Conflict & Justice

A Venezuelan reporter comes home to cover conflict

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A demonstrator attempts to throw a bottle towards riot police officers during a protest called by university students against Venezuela's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2016. 

Credit:

Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS

Venezuela is on the brink.

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Food is difficult to find. Some citizens are even picking through the trash to find dinner. Looting is rampant. Gangs rule. The murder rate grows.

It's not the best time to move home, to put it mildly. But that's just what Mariana Zuñiga did.

The Venezuelan journalist wanted to cover conflict; Caracas was the natural choice. It's where her family and friends live. But while she had the desire to return, her friends wanted to flee.

“Many of them are actually looking to go abroad,” she says. “It’s kind of difficult. Many people have mixed feelings about staying or going. You can feel how there are several things happening every day that make you realize you are not living in a normal country, in a normal society. You have the feeling that things are going to explode at anytime.”

Zuñiga says it feels like covering a low-grade war. And that’s why she also has mixed feeling about being home.

“On one hand this is actually a lot of experience for me. I’m reporting on things that matter. I’m telling people abroad what is happening in my country,” she says. “But at the same time I am also suffering in this situation.”

Her family is OK. But life is not.

Her grandmother struggles to find medicine. Her brother can’t get milk for his breakfast. Family members are begging each other for money.

“And also seeing people in the street that are looking for food in the garbage. I’ve never seen that in my country and I never thought we would reach this kind of point,” she says.

The biggest changes she sees in Venezuela are the lines for food, and the feeling people have of constantly being in danger. “I’ve never felt so unsafe being outside of my house."

Still, she’s going to report — and live — the turmoil. Whatever happens in Venezuela will happen to her.

“In some ways, I actually feel happy knowing that I’m living with my family through this time and we are living this together.”