, and poet. Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com