Finally, back in business! Time to catch up with you. A lot of activities passed our agenda last week, e.g. the academic soft skill activity on ‘Conflict Solving’. Muy interesante!
Michael, our academic coordinator – backed-up with an excellent and well-prepared presentation on the topic – had invited the nice people of UCABMUN to listen to what he had to say. These intercultural evening sessions are a always a success-format, integrating high-quality educational material, fun exercises, sharing of thoughts, Venezuelan cuisine and many laughs.
This week the session on ‘Conflict Solving’ was aimed to understand how and when conflicts arise. How can you recognize the signs and causes? And what are the possible stages of a conflict? Exercise one: do you know them? These basic concepts led to the higher goal of the session, namely ‘how to be able to handle conflicts’? Understanding the message and methods of conflict resolution is one thing, putting them in practice is off course another. And, we can say, practice might be needed in Venezuela…
Allow me to draw up the present situation:
Year 2011, the country faces one of the world’s highest homicide rate with two persons murdered every hour! And Caracas itself is unrivaled among large cities in having the highest murder rate (140 per 100.000) in the Americas, only exceeded in the hemisphere by Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez.
Maybe you should ask us how people deal with this security question. As, indeed, the violence is real. Well, having now lived for more than 1 month in this city – uncommon to foreigners – and have been told a lot of stories and experiences, we are able to put things in the right perspective. The crime problem in Caracas (and the rest of Venezuela) is much larger and complex than just drug trade, poverty or corrupted police as you might have heard it or thought about. The young people we meet (from the normal middle class) live in constant insecurity and fear. Enough examples to tell; being robbed of a cell phone, being threatened with guns while helping people after a car accident (!), sisters and brothers being kidnapped (!) for money, motorcycles chasing and shooting your car to get your money. The fear of becoming a victim is an issue that strongly effects the communities, quality of life and people’s overall behavior – and no, we do not talk about the slums, but the situation of people like you and myself.
Again, how do you deal with this problem? The voice we hear from many of our Venezuelan friends is similar: leave the country! And many – mainly the educated – have already done so. For those who stay the solution lies in changing the current government, as recent figures have shown that crime rates quadrupled under President Hugo Chavez’ administration.
In twelve years of ‘Social Revolution’ as the president calls his reign, the gap between rich and poor has remained large, despite spending on anti-poverty programs. Did the free programs for the poor made the people less angry or prone to more crime? Is it true that Caracas’s poverty is being caused by ‘capitalism’ and the more privileged people of Venezuela and possibly nourishes feelings of hate and anger among poor individuals? Anyway, the problem of violence and crime is probably far more complex than we can imagine.
What we do know is that having ‘Homicide as the first cause of death for both genders in the age group of 15-29’ is something to react! To put things in perspective: for us the training session on Conflict Solving in the end has a much bigger aim! ‘Broaden the perspective of the barrio-youngsters on how to deal with problems and showing them how to apply them on a community scale’, that is our motivation.
While driving home, I was thinking later that if some of our barrio-friends would be able to integrate – on whatever scale – our methods of verbal control when approaching problems, it would make us (and many other) very happy…
For the record: we got home safe, again.