The suicide of Venezuelan writer Willy McKey, after admitting to raping a minor who denounced him on social media, sparked a long-standing discussion in Venezuela. The debate on gender violence and, in particular, the recurrence and impunity with which it has occurred in various cultural fields is finally on the table.
To support victims of gender-based violence and abuse, more than seventy artists have created the “Yo Te Creo, Venezuela” (I believe in you, Venezuela) movement, but the initiative still meets a lot of resistance. If testimonies of abuse emanate, especially from young women, other reactions show how difficult it will be to break the naturalization of violence in the world of culture. In this context, Venezuelan social networks expose recurring arguments to reject or avoid the debate.
“It is better to keep silent so as not to give weapons to the dictatorship”. This maxim ensures that it is better to remain silent so as not to give Nicolás Maduro’s regime an excuse to arrest opposition figures. This reasoning is no different from that of certain lefts who insist on silencing the crimes of real socialism so as not to give weapons to the imperialist enemy.
The proponents of this maxim do not realize that abusive power relations are transversal to the political fields in dispute. It is clear that Maduro’s regime, avoiding its own abuses, has already taken advantage of these scandals to prosecute the opposition. But given the lack of rule of law in Venezuela, we must censor selective justice and not defend impunity against crimes.
In contrast, a large part of the Venezuelan intelligentsia preferred to avoid a clear condemnation of the recent allegations (even when they were confirmed by the author himself) under the pretext of demanding “balance” and “impartiality”. “. In this way, they ignore power asymmetries and equate the victims with the perpetrators, while accusing the plaintiffs of not offering nuance.
As the artist Erika Ordogoitti reveals about the McKey affair, frequent sentences like “I do not defend him, but …” or “I condemn what he did, but …” show this relativization of violence . Another discursive operation that tries to ratify the victims and the perpetrators is to denounce the “media lynching” of women outraged against McKey. This puts the cart before the horse and ignores the fact that it is precisely this conscious instrumentalization of his media figure that allowed McKey to abuse young women.
Downplaying cases like McKey’s as if they were individual stories – Martin Caparrós hinted that the poet was ill – or that they were limited to emotional connections exonerates us as a part of a society. accomplice who for years preferred to look away. These abuses are tolerated or incited because it is convenient, less traumatic, or simply appealing to be close to those at the top.
It is surprising that some intellectuals of a certain age (mainly men, but also women) declare on social networks, at this time of the 21st century, that they are “astonished” or “astonished” by the cases of abuse. The difficulty of conceiving ourselves as a community, in addition to the personal complexes, seems to respond to the acute fragmentation of the Venezuelan social fabric.
STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE IN VENEZUELAN SOCIETY
The three arguments presented elude the central problem. Some do not even mention the unequal power relations in which Venezuelan society is structured, both in everyday life and in exceptional spaces. They prefer to divert attention from the discussion to possible consequences such as the inability to channel trauma, the advent of a “witch hunt” or the instrumentalisation of the judiciary to prosecute opponents, instead. to put your finger on the wound.
The impossibility of seeing oneself / oneself from the inside is precisely what guarantees impunity, since the responsibilities belong only to the other. There is talk of tragedy in the McKey affair, but it seems to boil down to a figure of melodrama. This friend with whom we took a picture while drinking beers, makes us uncomfortable today when we remember that we gave him an award, that we congratulated him in a literary magazine or because we thought he was a brilliant student.
However, we could change things. McKey was part of a universe where there are many examples of musicians who drug their fans to rape them, teachers who harass their students and brag about naked photos of their students, psychiatrists who manipulate their patients, ministers who use public funds to pay for their breasts. implants from his teenage lovers, diplomats who boast of having slept with several women on official trips, or members of different academies who force a colleague to remain silent about the beatings inflicted by another member. We know what we’re talking about, don’t we?
Criticism of toxic power relations in Venezuela is not a personal attack on this or that figure, on the government or the opposition, nor an ideological struggle between left and right. It’s not even a question of gender. The problem is transversal and we are immersed in deeply unequal and abusive power dynamics, with multiple markers. Age, sexual orientation, social class, skin color, nationality or rural origin determine forms of subordination.
Unfortunately, this is not a recent phenomenon. Power relations have remained largely intact, despite the Bolivarian revolution. For example, just remember the crimes against Linda Loaiza, who was kidnapped, raped and tortured with the complicity of social democratic elites and without any possibility of justice under the Chavista regime.
How many of us have experienced or heard testimonies of abuse to varying degrees by family members, partners, co-workers, teachers or bosses? How much of it do we dare to say publicly with first and last names, not only for the sake of justice, but at least to protect other possible victims?
To the first question, I answer that much, too much. At the second, I answer very little, very little. Perhaps the moment has come when, hand in hand with the younger generations and with the migratory experience that has allowed us to leave the petrified and nostalgic temporality experienced in Venezuela, we can begin to build alternative models of coexistence.