The Downfall of Venezuela, and its Parallelism to the U.S.
“For years, I’ve been seeing that the United States is going down a path that is very similar to what Venezuela went through,” Texas CD-18 candidate Carmen Maria Montiel said.
“At that point, I said, ‘Well, I know what’s happening. I cannot just sit down and do nothing. I have to do something. And that’s when I decided to get involved.”
Montiel, who opposes Democratic incumbent Sheila Jackson Lee in the upcoming election, was born and raised in what once was a land rich with culture, resources and hope. Some 40 years ago, Venezuela was coined “the jewel of South America.” The country was a dream destination for impoverished residents of neighboring regions.
“Back then, where I grew up, it was a country full of opportunities. The middle class was over 65% of the population… everybody was highly educated, and we had means and hopes and dreams. We did have our Venezuelan dream,” said Montiel.
“When we traveled between the United States and Venezuela, we were so advanced that we never saw the difference between development. We were a country that was on the road of development.”
Then, Venezuela collapsed. The “envy of Latin America” withered into a nation of poverty and despair. The country is excommunicated from much of the world, and everybody who can escape, escapes,” Montiel said.
“Right now, 94% of the [Venezuelan] population [is] poor. Over 7 million people have left the country looking for opportunities in other countries. At the beginning, the best of the best left, the educated people.”
Protests following Hugo Cháves’s socialist rule in Venezuela, provided by The Washington Examiner
“They left to countries that were friendly and open to receiving new immigration.”
Montiel’s own family relocated to the U.S. and all over the world in search of better opportunities. This was the new norm for Venezuelans; citizens were deeply impoverished and without hope for their homeland.
“I only have one brother who stayed in Venezuela. He refuses to leave, he says, the regime goes down before he leaves,” Montiel said. Her brother hopes to help restore Venezuela to the great land it once was.
“The country is basically excommunicated, lack of food, poverty to the max. And crime… but actually, crime was the first thing, how everything began. Now, there’s not much to steal; everybody is so poor, so actually, crime has gone down,” Montiel said.
What happened to this once great land?
“I always tell people; it was a long process. Hugo Chávez was elected in 1998, but before we got there, the signs were there. They opened the borders. Corruption started. Bureaucracy growth… they damaged the farmlands, the people from the farms moved to the city… crime started to go up in the city,” Montiel said.
“It took a while [before] we got there, and finally, the children of the migrants that came in the 70s and 80s were the ones [who] elected Hugo Chávez.”
Now-American citizen Carmen Maria Montiel warns U.S. citizens that our nation is following the same path that led to Venezuela’s downfall.
“I tell people, in less than 20 years, we will not recognize this country. The communists follow a manual and a plan, and this is part of that manual and that plan that they have been following in all of the countries that they have taken over,” she said.
Miss Venezuela, Miss South America, and Nearly Miss Universe
Montiel was raised in a traditional Spanish colonial household, which is standard for Latin families, she said.
“[In my childhood], we were very conservative, family values, very tied together. Our family just goes beyond the nuclear members of the household. It’s the uncles and the aunts and the cousins and the big family… with Catholic values,” she said.
“Christianity is very important, we’re all Catholics. My father was very conservative, the head of the house [whom] everybody respected and admired.”
Montiel’s modest upbringing in Venezuela took a sharp turn toward fame when she was spotted and hand-picked to compete in pageantry. In 1984, the teen would go on to win Miss Venezuela, Miss South America, and nearly Miss Universe, in which Montiel finished as the second runner-up.
Carmen Maria Montiel as Miss Venezuela, 1984
Carmen Maria Montiel as Miss South America, 1984
Carmen Maria Montiel at Miss Universe Pageant, 1984
“At the time I competed, the country was wealthy, and it was just a platform that helped you enrich yourself and to get opportunities for jobs… Back then, the girls from the good families, the wealthy families, were the ones [who] were competing, because it was very expensive,” Montiel said.
“I didn’t look for it, that was never my plan. I met the Miss Venezuela president when I was 16 years old. He told me he wanted me to compete, and I laughed. I never thought that I was pageant material.”
“He looked for me and he insisted for three years. After two years, I got curious, but it took me another year to convince my dad, who was really conservative and was completely against the pageant.”
Rapidly achieving recognition and status in Venezuela transformed young Montiel’s life. At only 19 years of age, Montiel did not anticipate the tremendous social platform she’d gained.
“The next day… waking up to a house full of flowers that came from the president of Venezuela, the most important people. I remember looking at my dad and saying, ‘Wow, I have access to all of this. I really don’t need it for me, but I can do something good with it,” Montiel said.
“And that was when I created a foundation to help pediatric hospitals.”
That year, Montiel formed the charitable foundation “Las Misses” to aid pediatric hospitals in her native land Venezuela, and later, she expanded it to neighboring countries Ecuador and Peru. Las Misses touched the lives of countless children and families.
Carmen Maria Montiel with Las Misses Foundation
Sadly, due to the “situation in Venezuela,” Las Misses is no longer active there, but the foundation is still in effect in Peru, Montiel said.
Following her stint in pageantry, Montiel pursued a newfound passion: journalism and news anchoring.
“I studied arts first. I wanted to be a creator, and the pageant actually made me discover that I was a natural with a microphone, so they hired me right away to start working in the morning show,” she said.
“That’s when I said, ‘I really like this. I’ve always been very curious. I’ve always followed the news.’ And that’s when I decided to pursue journalism as a career. And it’s been the greatest thing in my life.”
Carmen Maria Montiel on The Morning News
“It gave me the opportunity to have experience and connect with people, and that’s one of my favorite things that I’ve done, and I do in my life.”
Pursuing a Brighter Future in the U.S.
After studying Arts at Universidad Central de Venezuela, Montiel worked in journalism and news casting in Venezuela. In May of 1988 relocated to the U.S. with her now ex-husband to further her education at East Tennessee State University, where she studied broadcast journalism.
“My father always made a point of us coming to the United States. He was a visionary, and he saw that the path to Venezuela was a bad one. He used to tell us, ‘it’s over here, you need to pursue other opportunities in other countries.’ So, I came to further my education, and then stayed,” she said.
Montiel, who is a huge proponent of legal immigration, describes her roadway to U.S. citizenship.
“I came as a student with a student visa. I was dependent, at the time, on my ex’s visa, and he had a J1 [visa], so I was a J2,” she said.
In the summer of 1991, Montiel and her former husband relocated to Houston, where she began working as a reporter and eventually a news anchorwoman at Telemundo, which at the time was associated with CNN.
“We moved to Houston after graduating, and I was able to, because of his visa, get a working permit. Then, we went through the process of waiver, and then, through the process of waiver working visa.”
“Then, residency, and then, finally, after fourteen years, we became citizens.”
Surviving Domestic Abuse
Unfortunately, Montiel’s life in the U.S. was not composed sheerly of ambition, achievement and success. Behind closed doors, this young woman was navigating career, motherhood and a turbulent and dangerous marriage to her former husband.
Montiel has since left this marriage and emerged as a brave, strong and outspoken advocate for domestic abuse.
She published a book about her experiences as a domestic abuse survivor, Stolen Identity: A Story of Love, Violence and Liberation, with the determination to help other women in a similar position. She shared with Katy Christian Magazine a bit of her story.
Carmen Maria Montiel with her published memoirs, Stolen Identity: A Story of Love, Violence and Liberation. Her book is also available in Spanish.
Montiel married her ex-husband in 1988, when she was still in Venezuela. The two then journeyed to the U.S., where her marriage quickly morphed into a nightmare.
“He was always very demeaning and putting me down. At the time, I thought I was strong enough to dismiss that. Within two months, he gave me the first kick in my stomach.”
“He kicked me. I’d just moved here, and I was a student. I was in a small little town, I had nowhere to go. I still wasn’t strong enough to tell him, ‘If you ever touch me again, I will call the police on you,’” Montiel recalled.
Her ex-husband was doing his internship as a doctor, a field with high status and prestige. Montiel felt utterly alone and trapped.
“For many years, he never attempted again, but the verbal, emotional and psychological [abuse] was there. Nobody realizes how destroying that can be. How it really puts you down, how it destroys you mentally and emotionally.”
“Until things got worse, and it wasn’t until 2008 or 2009, that for the first time I said, ‘I cannot take this anymore. I need to divorce you.’ Then, it was the most dangerous.”
Prior to around 2008 or 2009, Montiel describes the abuse she endured as “very sporadic” and “subtle.” Then, her ex-husband’s behaviors escalated, and became a “prominent issue.”
“I was trying to get out, actively trying to get out, at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011,” she said.
“That’s when he started trying to set me up, trying to get rid of me. When I called the police, he [said], ‘She’s just a beauty queen,’” Montiel said.
“People don’t understand how manipulative these people can be, especially when they are in high positions… CEOs, doctors, lawyers. I had to have the battle of my life, but I proved my case at every court.”
As a woman of tremendous strength, Montiel recalls how hard she worked to nurture and shield her three children from the toxicity in her household.
“That’s something that I look at now, and I’m proud to say that with it all, I was able to concentrate on raising them properly, and today, I’m proud to say my girls are both doing grad school and my son is excelling in high school.”
“But I’m still questioning how this will affect their lives. I will say, I [fear] that one of them may marry an abuser, and the other is so protective of herself, that I actually think she is going to have a hard time finding somebody, because she questions absolutely everybody,” Montiel said.
Following the divorce, Montiel says that her ex-husband has cut ties with their children and does nothing to financially support them.
“[After] the divorce, it’s like he divorced the children too. He does nothing for the children, the girls are going to college, and thank God I was able to put together a college fund. He has nothing to do with them whatsoever in the financial aspect,” Montiel said.
Montiel is a devout Christian Catholic, and she praises God for granting her the strength to endure those painful years.
“God is everything. Without my faith, I don’t know how I would have been able to go through what I went through. Just being close to God and knowing that he was there with me… it’s indescribable. There is nothing like knowing that that supernatural power is with us,” she said.
Contributions to the Houston Community
In addition to her foundation Las Misses and her upstanding work with domestic abuse survivors, Montiel has dedicated herself to numerous philanthropic causes. Her dedication to helping others has deeply benefited the Greater Houston community.
“We gave hundreds of thousands of bolívar (Venezuelan currency), back when the bolívar was worth something, to pediatric hospitals here in Houston.”
“I have been involved in many organizations… UNICEF, the Latin Institute, the Latin Women’s Initiative, the Museum of Fine Arts…” Montiel said.
The list goes on. Montiel, who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Houston and global communities, has been recognized for numerous Houstonian awards, including “Best Dressed” and “Most Beautiful.” These awards, Montiel explained, are given to persons based on charitable work they’ve contributed to the city.
Which causes are closest to congressional candidate Montiel’s heart?
“It’s always children, and domestic abuse survivors.”
Texas Congressional District 18 Campaign
Many leftists in the U.S. believe that the Latino community is, or should be, largely liberal in values. Latino-Americans are pressured to align with the Democratic party, which pushes for identity-politics issues, such as open borders, in order to command their votes.
Montiel, who is running as a Republican and is a proud Venezuelan American, argues that Latinos are traditionally conservative. She speculates as to why these core values do not always translate into how these communities vote in the U.S.
“I was raised conservative. I was always raised to believe in freedom. And my father was very vocal in that, [he] was my greatest teacher. Our greatest teacher. He was a man of vision, a very smart man. So those were my core values,” Montiel said.
“Since I came to the United States, I’ve always [wondered], ‘How come Latinos, who are conservative, are voting Democrat?’ I could never understand why they were voting Democrat. I’ve always, since I became a citizen, voted Republican. I always voted for my values.”
“But it’s been a whole propaganda by the Democrats and misinformation. I’m glad to see that nowadays, Latinos are voting for our values. For us, what’s very important is God, family, hard work ethics, and love of country,” she said.
In 2018, after spending three decades in the U.S. and immersing herself in conservative activism, Montiel appeared as a first-time candidate on the ballot for Texas CD-29. Despite last minute filing and limited resources, Montiel’s congressional campaign gained impressive traction and grassroots support.
Carmen Maria Montiel campaign headshot
She advanced to the runoff election, where she lost the Republican nomination by merely 83 votes.
Now, Carmen Maria Montiel, mother of three, journalist, entrepreneur and businesswoman, is running for Texas CD-18. Her opponent is Democratic incumbent Sheila Jackson Lee, who has represented most of central Houston in Congress since 1995.
Montiel’s campaign follows time-honored, America first, pro-family, pro-democracy, conservative values. Read her campaign website to learn more about her stances. Below, Montiel addresses some of her primary focuses she will tackle if she wins the November 8th race.
“We have a major problem in the district with contamination, with what is called a ‘cancer cluster’ caused by Union Pacific that has been going on there for many, many years. The elected officials have done nothing to clean the area or try to allocate funds and compensation for the victims. I would say that’s my first order of business,” Montiel said.
The “cancer cluster” Montiel referred to is caused by dioxin and creosote, likely human carcinogens, which have contaminated the soil in regions near the Union Pacific railyard in Houston, according to a Houston Health Department announcement published by Houston Public Media.
These chemical compounds are toxic and have resulted in surrounding neighborhoods being “deemed a cancer cluster” in 2019. Three years later, the region remains contaminated, and people suspect that they have been for at least two decades.
“We need to tackle crime. The district has the highest crime rate in the city, that’s very important… We need to see what we’re going to do about inflation, we need to start drilling, we need to cut expenses,” Montiel said.
“It’s crazy, the expenditure that this government has. It’s just adding, between that and the price of oil. It’s giving a very difficult time to families. Families now need around an extra $11 thousand dollars a year in order to live the way that they’re used to living and to maintain their families. And that’s not easy for any family to do, to say ‘Well, I need $11 thousand dollars extra.’”
Montiel, who is a huge proponent of oil and gas, argues the economic necessity of drilling.
“We need to start drilling again, ASAP. Especially Houston, Texas, we are an oil state. Our city depends on oil, so we need to start drilling.”
Montiel’s opponent, Sheila Jackson Lee, has held this congressional seat for nearly three decades. Montiel criticizes the congresswoman’s competency and actual regard for Houstonians.
“I will do what I promise I will do, to start with, and really caring for the community… not just saying I’m caring for the community, and not doing really anything. Really caring for the community,” Montiel said.
“Caring for the community is more than a photo opportunity. It’s really getting the work done and delivering for the community.”
“We really need to, as voters and citizens… sit down and think of what we’re doing for our country, and vote thinking about… what country we’re going to leave to our children. That’s the most important thing, because if we keep going toward this path, we’re destroying the country,” Montiel said.
“We’re leaving our children with this major debt from this expenditure that they’re going to end up paying. So, we need to be responsible and vote for people who will be responsible in Congress, or Senate, or any positions that determine the future of our cities, our counties, our states, and our country.”
Texas CD-18 is a new, recently gerrymandered district. While many believe the district is solidly Democratic, Montiel’s polling revealed a surprising result.
“The new district is pro-life. And that’s very important for the voters… when you have the majority of people being pro-life, you know that the values are different, and that’s how they’re going to vote.”
“The district is actually equally Republican and Democratic. They’re at the same 22% and 22%, so really, it’s a district that is up for grabs,” Montiel said.
This revelation has shaped Montiel’s grassroots campaign. Her team is dedicated to reaching the hearts of swing votes, Independents and undecided voters, through block walking, public speaking and numerous other tactics.
Going head-to-head with an incumbent of twenty-seven years is no easy feat, but Montiel’s campaign is far from a lost cause. If people vote their values, rather than falling for the dirty manipulation of identity politics, Montiel has a good chance of turning TX CD-18 red.
Early voting begins this Monday, October 24, and will run through Friday, November 4. Election day is November 8. Keep the future of your children and grandchildren in mind when voting this election cycle. What America will we leave behind for them?
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