“My school best friend was imprisoned for posting a tweet,” said Mirian Lefeld, art professor and director of 2D studio art at Richland. She led the presentation “Poor Little Rich Country: A Conversation on Venezuela,” part of the Passport to the Globe program organized by the Institute of Global Citizenship. The program was presented Sept. 24 in Sabine Hall.
Lefeld discussed the history of Venezuela, her country of origin, leading up to the current socio-economic climate. She highlighted what Venezuela is known for, including beauty pageants (seven Miss Universe titles), oil preserves and the contemporary art movements of modern informalism and geometric abstraction.
According to Lefeld, Venezuela historical roots are similar to that of the United States. She recounted the history of Venezuela from the settlement by Spaniards to the current political crisis.
Then she recounted the moment when the peace seized. In February of 1989, the price of gasoline rose by 100%. A series of protests occurred on February 27 resulting in violent government repression. In 1992, Hugo Chávez led a coup against the government and spoke on TV.
“Chávez said to the public ‘We have not reached our goals yet.’ Just recounting it give me chills,” said Lefeld.
Chávez went to prison following the coup but was pardoned by the government in 1999. That same year he won election and became president of Venezuela. Lefeld recounted that Chávez called for referendums and constitutional change. There was no separation of power between the political branches. Chávez served in office until he died of cancer in 2013.
That year, an election was held. Vice-president Nicolas Maduro competed with opposition leader Henrique Capriles. As Lefeld recounts, Maduro won by a landslide, but it is still debated as to whether the election was rigged.
Since 2013, Maduro has remained in office, despite countless civil rights violations, including censorship and torture. Around 10% of the population of Venezuela has immigrated due the social, economic and political crisis.
“If you know any recent Venezuelan arrivals let me know. As teachers we want to give then the best path as possible to succeed in their careers,” she said.
The Institute of Global Citizenship, an organization at Richland College, seeks to build global awareness with presentations about different countries.
Lefeld wrapped up the presentation by offering ways to support Venezuelans through nonprofit organizations including the International Red Cross at https://www.icrc.org/en/where-we-work/americas/venezuela and the Organization in Venezuela at https://alimentalasolidaridad.com/.