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Milagros Socorro: “To see your country destroyed day after day fatigues the soul” (Demo)

This statement was originally published on on 12 September 2019.

Milagros Socorro, award-winning Venezuelan journalist and writer, is Aarhus’ third ICORN writer-in-residence. She will continue her writing and her fight for change in her home country.

– Venezuela must recover democratic institutions. And it is my hope that he [Venezuela] will do it in a peaceful and concerted way. I will return to contribute to the reconstruction. For that I must have rebuilt first. I hope to make it. Milagros Socorro

Milagros Socorro is an award-winning journalist and writer from Venezuela. She is the author of 13 books, including the novels El abrazo de tamarindo (2008) and Vacas en las Nubes (2008). Her work has appeared in a number of anthologies of Latin American literature, and she has edited several literary collections, like Las Voces Secretas: El Nuevo Cuento Venezolano (2006).

Fighting corruption and authoritarianism

Venezuela has for years suffered deep political and economic crisis under both Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro’s presidencies. Since Chavez took power in 1999, the country has seen a massive crackdown on independent media outlets and journalists. On the RSF’s 2019 Press Freedom Index, Venezuela ranks only 148 out of 180 countries.

– It is very difficult to move forward in a book when you have to spend several hours of the day looking for food or medicine for your family, when you have frequent power outages and the worst internet access in the world. Milagros Socorro

Milagros Socorro is known and praised for her investigative interviews, writing and teaching about democracy, freedom of expression and information, and for her fight against corruption and authoritarianism in Venezuela. Already an established journalist when Chavez came to power, Socorro has continued to work for the few independent media outlets left in the country.

Socorro worked for the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, as correspondent for the Colombian magazine Revista Gato Pardo and ¡Claro! Magazine. She also wrote for the politics and culture sections of the El Nacional as well as the weekly op-ed of the same newspaper. She contributes to the Climax magazine and is the general editor for the news portal Código Venezuela.

A stark critic of the Venezuelan government and its war on democratic institutions and civil society, Socorro left her native country due to difficult working conditions and severe threats she received connected to her journalism.

Recuperating from the fatigue

On Friday 30 August, Milagros Socorro arrived in Aarhus in Denmark, where she looks forward to recuperating and to continue to work.

–The first thing has been to rest. I don’t talk about any tiredness. And I don’t mean physical or mental exhaustion. It is something deeper. It is something in the depths of the psyche, where fear, anger, desolation, pain lodge. This is completely nontransferable. I do not expect to be understood. Anyone can understand muscle fatigue after a particularly demanding day; and we have all experienced that blunting of ideas that leave several days of conflict and difficulties.

But those who have lived in Venezuela in recent years know that there is a fatigue of the soul, a grief for which there are no words. It is what it feels like to see your country destroyed day after day, young people marching to emigration (a route they take on foot on a walk that takes them through several countries), separated families, people eating from garbage, the sick without medicines or hospitals, children killed due to lack of attention, the dejected consumption of hyperinflation, hopelessness in people’s faces … The first thing is, then, to recover from the tribulations of that kind of war that Venezuelans have suffered for so long. The second is to live, remember what life was like. And the third, not necessarily in that order, write.

Liberties are no island – they end where the freedom of others is threatened

For her journalism and writings, Socorro has received numerous prizes. She was awarded the 2018 Oxfam Novib/PEN International Awards for Freedom of Expression, the Miguel Otero prize for Best Journalist for the daily El Nacional in 2004, the National Journalism Prize in 1999, and Urban Chronic Prize, Diario de Caracas in 1994. In her acceptance speech of the 2018 Oxfam Novib/PEN International Award in the Haag, Socorro stated:

I came here to tell you that everything that you take for granted can be lost in one minute. I came here to remind you that our freedom ends, not where the freedom of others begins, as they say, but where the freedom of others is threatened.

In an article in, a local Aarhus newspaper, the City Council Executive of Aarhus, Rabih Azad-Ahmad warmly welcomes Socorro and says that he hopes her story and presence can help people in Aarhus and Denmark become more aware of the importance freedom of expression and democratic rights even in times and places where these rights are upheld.

In silence and predictability

Socorro looks forward to completing her books in a quiet environment without constant power outages. She wishes to write for and speak with the Danish public, and hopefully with time, be able to return and contribute to the reconstruction of her country. She says:

I will finish a couple of books. I do not want to say much more, you know how we writers are regarding the tense relationship between what is said and what is written. I have a great need for normalcy, for everyday life without frights. We writers greatly appreciate that which for so many people is undesirable, the routine. To write I need silence, repeated acts, predictable days, whole mornings with no other task than a couple of paragraphs. It is very difficult to move forward in a book when you have to spend several hours of the day looking for food or medicine for your family, when you have frequent power outages and the worst internet access in the world.

I will return to contribute to the reconstruction [of Venezuela]. For that, I must have rebuilt first. I hope to make it.

Milagros Socorro graduated from the Zulia University in Maracaibo city in Venezuela in 1987 with a Bachelor in Social Communication, specialising in Print Journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in Latin-American Literature from the Simon Bolivar University and has completed postgraduate studies in Pedagogy, Philosophy and literature.

Aarhus City of Refuge

In 2007, Aarhus was the first city in Denmark to become a member of ICORN, politically paving the way for more Danish cities to join the network. Today, Copenhagen and Helsingør are also member. Milagros Socorro is Århus’ third ICORN writer in residence, following Iranian poet Omid Sham Gakieh and writer Tendai Tagarira from Zimbabwe.

The post Milagros Socorro: “To see your country destroyed day after day fatigues the soul” appeared first on IFEX.


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