Miguel Chalita has been living 2 years in the United States of America and, according to his lawyer, he is the first Venezuelan who has received political asylum in Richmond, Virginia. He and his wife are the kind of Venezuelans that welcome you from the very first moment they meet you, and as I explained them how my blog works, Miguel decided to trust me and tell me the story of how he ended up in the United States. His story is similar to the story of many Venezuelans who are part of a system and a routine that consumes them. And, in a way, it is the story of many people from this generation, and many more in the history of humanity. His story is the story of a choice, a loss, and hopefully, a reward. The choice that we all have, even though we do not realize it.
Miguel Chalita still remembers the first time he was denied access to one of the Venezuelan oil refineries (PDVSA, the Venezuelan petroleum company, has belonged to the Venezuelan state since January 1st, 1976) because of his political stand, when he was working for a transnational gas company. As he entered the office of a PDVSA employee that had Chavez’ posters all over the walls, he noticed that one of the posters was a bit tilted. Seeing this, the PDVSA employee pointed out that it was unacceptable that the poster of the “comandante” (as Hugo Chavez used to be called by his supporters) be tilted, and looked at Miguel waiting on his approval to the comment. Miguel, who was part of the Venezuelan opposition and had signed a petition to demand a presidential referendum against Chavez in 2002, did not show much enthusiasm about the employee´s opinion. The day after, he was escorted out of the refinery.
As many Venezuelans might now, Mr. Chalita was one of many victims of the Tascón list .
The difference between Miguel and many others, though, was his choice. After seven years working for a transnational gas company (and with 25 years of experience as a maintenance engineer), he was ready to quit his job the same day that he got fired, in 2009. What started as a two-month break from any work, developed into a hard political struggle to defend his rights and the rights of other Venezuelans. He radicalized as a recognizable opponent to the Venezuelan government, and engaged as a witness in many local elections and protests. The more he engaged with the process, the more threats he received from neighbors and others; until he was ambushed by a group of people who harmed him in December 30, 2010. That day he realized that the situation in Venezuela was as bad as he had predicted (or worse), and in order to protect his life, he decided to move to the USA. He was unaware that he qualified for a political asylum in the US until his lawyer advised him to do it. His asylum was granted the following year.
Happy ending? Not really. Political asylum might provide personal safety, but the cost is immense. He is not allowed to step on Venezuelan soil. In fact, he can’t even enter the Venezuelan consulate in Washington DC. Even though he had the luck to marry a great Venezuelan woman in Virginia, his son and other members of his family stayed in Venezuela, together with all his property, his past life, and the home that he had fought so fiercely to defend. Miguel Chalita chose to fight back and to demand his rights, and he might have lost a lot, but he did not lose his integrity. I hope that one day he receives the reward that he deserves: to see Venezuela free from this failed government.
Remember, we all have a choice and YES, doing nothing is also a choice.