“I am Chavista”: In response to Fempower Miami’s endorsement of Nicolas Máduro.
“I am Chavista”, I truly had no idea how devastating hearing those words could feel. First feeling; doubt. How could anyone touch Nicolás Maduro’s hand, let alone smile? It has to be fake. Then more videos, videos contradicting everything I’ve been hearing from friends and family since I left Caracas in August 1994. Second rationalization; these must be old… they were February 28, 2020. Disbelief turned to pain, turned to anger. The longer my messages went unanswered the reality that Fempower and Helen Peña could actually align themselves with an ideology so backward at its core and sinister at it’s conception was slowly sinking in.
On March 3, 2020 while I sat at the Denver airport waiting to board a plane to Miami, my Abuela was at Kaiser Permanente in Downey, California, her heart was giving up. It’s beat weakened, while her lungs filled with fluid. Without the force of your heart to move blood your body begins to suffocate from lack of oxygen. Rosalva Zenaida Pérez de Gomez’s heart was born in Holguin, Cuba in 1927. In 1950 she earned a Doctorate in Pharmacy at the University of Havana. At the same time that a young Fidel Castro was beginning to adopt his leftist anti-imperialist ideas while studying law. Helio Gomez, born in Holguin in 1929, was a passionate photographer, who at age 16 had to give up his artistic aspirations to work as a teller for the Bank of Canada in Holguin. Helio Gomez fell in love with Rosalva from the first moment they met and they married soon after. My father Rafael Gomez, the second of what would be five children, was born in February 1955. Three months later Che Guevara will meet Ñico López in the streets of Mexico City, and be introduced to Raul Castro. Fidel Castro will speak at the Flagler Theater in Miami on Nov. 20, 1955, before a crowd of supporters who then contributed money to help finance his revolution.
Helio like many cubans, was an enthusiastic supporter and soldier in the revolution which saw Fidel Castro and his guerrilla army sweep the dictator Fulgencio Batista from power in January 1959. But by 1961 he had witnessed too many examples of hypocrisy in leadership and when the local parish priest went missing, he began to ask questions. This was enough for him to be labeled “an enemy of the revolution”. Castro’s hold on power was so delicate that any dissent was swiftly and violently suppressed. Rather than be arrested Helio was forced into hiding. In 1962 my father and his older brother were able to attain British visas to enter Jamaica, and he waited there with his grandparents, till they were able to attain visas to Miami. Finally after a year of hiding Helio, Rosalva and their two youngest children joined my father and his brother in Miami.
Fast forward to 1986 my father is offered a sales position for Leeds and Northrup in South America and we move to Caracas, Venezuela. A young Hugo Chávez was busy forming a new secretive cell within the military, the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army-200. My first experience with them came one morning in February 1992, my father was supposed to leave for the airport, after receiving a warning from a friend he stayed behind. We went onto the roof of the house and watched the fighter planes overhead. Members of the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army suddenly overwhelmed the city. We all watched on TV as Chávez dramatically turned himself in after the failed attempt to assassinate Perez. I remember hearing the protests from our home. Everyone banging pots and pans in the street. I remember that suddenly the military was everywhere, the soldiers looked like teenagers, I was only 7 but I knew to be afraid. In the intervening years our home was raided, the contents spilled out, friends said not to call police, they would take what was left. My mother was held up at gun point. Finally in August 1994 we move to Miami. All while Chávez is traveling around Latin America in search of foreign support for his Bolivarian movement, he visited Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, and finally Cuba. In Castro Chávez finds a mentor that will shape his political future. My father knew from experience, the true implications of this political alliance.
Revolutions and counter revolutions are framed in the private sector, the state security apparatus exists to be enlisted. Miami, long on rumor, short in memory. Myths acquiring greater and greater commercial value. Che becomes a rallying cry. An army of shadows are always working. When Pinochet died they found a copy of ‘The Bolivarian Diary’ signed by Kissinger in his library. Today Venezuela is engulfed in a government-inflicted economic crisis twice the size of the Great Depression, which has provoked the largest movement of refugees in the recent history of Latin America. Venezuelans are starving and the so-called Bolivarian Revolution is to blame. Fempower and Helen Peña’s willingness to stand by a brutal dictator — albeit passively, is really frightening to those who have experienced dictators under the guise of anti-imperialism.
-Jacqueline Gomez, June 2020