Try as I may, I cannot get out of my mind and psyche the image of 21 year old Afro-Venezuelan Orlando Figuera being burnt to death in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela. This is surely one of the worst cases of a modern day lynching of a black man!
Orlando Figuera happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. On the afternoon of Saturday the 20th of May 2017 he was innocently walking along the public streets of the district of Chacao in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, when he stumbled upon one of the several violent street protests that are currently being staged by the Opposition political forces of Venezuela.
The crowd of white Opposition protestors looked at this black young man and decided that he had to be a supporter of the socialist Government of the late Hugo Chavez and of the current President Nicolas Maduro.
Who knows? Maybe the mere fact that Orlando Figuera was visibly a member of an ethnic minority community that had historically been discriminated against by the white social elite that comprise the leadership of the political Opposition-- an ethnic community that only began to share in the benefits of the oil wealth of Venezuela after Hugo Chavez and his United Socialist Party came to power-- might have been enough to mark young Orlando off as a Chavista.
Or maybe, as some have claimed, the young black man proudly identified himself as a Chavista.
Whatever the case may be, the fact is that as soon as Orlando Figuera was identified as a Chavista-- and a BLACK Chavista at that-- the white racist mob immediately set upon him; beat him brutally; stabbed him six times; doused him with gasoline; and set him on FIRE !!!
The ghastly scene was photographed and has been captured for all eternity.
Orlando Figuera was so severely burnt that he suffered some two weeks of excruciating pain before finally succumbing to his fatal injuries.
The question that all of us must now grapple with and try to answer is as follows :- What does the death of Orlando Figuera mean?
In the days following this lynching by fire, Orlando's mother--Ms. Ines Esparragoza-- tried to process what had happened to her son, and plaintively asked :- "Why does Julio Borges (the Opposition president of Venezuela's National Assembly) allow this? Why does Henrique Capriles (the big-shot Opposition presidential candidate) allow it? Who do I blame? The Opposition, because they are the ones who doused him in gasoline like an animal."
For us--the black people of the Caribbean--we should be asking why, after more than five hundred years of European settlement in this hemisphere, black people are still being lynched by whites. And also, why was the gruesome death of young black Orlando Figuera so overlooked and disregarded by our News Media, our political leaders, our religious leaders, and indeed by the masses of ordinary men and women ? Why indeed, is the death of a black man so meaningless to our Civilization-- even a death by lynching?
Who will demand justice for Orlando Figuera and his family? Who will lift up his name and ensure that he is not marginalized, trivialized and forgotten ?
And finally, what does the lynching of Orlando Figuera say about the social and political confrontation that is currently taking place in Venezuela ? What does it say about the type of society, the type of future that we must be prepared to fight for?
Citizen of Barbados
Afro-Venezuelan-- ORLANDO FIGUERA -- burned alive
Orlando Figuera is set on fire by a group of opposition protesters in Altamira on May 20. (AFP)