(Part I) Where the sugar is made of flour

I woke up one morning, ready to drink my coffee as always when I found something strange: two sugar bowls in front of my cup of coffee with milk. One, contained some dark brown and very dull “sugar” (like “papelón rallado”, I don’t think I can translate that in English, but lets just say for now, its something quite different from the common white sugar) and the other; I looked at it with skeptical eyes because I know that my family, including the maid, can be a little bit crazy sometimes – “This is flour!” – I said – “No… try it… it’s also sweet… it’s the snow sugar that your mom uses for decorate the cakes…”
I thought the sugar shortage was extreme enough when I started to get used to the brown sugar. I was clearly wrong; you never know when it’s extreme enough because my dad couldn’t even find brown sugar that day so decided to buy the two kinds of sugar that remained in the supermarket just to, well, give us the option to decide between the worse of those two. At least, they both can make my coffee taste sweeter.
A few weeks after that episode we were spending a few days at Margarita’s island. My mom luckily found a bag of plain white sugar in small envelopes, like the ones the restaurants uses, kind of weird but at least it was real sugar; so we brought it to the island. Just when I thought the whole trouble of waking up one morning and having a cup of coffee was solved, I find myself with my parents seeking from one supermarket to another, another basic component of my morning coffee: the milk. Lost and not found, believe it or not.
My father looks visible frustrated after landing in the last supermarket of the island where we heard rumors that we might find some milk available, but its all gone by the time we decided to go there. He talks in a nostalgic tone with my mom about the days of the called 4th Republic (means, from 1958 till… Chavez) “Not even on the worse days… if something like this had happen in the 4th, it would have caused a scandal, ministers dismissed, load of protest… It’s not just any food, its milk what we are talking about! ...and yet, nothing happens… I’m thankful we don’t have little kids now… What we would have done if we had kids right now?” – “They drink Chocolate beverage or Chicha instead” – My mom answers back.
Chicha it’s a Venezuelan drink made of milk and rice and whatever, this is not the place for explaining the Chicha recipe… Strange that there’s not milk but at least there’s chocolate beverage and Chicha in their place. I turn on my mp3 player and pretend I’m not hearing the conversation that goes from complaining about the milk shortage (and other shortages that comes and go) till the new Rome of any conversation about politics these days: the upcoming constitutional reform.
Sometimes I laugh when I read those long analyses about the upcoming constitutional reform. Seems like a lot of words are needed to make people understand a very simple issue: Constitutional reform means more power to Chávez “the supreme”, and, of course, more freedom and more participation – obviously not for all Venezuelans (don’t be that naïve) but for Chavez and not necessarily his colleagues but the ones he judges that they deserve those benefit on a certain moment.
More power to Chavez doesn’t necessarily means less power or more perjury for us; the constitution reform could be approved and our lives might not change or at least not in a dramatic way. But what more power to Chavez definitely implies it’s more uncertain for us, despite if you still support the government or not, because it opens more possibilities for live in a country that depends only of one man’ mood. And this means that some things we fear the most (like losing a property or going to jail without understanding why or being unable to choose your local authorities) become reality. Is this possibility what doesn’t let us sleep at night (specially my dad) sometimes.
Many former Chavez supporters seem to wonder what strange force has taken over their once idealistic and humanitarian president, just for turning into a person who beyond the ideals is able to go against anything that can interrupt his seek for power. Poder (it’s the word for power, in Spanish) pure and simple. Poder… not for the people and not for the poor but only for himself. No wonder why Chavez doesn’t talk about “the poor” anymore, like he used to do. He only talks now about the revolution. Is not the sector with less resources the one we should fight for, its not in the name of us, its in the name of the revolution… always and even more since December.
On the other hand, this doesn’t surprise me: power seems to have that effect on people, no matter how good they are; when it’s being hold for long, the power corrupts you. Of course, this is not a brilliant and original conclusion of mine, since I have read it many times on many books about politics. But is quite a difference reading the theory from witness it in practice, and not just like someone who is witnessing from the outside (like a reporter or something alike) but more like someone who is banned to live inside it and suffer its consequences.
As I write this, my mom seems busy watching the news about the reform. They frequently make comparative analysis between the process of making and approving our current constitution with Chavez just elected as a president for the first time; back in 1999 and today’s constitutional reform project.
After seeing the images of Chavez given speeches on 1999 and just a few weeks ago, my mom turns back at me and says “Chavez has changed, he looks a lot different now than from when he was younger” – Of course he changed – I laughed inside- He’s fatter now. But she’s talking about something deeper: “He looks more evil now”.
Next, while we are making tuna sandwich for the beach we read the paper and comment about some strange deal between a London (alcalde) and our “dear” Chavez. Cheap oil (yes, for London!) for some stuff we don’t fully understand in exchange. And then I wonder, what did I do to Chavez? What did Venezuelans ever did to him, so he could rather give those benefits to the people of London, or Cuba, or Nicaragua, or Bolivia instead of their own people?, or even so, Why do people in London – poor, rich; I don’t care – enjoy a better price in their public transport tickets now while we get, instead, from our president, a Constitutional reform that puts limits on every move any Venezuelan wants to make, instead the president itself. Why does everyone seem to have free oil now if they show some support to my president and declares against Bush, and we don’t have even milk or sugar instead?
The power seems to truly corrupt everything you once were in a way we, the ones who haven’t got the chance of holding a lot of power in our lives, find it hard to imagine. I’m afraid of power, not only of the power can someone like Chavez have on me, but even more, I’m afraid of the power I might hold some day, eventually, even if I’m aware of it or not; If I ever have that chance and their abilities to corrupt me in such an easy way making me do things (great or terrible) that an average person wouldn’t even dare to do.
Well, for now we take the sandwich and the towels and drive till one of our all time favorite beaches in the island. No red umbrellas this time, at least that’s a relief. The sand is white, the sun burns you in the minute you take a step outside the palm trees and the sea is calm and transparent. Some kids run to the water while a mom is chasing them with the sun block. Nothing can tell you that this piece of paradise is part of country fallen apart little by little and than most of the people who is enjoying it (exclude the foreign tourist of course) are becoming victims, doesn’t matter if they know it or not, of a process that goes beyond their control. But the beach its still there- I think, in a splash of hope – No matter if we paint the walls at the entrance white or red. Or if it’s now 4:30 Pm or just 4:00 Pm. And most of those people – not me, that’s for sure – will continue living the same life; despite which Constitution rules them.