OPINION: It’s the Venezuelans, not the US

Sony Ton-Aime (NEW)

Sony Ton-Aime

The first time that I saw white people, I was 3 or 4 years old. They had guns and they were rushing out of choppers. The noise of the blades, the dusty wind and the adults, afraid, running in all directions, the brouhaha of it excited my friends and me. Curious, we ran toward the men in green uniforms. They had their guns pointed at us, but we did not care. We did not know what guns were for then. We simply loved the wind pushing and slightly lifting us from the ground.

After the choppers flew back up, they let us come closer to them. I remember touching their white hands, hearing their voices and how loud and fast they were shouting. Later, they shared their military rations with us. I did not like the food. It did not taste like anything that I had tasted before, but I enjoyed their company.

I was so happy that I told my mother all about it when she got home from the Dominican Republic where she was selling secondhand clothes. She started crying and whipping me. I was confused and angry. She told me to never go close to these people. I did not know why she was so afraid of them. I would not know until I was old enough and I realized that for most Haitians the soldiers’ presence meant to erase mine.

Never did the soldiers think that their role would be to traumatize children. They probably thought they were helping, they were saving us. Little did they know that the Monroe Doctrine has a different meaning to us. Simon Bolivar’s words are still ringing in our ears: The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.

For as much as we – Caribbean people and South Americans – hate our tyrants, we fear an American intervention even more. It is better to be beaten by your mother than your stepmother.

The tyrants know that. That is why when last week a video surfaced on Facebook with Nicholas Maduro condemning Donald Trump, who he said is plotting a coup against Venezuela’s freedom, I knew that nothing good will come to Venezuela for the following years or decades.

Make no mistake about it, Maduro will resign. He cannot rule over people who do not recognize his legitimacy. The movement organized by the Venezuelans – not the U.S. government or any other outsider – will force his resignation. The Venezuelans have been in the streets in great numbers for the past weeks. Few have written about the efficacity of these demonstrations. I suspect the reason is partly because they are nonviolent. These are organized and organized demonstrations that would suggest the Venezuelans do not need outsiders’ help.

I fear, however, when Maduro resigns people will credit his resignation to U.S. pressure. His successor will be seen then as a U.S. puppet, a usurper, an illegitimate president. And the vicious circle will continue. The country will be torn by more unrests and misery. At the end, Maduro’s memory and legacy will win as nostalgia takes roots. I have seen it before.

In 2003, the Haitians started demonstrating against Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He blamed it on U.S. interference. There was truth to his allegations, of course. The militant rebels were armed and financed by the U.S. as their leader, Guy Phillipe, would admit years later. However, most of the peaceful demonstrators like the twelve-year-old me were not motivated by U.S. schemes. We were simply fighting for a better life.

When on February 28, 2004, a group of American marines came to our national palace and kidnapped Aristide and sent him in exile, we did not know if we were should be happy or angry. We felt small, insignificant, but more importantly, enraged. We were angry that the U.S. had soiled our land, had violated our sovereignty in such a manner.  We were angry that they had robbed us of our victory. We had spent a year demonstrating in the streets. We had lost brothers and sisters in the fight, and just when we were about to win, the Americans came and took our glory. And I fear they are about to do the same to the Venezuelans.

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