In November, the excitement and tranquility settled back into our home in Santa Paula: Mom was back. Brian and I had no understanding that she needed time to rest to get over her surgery, but the fact she returned after so long made us appreciate her so much more. I am certain that if the doctor had prescribed love and pampering in her road to recovery, we gave her as much as we possibly could. I remember coming home from school looking for her to give her a big hug and see how she was doing. The Fab Four were finally reunited and back to full-strength.
|Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez|
The return to normality in our home life was followed by a massive political carnival in the big city. Elections! The country was going through a major economic crisis, something I had little awareness of, and the president at the time was Jaime Lusinchi. His term was running out and the people were looking for a change. All the fever was around el Gocho del 88, Carlos Andrés Pérez, and his promises to implement wide scale free-market reforms based on recommendations from the IMF. His proposed reforms included privatizing state companies, tax reform, reducing custom duties and diminishing the role of the state in the economy. His popularity as far as I knew was huge, as I had a pin with his face on it. I wore it around the house quite often while sporting my awesome Kung Fu pajamas.
President Pérez was in fact elected in 1988 and began his road to reform. He implemented an economic package that included the elimination of gas subsidies previously allowing Venezuelans to enjoy extremely cheap gasoline prices, far beneath the international level and costs of production. As soon as these subsidies were eliminated, gasoline prices sky rocketed along with the price of public transportation. Many Venezuelans relied on cheap public transportation as they could not afford to purchase a family car and lived in humble conditions, something I had perceived while visiting development projects with my family.
On Friday, February 27, 1989, I woke up to a school day to the sound of panic. I came out of my room to see my mom with Brian in the family room and I could hear chaotic screams coming from the television. The people affected by the newly implemented economic reforms had taken to the streets. I did not understand why my people were furious but I noticed protesting and major rioting. The reporter on scene mentioned that the events we were witnessing were unfolding in Guarenas, a town close to Caracas. My mother, Brian and I could not believe the images we were seeing and I could not help but think about my Dad who had left earlier that morning for work. By that afternoon, the rioting had spread to Caracas and from our backyard we could hear gun shots, bombs going off and all sorts of screaming.
|Mobs looting around Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 27, 1989.|
Through the widespread civil disorder, the President came on national television declaring the country was in a state of emergency and as such, we were to remain in our homes until order would be restored. There were clear warnings that anyone leaving their home would be fired upon by security forces. After this message, media rights had been suspended and we were left in the dark. Our television coverage was the only way to know what was going on in the world outside the walls of our house. I found out later on that President Pérez had suspended many constitutional rights and ordered to restore obedience at any cost. All I could think of was about my father and if I would ever see him again. I had mental imagines of my father in his car surrounded by people trying to get to him. He did in fact make it home late that night. These riots went on for another three days.
(Pictures courtesy of http://primicias24.com/)