A few days ago I was telling a friend that I feel bad for not knowing what to think. This is me, someone who always had clear-cut views about just about anything. And now, when it comes to certain topics of our current political reality, I can’t really settle on an opinion.
I reached this (awful!) conclusion because of a new and shiny baseball stadium: the Simón Bolívar Caracas Monumental, with a 38,000-seat capacity and which cost some 70 million dollars.
It is a beautiful, modern venue. At first sight it is easy to think: “damn, it looks awesome.” In fact, during the opening of the recent baseball Caribbean series, I recall that journalists were asking fans about their impressions of the newly unveiled structure. A young man, with humble looks, proudly answered: “I worked here!”
I’m a sucker for these things, so his look and smile were enough to make my eyes tear up. It was a reminder that the workers of the world, then and now, are the protagonists of all the major works, regardless of what professional opinion makers may try to spin.
But in this case, the issues are different and there is no avoiding them once we place this major project in the country’s present context. In other words, can Venezuela, a country that has been ravaged by US sanctions as well as questionable policies, afford this kind of high-level stadium? Or should Venezuela prioritize its resources towards (for example) education and healthcare, considering that many of our schools and hospitals are in dire conditions?
One way or another, both are necessary. Venezuela, like any other country, deserves to have the two options. In “normal” circumstances it should not be necessary to choose between healthcare and sport. However, we need to keep in mind that this is not the present situation. As a result, we must play the dreaded priority game and in this round there are no doubts: healthcare and education need to come first.
Right away, another part of my mind steps up to play devil’s advocate. The stadium could be the “recreational leisure” that Chávez used to talk about and also become a source of income for the state.
But how long does it take to recover the investment? Will we be able to keep the infrastructure in good condition? And to go a step further, are we completely sure that the state is “sovereign” over the stadium? Or was it just secretly granted to a handpicked businessman or company who will end up pocketing all future profits?
As I break this down I end up feeling worse. I realize that when it’s all said and done, my doubts, and consequential inability to arrive at a solid opinion, is rooted in a lack of confidence in the running of the state. It is as if deep down I don’t trust that there is a logical reasoning behind government decisions, or that there is a long-term plan or a capacity to ensure the normal functioning of everything.
These inner struggles don’t even consider the scourge of corruption, the opaque intertwining of state and private interests that makes us question more and more the use of the scarce resources available nowadays.
To put things differently, I do have opinions but they don’t fit in the extreme and loud positions that seem to be dominant, at least on social media. On one end there are those who will defend everything the government does because there is no alternative, and on the other there are those who deny that there is an economic blockade.
Part of the frustration is that many of us, amidst our love for a political process, got used to giving the benefit of the doubt. Maybe at given points we ought to have been more critical. But as the years went by, the intolerance towards dissent grew and grew, to a point where there is very little debate today, borne out of an inability to question anything or a fear of rejection.
All of a sudden I’m reflecting on the need to belong. A few days ago I had this feeling of not “fitting” anywhere. The uncertainty stuck with me, though at the same time I wonder if this is the right term.
Deep down, I want to feel like I am part of something that is more important than individualities or personal interests. Such was the case of a political project (Chavismo) that we need to fight to rescue. For starters, with more transparency and clarity at the top, it is easier to form our opinions and stand by them.
In my heart I miss saying “I trust that what is being done is part of a plan that has the wellbeing of the majority as its goal,” with the corresponding inner peace that came with it. And perhaps even more, I miss defending a political process like mine.
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 Ricardo Vaz for Venezuelanalysis.