We live in paradise, others do not | Letters

I have a friend who dreams about the San Juan Islands. She longs for its rural tranquility, incredible beauty, but most of all for the personal safety enjoyed by those that live here.

She lives in Caracas, Venezuela, one of the most dangerous places in the world. The number of people murdered in Venezuela during 2014 was 24,980, more than the 17,049 who were killed in Iraq in 2014 or the 21,179 slaughtered in Syria in 2015. (Sources: The Venezuelan Observatory for Violence, The Iraqi Body Count, and The Syrian Network for Human Rights).

Life in Venezuela, but especially in Caracas, is simply unbearable. When my friend goes to work as a professor at a leading university, she literally does not know whether she will be alive by the end of the day. Her son barely escaped a kidnapping attempt last month. Armed criminal gangs roam freely and unafraid in a society where even Venezuelan’s own prosecutor’s office estimates that 98 percent of crimes go unprosecuted.

We boast of not stopping for a single traffic light in the entire county. My friend rarely stops at red lights too, but for very different reasons; if she did, chances are good that she would be the victim of a crime. In San Juan County we walk unconcerned, day or night, that we might be mugged or worse, murdered. Residents of Caracas rarely venture out at night fearing the worst. Dinner parties have almost disappeared; guests end up spending the night at the host’s house for fear of traveling home again until morning.

So, as my friend dreams of our sheltered isle, I can only imagine the nightmarish reality of day to day life in Caracas, a city I lived in from 1957 until 1982. The conflicts that surface in our daily comings and goings here pale in comparison to the potentially deadly confrontations that permeate everyday life in what was once one of the best places in the world to live. We, in turn should be very grateful that we live where we do, and not fret so much about our own local problems.

Marc Forlenza

San Juan Island