A few years late, an organized and robust feminist movement has emerged in Venezuela. After the North American #MeToo, #NiUnaMenos and so many others in Latin America. And, like any organization that defends, in the midst of Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship, civil and human rights, it faces immense difficulties.
One of them comes from the opposition to the regime itself. Among the most engaged, there are those who question how it is possible that, in the face of such a humanitarian crisis, hunger, shortages of medicines and pandemic, feminists now want to raise their voices and ask for respect for their rights as a priority? Yeah, it’s too lazy to explain. But in the end, the union of several of them has spoken louder, showing that, especially because of the humanitarian crisis, fighting for gender causes is as necessary as calling for free elections.
The Venezuelan movement is called “YoTeCreo” and, although it has held some face-to-face events, it has gained its main strength on social networks. First, because we are in a pandemic. Second, because abuse against Venezuelan women has now occurred in several countries since the diaspora began. Today, almost 6 million Venezuelans (UN) have migrated, and many of them are living in countries in the region.
In some cases, both predator and victim are immigrants, and abuse occurs outside Venezuela. As with the Venezuelan writer Willy McKey, accused of abuse by several women. After admitting the veracity of the charges against him, McKey ended up killing himself, jumping from the ninth floor of a building in Buenos Aires. The case sparked controversy inside and outside Venezuela, with accusations from his friends that women had led him to commit suicide.
“YoTeCreo” came into force in Venezuela on April 19, when a group of women started posting experiences of sexual abuse by friends, family or public figures. It was like an avalanche, and soon there were thousands of complaints. The main platforms are Instagram and Twitter.
As in the tragic case of McKey, there are several complaints against artists, such as the musician Alejandro Soto, from the band Los Colores, or Tony Maestracci, from Tomates Fritos. Most cases, however, indicate abuse from different sides, and hundreds point to companions, family members or close friends.
There are movement leaders in Caracas and Mexico City who are now facing the challenge. Let the networks be the whistleblower’s court? It doesn’t seem like a good idea. And McKey’s case is exemplary. If instead of being torpedoed over the internet, he were brought to justice, he would not be dead, but paying for his crimes as he should, facing a court and eventually being convicted.
The dilemma is, to which institution should the complaints be taken? Caracas-based YoTeCreo feminists have mixed views. There are those who believe that it is worth taking the cases to the justice of the Chavista regime, even though they know that it is ineffective, the institution’s lack of credibility and the fact that many police stations treat women badly and belittle cases of gender violence. Others believe that the cases should be echoed on the internet only, exerting pressure for the “cancellation” of the aggressor.
Actress Grecia Augusta Rodríguez, for example, brought an accusation to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and urged, via social media, that the others do the same and put pressure on the authorities. There are those who believe it is the right strategy, others who no longer believe in the possibility of having a response from a failed state, which has not even paid attention to the country’s health collapse in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
From the networks themselves, other proposals have emerged. For example, a group of Venezuelans in Mexico has been collecting, for the time being, local cases that have occurred with Venezuelan victims, to take to Mexican authorities, and encouraging that this also be done in other countries where Venezuelans are. It is a palliative, it does not resolve the gender issue in Venezuela, but it begins to move the pieces of the game and to give strength to those voices.
Surveys by local Venezuelan NGOs report that of every 10 crimes against women reported to the authorities, nine go unpunished. Since 2015, the regime has stopped publishing official figures on violence against women in the country. According to NGOs, in 2019, there were 167 femicides. In 2020, 256. The jump between one year and another is more than 50%, and shows how quarantine measures have increased cases of domestic violence.
Among the aggressions against Venezuelan women are also the lack of access to health and the monitoring of pregnancy. Abortion legislation is not even a topic of debate in the new National Assembly, controlled by Chavism.
Opposition to the dictatorship embraces feminist causes. However, if it has barely managed to play in that field inclined with the dictatorship by holding free elections, opponents end up leaving gender causes in a dangerous limbo, where women continue to be victims of more abuse.
Women got tired, and the hashtag #YoTeCreo is in the air. Women are emerging from the lethargy caused by the country’s serious crisis and organizing themselves around its flags. Because, even though others say they are not the priority right now, they know they are.