I Come Bearing My Heart

In her latest delivery of "Tales of Resistance," Jessica Dos Santos argues that the government has work to do ahead of next year's elections.
The habit of forgetting about political promises has become all too prevalent, Jessica Dos Santos claims. (Venezuelanalysis)

I recently read that at the end of 1986, when Argentinian musician Fito Páez was 23 years old, his aunt and grandmother were assassinated in their home in Rosario. In the following days, the pain and anger led to a song insulting his hometown (“En esta puta ciudad”).

It turns out that after that, the artist refused to perform a song he had written some time before, “Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón” (“I come bearing my heart”), which had become an anthem of hope after the fall of the military dictatorship opened possibilities of democracy and justice in Argentina.

“I started to resent the young guy who had written that song, I was disgusted with myself. One always blames oneself,” Fito explained. Then one day a fellow artist told him he could not go on disparaging the songs he had written, because they had had a purpose at the time.

When I look back with not-so-fond eyes at some of the stuff I did, said, or wrote in the many years of the Bolivarian Process, I look for solace in that sentence. I also rely on it to remember why I refrained from doing, saying, or writing a number of other things.

Maybe that is why this column comes out a bit weary, as if it feels the weight of a string of unfulfilled political promises that pile up and grow harder and harder to hide. The exceptions became the rule.

One example: at the end of April we saw this “International Conference” dedicated to the Venezuelan political process hosted by Colombian President Gustavo Petro. It promised to unblock the present quagmire but only yielded three pledges (that had been announced beforehand) and no concrete developments.

One of those agreements was the release of US $3 billion worth of Venezuelan funds that are currently frozen abroad, to be invested in healthcare, education and infrastructure repairs. Something that had been agreed and undersigned in November 2022. So the question is: why is there dialogue going on with people who have done nothing to fulfill their commitment? A few days ago, the US gave the green light and offered assurances that the funds can be moved. Beyond the outrage and absurdity of needing US permission to move VENEZUELAN funds, why was there such a long delay?

And on that note, what happened to the government’s promise to bring Juan Guaidó to justice for all his nefarious actions in recent years? We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars handed to the “interim government,” not to mention strategic companies like Monómeros and Citgo that ended up broke or at the mercy of creditors.

Are we supposed to believe that no one in the government, not a single member of the multiple security agencies, which have proven very agile to deter coup attempts, realized that Guaidó had “vanished” and crossed the Colombian border? What happened to his ban on leaving the country issued by the Venezuelan Supreme Court in 2019 pending ongoing investigations?

Why not tell us that this was bargained instead of claiming, as if we are all helpless bystanders, that Guaidó “escaped” to seal the theft of Citgo without the Venezuelan state being able to do anything about it? It almost seems like both groups have taken Citgo as a lost cause and are more worried about assigning blame than saving the company.

If we stay in the oil sphere, we could also recall the promise to recover output back to two million barrels per day. We spent two or three years hearing about it and have yet to cross one million. Not just that, the people in charge of the industry ended up as protagonists of the latest corruption scandal which has racked up dozens of arrests. The promises are made with lots of pomp and circumstance, and then they are gone with the wind.

Another example that really looked like last-minute improvisation was Maduro’s announcement on May 1st that the revenue from 50 oil wells in Monagas state will be destined for the country’s pension fund. Beyond the shakiness of the proposal (after all, the Venezuelan state can manage its oil revenue as it sees fit), it looks like another pledge that will vanish from the headlines.

Why am I such a pessimist? Because on May 1st last year, there was a promise to pay 10,000 bolívars to former public sector workers who had retired between 2018 and 2022 and saw hyperinflation destroy their hard-earned retirement settlements.

According to the government, the 10,000 bolívars, which were worth some $2,200 at the time, were to be paid in three installments within 12 months. Yet, to this very day, no payments have been made and there have been no updates. To add insult to injury, there are rumors that the compensation will get underway… but that it will remain the same 10,000 bolívars. Now, one year later, currency devaluation means that only amounts to $380.

Many will get to this point and tell me that I’m much more critical of the government than the opposition. And that’s true. There’d be a lot more to say about the Guaidó clan. For example, they abolished a measly bonus for healthcare workers to maintain their own bloated incomes. But the two bands are not created equal. One is a group of traitors at the service of a foreign power. The other is a government, running a state, elected by a majority, and charged with the destinies of a transformative historical process.

If I’m completely honest, I desperately want the government to convince me to vote for Maduro in 2024, even if it seems like the goal is the complete opposite! It has to start with fulfilling promises, even if just the small ones for starters.

Why is this so important? Between the incompetence and the lack of will to correct mistakes, there is a real danger of a rise of the far right led by a terrible figure such as María Corina Machado. I really hope I am wrong, but I fear we may come back to this subject in future deliveries. May we not live in interesting times!

Jessica Dos Santos is a Venezuelan university professor, journalist and writer whose work has appeared in outlets such as RT, Épale CCS magazine and Investig’Action. She is the author of the book “Caracas en Alpargatas” (2018). She’s won the Aníbal Nazoa Journalism Prize in 2014 and received honorable mentions in the Simón Bolívar National Journalism prize in 2016 and 2018.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.

Translated by for Venezuelanalysis.