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The real tragedy of Venezuela is the lack of common sense of its citizens

By Aleksander Boyd

London 10.02.05 | One day before the tragedy of Vargas shook Venezuela, as I was about to get indoors after having a haircut, my sister in law came rushing out the building's entrance screaming that a child was going to fell from one of the top floors of an adyacent building. We ran to the scene, my brother in law joined us, and saw a great deal of people gathered in awe, just waiting for the worse. Neighbours and onlookers of other buildings were paralyzed. I entered the building and almost literally flew up the staircase to the apartment where the child was trapped in the seventh floor. There were already some men trying to force the door open, however, as is the case with the majority of the apartments in Caracas, two doors separate the outside from the inside: one exterior security door and one interior which in most cases is equally difficult to brake. I stood there in the hallway for a few seconds analyzing the situation; I remember thinking "the child is hanging from a balcony (his head trapped between iron bars meant to prevent entrance of intruders) I should gain access to him either from adyacent balconies or from those above or beneath".

From the brief gaze I gave to him from the street he seemed to be hanging from his hands. I reacted very quickly I asked neighbours in the same floor whether they had open balconies, they didn't; then I went up to the 8th floor, no luck there; so I went down to the 6th and fortunately the apartment right underneath had an open balcony. As I opened the windows to climb to rescue the child from falling I remember vividly the facial expressions and screams of the people in the building in front "no, no, don't do it, you're going to fall too..." I was determined, so I did climb and asked the kid to rest his weight on my lap. Apparently he was playing with his sister (also in the flat), sitting on the balcony's window grille when his little body slipped through the bars and got stuck; the only part of his body that wasn't completely outside the grille was his head and so he hanged there.

He was about 5 years of age. To my 'comfort' there was a little edge in which I placed both my feet so that he could sit on my lap until rescue came. Incredibly, once I was up there with him, neighbours started yelling again "don't let go, hang in there..." and I kept thinking "these people must be fucking stupid if they believe that I'm going to from a 7th floor..."

All the while my wife was on the street. Emergency calls to the police and the firemen were made. The first to arrive were the Metropolitan police. There was a big crowd on the street but that did not impede them to drive their patrol jeeps to the front of the building. About 20 minutes after their arrival the fire engine came; but they couldn't park where they wanted for the police jeeps were blocking the street. From where I was I could see my wife having a heated discussion with firemen and police officers. They were, just like Chavez, 'appraising the situation' in order to come up with an action plan to rescue us. A big fat fireman came up, my wife told me afterwards, with the brilliant idea of utilizing the electric stair attached to the fire engine, the only problem being that it would reach, at the most, the third floor. So there I was trying to tranquilise the boy and watching the display of sheer incompetence of both police and firemen.

About 45 minutes after I climbed, the boy's sister, who had been asleep next room all along, came out. The 'rescue team' composed by inept police officers, firemen and ordinary neighbours hadn't succeeded at opening either of the doors so when I saw the little girl (about 6 years of age) I asked her whether they were on their own; she said yes. Then I asked whether she had any keys to open the doors; she said that she could open just the one inside, so I asked her to go open it. When she did the 'rescue team' shouted at her so much and so desperately that she was paralyzed, so I called her back and told her to sit next to us in the balcony.

The parents were out of reach, no one knew where they were or why they had left the children locked inside the flat. Please note that I'm talking about 5-6 year olds.

My brother in law, who had been talking to me from the window above, said that the firemen were about to brake the door locks. Once they did, well into one hour later, they rushed in. I almost ordered them not to abuse the children with unnecessary yells; someone came from the kitchen with cooking oil to be rubbed in the boy's chest and back in order to minimize the trauma of pulling him through the bars. They then got a saw to cut some bars and got me in.

The father of the children came; he went into their bedroom and hugged them; he was obviously shocked and embarrassed. Once 'saved' I told him not to leave his kids unattended and locked inside the flat ever again for next time it could well be the case that no one would be crazed enough to do what I did.

When I finally got out of the building everyone was so relieved, I remember that very many people congratulated me saying things such as "you're a hero man, I wouldn't have done that" and my answer was "if my children ever need some rescuing I wish that someone would do it without hesitation, just as I did".

Back in our building, one of our neighbours said "I got everything on tape mate, amazing feat, well done!".

The following day the mudslides of Vargas were wreaking havoc and calls for voluntaries were being made in the media. So my brother in law, a cousin of his and myself went to the cable car station in Mariperez to help, only to find that, there too, a great number of 'rescuers', with all sorts of fancy climbing equipment, were trying to 'coordinate' an operation to save some lives up in Galipan, but I guess that's another day's story.

The point of this one is to give readers an understanding of the lacking of common sense of ordinary Venezuelans, ergo it shouldn't come as a surprise that we have Chavez in the presidency...

PS: the parents of the boy never said a word of gratitude, not even once...

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