All about Politics A Polarizing Situation Different Views Away from Family

Article excerpt

Byline: Fabiano Leal For Reflejos

As Jose Rodriguez waited enthusiastically for his upcoming departure to Venezuela in December 2002, he heard the news that all flights to Caracas had been canceled. The insecurity in the country had evolved into an oil strike, and opposition demonstrations against President Hugo Chavez started taking place nationwide almost daily.

A sophomore at Western Michigan University, Rodriguez was looking forward to going home for winter break, but now, worried about his family, he had to spend the holidays at a friends house in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Rodriguez went back to Venezuela in 2006 but only stayed for a year. He returned to the United States with a work visa in 2007, and now runs Aripos Venezuelan Arepa House in Oak Park with his wife Laura. He hasnt been home since.

Rodriguez says he would only be willing to live in Venezuela again if he noticed a shift in mentality among his people.

"There must be more unity, which doesnt seem feasible right now," he says. "Chavistas or not, were are all Venezuelans after all."

Aripos menu features native dishes from back home, such as arepas and cachapas, but the ingredients dont come from Venezuela, Rodriguez says.

"I get the ingredients for the arepas easier than anyone in Venezuela, because my supplier has relocated to Colombia," Rodriguez says. "Even the most basic items have been scarce for everyone."

When Venezuelans living in the United States talk about home and the changes theyve noticed since 1999, the year Chavez took office as president, more often than not, the conversation boils down to politics.

"So many things have changed," says Lena Rosquete, a former Reflejos employee.

Lena Rosquete and her husband, Ricardo Rosquete, left Venezuela because they wanted better job opportunities and have lived in Lake Zurich since 2001.

The initial plan was to stay in the United States temporarily two to three years at most but they changed their plans and extended their stay.

While Lena Rosquete openly criticizes Chavez, Ricardo Rosquete says he has a neutral stance on Venezuelan politics. Still, the couple generally agrees on the changes they have observed back home.

"The country is completely polarized. There are those who are with Chavez and those who are against him," Lena Rosquete says. "Theres too much intolerance in Venezuela in terms of interpersonal relations right now."

"One of the things that worries me the most about Venezuela and my family is safety," says Ricardo Rosquete, an electronics engineer for Motorola Inc. "You have to pay more attention, make sure no one is following you, avoid certain places, depending on the time of the day."

They are now raising an 18-month-old son, Bruno. As much as they would like him to grow up in Venezuela, near their families, they also want to be able to ensure him a safe environment.

"We want our baby to grow up in a peaceful place, where he can express his opinions no matter what they are where we can take him to a park, without fearing he might be kidnapped or we could get robbed or killed," Lena Rosquete says.

The Rosquetes are unsure what the job market would be like if they went back to Venezuela. They dont trust the official unemployment figures, which have been above 8 percent since January 2010, according to Venezuelas National Institute of Statistics.

More importantly, they fear they might still face persecution for signing the so-called "Tascon list," a petition for the recall of Chavez, in 2004. …