It was a cold and rainy night as I walked past Bolivar Square in Washington, DC and made my way down to the Organization of American States. I am not Venezuelan, however I do have many Venezuelan friends and my deepest desire is for this hemisphere- and for the world to have liberty.
The Americas, a hemisphere full of promise yet delivered polarization and division. For I long for the light of liberty to shine upon this part of the world, and into the hearts of all as we hold up our rights every day.
I have done a project on Juan Guaido for an internship, and was looking forward to seeing in person the leader I heard so much about.
For those who are not aware, two men claim to be the rightful president of Venezuela- Nicolas Maduro (recognized by Russia and China) and Juan Guaido (recognized by Poland, France, Germany, Colombia, and allies)
According to Venezuela's Constitution if the presidency is vacant (or an usurper usurps power) the power falls into the hands of the president of the National Assembly and that would be Juan Guaido.
All I knew about Juan Guaido was from my Venezuelan friends telling me they are looking to him for hope. I followed his Instagram and it was surprisingly ordinary at first- his family and his adorable dog. Guaido is young, a millennial such as I- and plunged into an extraordinary story that is still unfolding before the eyes of the world. One day he was throwing a tennis ball to his yellow lab and the following day the world had their eyes on him as he swore an oath to restore Venezuela to a democracy. He is not a superhero, nor is anybody- but we all are ordinary humans who should be seeking opportunities to better the lives of the world and speak up for the liberty of the people.
Of course, he cannot do it along and there are greater political forces at play which would lead to this article being not a quick, easy read.
Back to the story, I waited in the cold for what seemed like forever to get a glimpse of Guaido- the Venezuelans there were very welcoming and eager to teach me some Spanish words. We laughed and they enjoyed telling me about their country. They even invited me to sing their national anthem with them. Their warm embrace was a perfect reminder about how we all come from different backgrounds and countries with different cultures but at the end of the day we are all humans and we should speak for the rights of all.
I am not Venezuelan, I'm just an American- I cannot tell you what the best way to transition their country into a democracy would be, as Montesquieu would not be very pleased with me if I do. That is up to my Venezuelan friends to tell you. But what I can tell you is there is a difference between dictating as an American what another country should do- and expressing solidarity with the oppressed and standing by their side. So many people misinterpret this the wrong way and either dictate what another country should do in the hopes of liberating them. While those people have good intentions, unless you are living in a situation you cannot dictate how to change it- a couple Latin American liberators mistakenly tried applying principles to Peru with good intentions of giving them liberty, but not fully understanding the labyrinth of Peruvian culture and politics being distinct from Argentina or Venezuela.
The other pitfall that well meaning people fall into is they avoid human rights situations all together because they do not want to look like they are interfering with another country's situation. This is foolish as it turns a blind eye to the injustices of the world. One may not understand all the parts of Russian or German culture, but if people said "Ohhh Hitler is a German problem I should not express any opinion" they would have missed the point all together.
I'm here to tell you today- there is a middle ground, you can stand by people calling for their rights and express support and solidarity. Share their stories and let them know they have your full support. This does not mean you are dictating to them what to do, but what it is doing is giving them a larger channel to be heard.
Amidst our laughter- Guaido emerged! It was tricky to get a picture with the news cameras but I got a few, he struck me as a sincere person with good intentions. He seemed a bit introspective and all the words he used were clear and expressed a single intention- that of liberty. As he stood in the icy rain he proclaimed his desire for the world. At the end of his talk he wanted a group selfie and asked somebody to toss him a phone- I never saw somebody with as good of a catch as Guaido as he reached his long arms out to catch the phone and take a group selfie- a moment that reminded us all of how it is us, the people who make great differences.
That night I carried his words, and the laughter of my Venezuelan friends in my heart as I reflected on what it means to stand in solidarity with those who need it, carry the light of the rights of humanity and always to speak for the people to be liberated.