Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Luckily, my friend had a friend of a friend down here in Caracas so she and her friend showed us around on our first day here in Venezuela. Took us to the cable car that went up into the clouds. Got to see the only ice rink in the country up there. The cable car had reopened recently after years of closure due to an accident. Was happy to see the new cables were quite a bit thicker than the older ones that broke.

Caracas has quite developed infrastructure. Plenty of nice smooth roads and highways...although this doesn´t really help you get where you are going since there are so many cars. Traffic is really bad...probably as bad as I have seen it, and we apparently missed the real rush hour traffic. And they have a really nice metro system...but then when you are going to give away gas people are probably going to drive.

Got to see all the monuments...didn´t have any problems taking a walk through the Congress building where Chavez does his rants. But when I tried to take a picture of the building where Chavez works I whistled at by a soldier with his rifle. You´ll see quite a bit of security down here...often soldiers with military equipment (to include not just automatic rifles but things like tanks and armored personnel carriers are occasionally seem in front of government buildings) will be on guard duty. Saw plenty of plenty of poor, older Chavez supporters in the main plaza, the Plaza Bolivar, which is located quite near Mr. Bolivar´s birthhome. Bolivar is like a god here in Venezuela. He´s quite well known as the Libertador (Liberator) throughout Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia for his efforts to throw off the Spanish yoke back in the early 1800´s but Venezuela takes his worship to a new level : the name of the currency, the name of their brand of economy (Bolivarian socialism), murals of him on walls everywhere, and Chavez invoking his name all the time in speeches...and I thought they worshiped Che in Argentina.

Had heard about shortages in the grocery stores due to Chavez´s interfering in the marketplace, but haven´t gotten to see any of that first hand. The local newspapers do have some surprisingly harsh critiques of the government. I wasn´t sure how much of a free press existed down here these days, but they seem to be able to say what they want. Whether they´ll get a decent government in the near future is a tougher question...I reckon with oil closing over $100 today Chavez will manage to have enough revenue to continue the handouts and stay in power for awhile longer. I'll give Chavez credit for trying to help the poor, but I have to think nationalizing not just the oil but many other businesses is not going to work out well in the end.

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