Bassil Da Costa died on Feb. 12 in Caracas, Venezuela. He was a 24-year-old student at a demonstration against Venezuela’s government.
On Venezuela’s Day of the Youth, students decided to march peacefully on the streets in protest of the government’s repressive measures. The demonstration quickly turned violent. The Bolivarian Intelligence Service was deployed and shot rubber bullets at the crowd. The crowd was not dispersing, so they turned to real bullets.
That is how Bassil died. There have been 13 deaths in the protests as of Sunday. We must spread the word about the state of Venezuela.
I sit and cry, indignant and impotent, because there is not much I can do. My brothers and sisters, my fellow students, my fellow Venezuelans, are getting murdered because they are voicing their opinion against the government. They are getting murdered because they are sick of living in fear, of living in hunger, and of living in oppression.
I mourn Bassil, the 12 others who have died protesting the government, and the 25,000 people who died in 2013. I mourn all of those who have died at the hands of violence. I mourn the loss of liberty. But, I don’t want to feel powerless anymore.
In April 2013, after former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died while in office, Chavez’s handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, won the election by a small margin of 1.49 percent against the opposition, Henrique Capriles. After Maduro took office, the country spiraled downward.
The economy – which was previously unstable – crumbled. Venezuela currently has the highest rate of inflation in the world, according to the World Bank. Food shortages are rampant. There is no milk, bread or flour. There is no toilet paper.
Crime also went up. Robberies, kidnappings and assassinations were common during Chavez’s regime, but under Maduro, crime rose significantly. The government stopped publishing official murder rates, but according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, there were around 25,000 murders in 2013.
On Feb. 18, also during a peaceful protest, one of Venezuela’s opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez, surrendered to government forces. He knew that by leading the protests, he would likely end up in jail, so he recorded a video the night before and shared it on Twitter the night of his arrest.
In the 10-minute video, he asks the Venezuelan people to become a medium of communication. “I invite you, brother and sister, to become a center of activism,” Lopez said. “To become a reference for your community and family, so we can organize what will come ahead of us now.”
Please help me help Venezuela. Spread the word. Get informed. Share pictures on social media. Don’t let the voices of fellow human beings be shut out by the wrong end of a gun.
Yael Herman is a junior majoring in journalism and political science.