EspañolWhen Xerxes I conquered Athens in 480 BC, he perpetrated the most famous looting of the Acropolis in history. “The barbarians had entered Attica, and were ravaging and burning everything,” Herodotus wrote.
Here in Venezuela, we know well the story of the looting that occurred during the Caracazo in 1989. More recently, we witnessed the sad plundering of Daka, where ordinary Venezuelans stole appliances from the store after the government incited them to do so.
Throughout history, in times of crisis, men have displayed their most primitive and bestial side, abandoning their humanity to behave like the barbarians that the Greeks feared so much.
Such a failure of basic decency returned to Venezuela within the past week. On Saturday, May 2, a truckload of precooked flour belonging to the PAN company overturned on a highway in central Venezuela.
In a video that soon went viral on social media, passers-by (or deliberate looters) can be seen to pillage the truck, ignoring the body of the truck driver on the ground. Some even take the bags of flour lying beside the dead man.
Warning: Strong images. Viewer discretion is advised.
Meanwhile, on Monday, a huge truck loaded with meat overturned in the state of Táchira. It was looted instantly, with video footage showing people carrying huge chunks of beef to their cars.
One image is striking in both instances: the faces of the people who were taking what did not belong to them. These were faces of joy, of happiness, almost of ecstasy. Those savages who yielded to the call of barbarism reveled in their theft, ignoring the corpse that lay on the ground beside them.
Hambre en Venezuela: Una gandola cargada de carne se vuelca en Uribante, Táchira y una multitud se vuelca en ella pic.twitter.com/wp09R7KYYi
— El Zorro (@PK2noticiosos) May 4, 2015
“Hunger in Venezuela: A truckload of meat overturns in Uribante, Táchira, and a crowd plunders it.”
These latest events are only the tip of the iceberg in recent outbreaks of looting and criminality across Venezuela. This breakdown in the social fabric is a reflection of the political model that governs the country today.
Such chaos stands in direct contrast to the peaceful protest held in Boconó at the end of April, where ordinary citizens demonstrated against the continued arrest of Leopoldo López. But demonstrations of civic consciousness are fast becoming a rarity. Civilization is being lost, and it’s final collapse will mean the victory of Chavismo.
After some 16 years, we can now assess Chavismo‘s real legacy. More than the destruction of the economy, its biggest achievement has been the brutalization of human beings, the annihilation of the individual and the citizen. Venezuela under Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro has become an illicit business, dedicated to enriching the Chavista elite, and squandering public resources.
Staving off hunger, rather than working for our freedom, has become our priority. Our dignity has been suppressed so much that we are now slaves to base material needs, and depend upon a failed political model for handouts of food and cash.
As a result, we seize upon the slightest chance to snatch at the wealth that Venezuela once possessed, turning us into beasts and barbaric beings. The looters are responsible for their own actions. But such inhuman activity is a sure sign of a country mired in desperation, fear, and economic failure.
Lootings, killings, corruption, poverty, and shortages are the undoubted legacy of Chavismo. But its enduring effect will have been to eliminate the idea of Venezuelan citizens, turning us at times into little more than starving animals and baying mobs. This dehumanization will take a long time to reverse.
Translated by Rebeca Morla. Edited by Laurie Blair.