EspañolI met Venezuelan activist Rodrigo Diamanti in July 2013 in San Salvador. CREO, the liberal organization that I am a member of, held a seminar for young people called “Promote Your Country.” Rodrigo visited us to tell us a little bit about his work in his organization, A World Without Gags, which works on promoting free speech and human rights through art and creative expression. It is well known for its simultaneous activities in many countries, like #SOSVenezuela and “Take Off Your Government’s Gag.”
With incredible conviction in his ideals, Rodrigo spoke before slightly more than 60 young people about the importance of freedom of expression. The conference revolved around the phrase “your voice is your power.” He spoke about what he had learned through his work in civil organizations and advised the attendees on how best to spread the message of liberty inside a youth organization.
He also warned that if the leadership of a movement is concentrated in one person, that movement will be as strong or as weak as the person in charge. In this same vein, Rodrigo highlighted the importance of the group members’ commitment to create a democratic environment each and every day. He insisted on the idea of non-violent protest as a way to spread the much-needed message of respect for liberty and human rights.
That night, the CREO team had dinner with Rodrigo so he could share with us his experiences in Venezuela and the fight against the totalitarian regime in a more private forum. Amid jokes and smiles, we talked about a variety of topics; some entertaining, others more serious. He told us about the shortage of basic products in Venezuela, and the differences he observed when he visited a supermarket in El Salvador. He begged us not to wait until things get really bad before we go out and protest against abuses of power.
I would have liked to shared more with Rodrigo that day he came to El Salvador to talk about the need to fight for liberty. From afar and with those wonderful memories still fresh on my mind just a few hours after meeting him, I was angered and concerned when I heard that this great champion for liberty had been arrested.
Totalitarian regimes and dictators who rave about utopian ideas see themselves as all-powerful and all-knowing, which lead them to abuse their monopoly of force. These sorts of regimes do not like to be reminded of their mistakes and their abuses. These systems fear young people like Rodrigo, who courageously dare to challenge those in power and remind them they are not kings — they cannot, and should not, rule the lives of the people.
The perseverance in the fight for ideals that Rodrigo and other Venezuelans have shown us is a tremendous lesson. Even from a distance, they are admired. They have shown great courage in not staying silent. Their voice will be the force that topples dictators.
It pains me to see how they have repressed such a talented individual for the simple act of fearlessly speaking out for his ideals. It hurts to see a friend imprisoned. It hurts knowing that Rodrigo is not the only young person suffering in Venezuela. It hurts to feel powerless in not having more than just my words to help him and other political prisoners. It hurts to see how a totalitarian regime resorts to cowardice to silence a voice crying for liberty. It hurts to think that he is neither the first nor the last person to be captured.
What totalitarian regimes forget is that the idea of liberty is so intrinsically woven in our humanity that it cannot be suppressed. There aren’t enough gags in the words to silence the cry for freedom.