This article by Jennifer Kabbany, Novak ’02, originally appeared in The College Fix. You can find the original article here.
‘Venezuela: My Story … Your Future?’
When Jorge Galicia and Andrés Guilarte tell college students socialism is no utopia, they speak from experience.
The two young intellectuals were born and raised in Venezuela and over the last decade saw their country transformed into a place they barely recognize.
We used to be just like everybody else. But now [in Venezuela] we’ve ended up at the bottom of every single economic index you can find. You don’t have to take for granted your liberties — and you don’t have to wait until you lose them to fight for them.” – Andrés Guilarte
As exiles seeking asylum in America today, they’re telling any young person who will listen: the virus is socialism.
“No one else can know what happened in Venezuela but a Venezuelan, and we are experts on that,” said Guilarte, 25.
Galicia, 24, adds “I definitely see America committing a lot of the same mistakes Venezuela committed.”
Galicia and Guilarte are currently visiting college campuses nationwide warning young people against socialism, and told The College Fix in a joint telephone interview on Wednesday their message could not be coming at a more critical time.
“The majority of students in college say they support socialist ideas,” said Galicia, citing a recent poll which found sweeping support among young people for the system.
“Maybe they don’t know exactly what is going on in Venezuela,” Galicia said.
So Galicia and Guilarte are telling them.
“It’s a warning,” Guilarte said of their message. “We are eyewitnesses of the falling of the country. We are telling them we used to have rights like you have here. You can go to the supermarket, buy everything, you can have money for the month.”
“We used to be just like everybody else. But now [in Venezuela] we’ve ended up at the bottom of every single economic index you can find. You don’t have to take for granted your liberties — and you don’t have to wait until you lose them to fight for them.”
Galicia echoed those sentiments, saying he tells students while they might be naturally drawn to socialism, it offers a false promise.
Who in the world wouldn’t want to have free health care, free college tuition, free whatever — the thing is those kinds of offers are not sustainable in the longterm,” he said. “I know it is tempting, but do not fall into that trap. You need to learn from other people’s experience. Keep your liberty protected, because what you have, it’s a beautiful country.” – Jorge Galicia
Galicia traveled to America in October 2018 and Guilarte in January 2019. Both men were student political activists involved in liberty-minded campus groups in Venezuela, and came to the U.S. to take part in various academic-intellectual programs.
But the recent massive upheaval in Venezuela has prompted them to delay their return and seek asylum here, they said, adding they do hope to one day return to their home. They have family there, and remember a Venezuela from years ago, before its total collapse in 2013.
“Before that the country was still kind of functional,” Galicia said. “After 2013, you started to see the scarcity of medicine, food supplies.”
They paint that picture and more when they give their talks, which are done separately. Each man gives his own story to his respective audience. Their speaking project is funded and coordinated by The Fund for American Studies and is titled “Venezuela: My Story … Your Future?”
The program launched in October and the two have given a handful of talks at campuses so far, with many more scheduled in the coming months at universities in states such as Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, and even in Washington D.C.
The Fund for American Studies touts the program as a chance for students to “hear the real-life stories of Venezuelan asylum seekers.”
“Andrés and Jorge had to leave their lives in Venezuela after an oppressive regime crippled the economy, caused widespread starvation, blanketed the nation in blackouts, and silenced and jailed those who dared to speak out and criticize the government. With an eyewitness perspective they answer the question: How did a country with so much wealth and promise completely collapse?”
The men told The College Fix they explain to students how socialism is at the root of all the oppression, turmoil and poverty — and how America is headed in the same direction.
“It is important to teach young audiences, they are the most vulnerable audience when it comes to being engaged with socialist ideas,” Galicia said. “American youth aren’t exposed to any hard times. We as the youth are always looking for a revolution, looking for a way to change the system. Maybe they feel socialism is the way to do that. They haven’t been through any actual crisis. The youth is going to be the decision makers of the future. If they are engaged in socialist ideas, it only shows a horrible future for America if we have to convince them socialism is not the way.”
For information on how to host a lecture, visit TFAS.org/Venezuela.