Monday, 9 November 2009

Chávez runs amok...again

The president of Venezuela, Hugo of Sabaneta, announced yesterday that the nation should prepare for war with Colombia. He ordered 15000 soldiers to be transfered to the border. Our neighbours acted in a more civilized way and asked for a meeting of the United Nations Security council. They want observers on the border to see what is really happening.

Presidential tantrums

When Hugo is in South America, specially in Venezuela, he very often says things like "blood will be shed and civil war break out" if he does not win this or that election or if something else he likes does not happen. He hardly says that in Europe or in the US. There he talks about the US government being the Devil, something that makes some people giggle like children or he praises the beauty of Russian girls or makes jokes with film directors. Northerners love that, "so folkloric". He signs agreements with Spanish ministers that provide billions of easy money to the Spaniards in exchange for some fast cash for Hugo and some political support.

People are used now to Hugo's tantrums in Venezuela and we usually abscribe his behaviour to his need for deflecting attention from the real issues and there are a lot of problems now in Venezuela. The place is still a place where you find posh shopping centres, where you see lots of people using BlackBerries and where the Venezuelan version of FOX News, very unprofessional Globovisión, says day after day that the president is a dictator. Venezuela is getting over 300% more money than 1998 out of higher oil prices. Still: things are getting more difficult.

The problems

Some of the problems:

1. Venezuela is by far the most dangerous country in South America and things keep getting worse. There are no more protests because the poor, those who suffer the most, don't know how bad their situation is compared even to our neighbours to the West or to Brazil, not to talk about Peru or chile.
2. The guerrilla is more present along the border than ever before: in Zulia, in Tachira, in Amazonas, in Barinas. The clumsy attempts by the government to deny their support for the Colombian guerrilla do not work.
3. Pegging the bolivar to the dollar ($2.15) while scaring away local producers and spending billions of petrodollars to sell cheap imported products has led to the highest official inflation in the region and to a much higher distorsion of the economy.
4. Blackouts are becoming more and more frequent.
5. Although it is still easy for the old and new high class to find whiskey, normal people are having more trouble finding sugar, coffee, rice, usual stuff and most poor are having more difficulty making ends meet.
6. Everybody knows chavista officers or friends of theirs who are getting richer by the day while the services for the poor are degrading again very fast

There have been several unexplained murders along the border and the Venezuelan government has declared automatically "it is the fault of right-winged paramilitary". Perhaps. Perhaps some. What about if that is not the case? What about if there is an open investigation? What about if we work together with our neighbours? The Venezuelan government does not want it, it hates transparency of any kind.

More than a tantrum?

There is extra stress in the border because the Venezuelan military are constantly closing the access. That creates a huge disruption in the lives of people on both sides: there is a huge smuggling market and normal trade between Colombia and Venezuela. A gallon of gas in Venezuela is 20 times cheaper than accross the border, a lot of people have a lot to win or lose one way or the other.

I believe the whole situation could worsen very soon if the international community leaves this conflict unattended, if the Moratinos and Lulas keep quite in spite of the belligerant tone used by Hugo time after time.


On the map: green spots are very vaguely representing the places where the guerrillas get into Venezuela to rest, to hide, to get more resources. The yellow lines refer to the main places were legal and illegal trade take place. The blue regions are municipalities were the opposition was elected in 2008 (although they can hardly do anything now after the actions taken by the regime as described here)

If things are left unattended, more and more shootings could take place, more disruption of normal life in the region. At this stage I still doubt a war could come. Our neighbours don't want one and the vast majority of Venezuelans do not want one either. Hugo, though, is losing more and more the sense of reality.


Meanwhile: in Germany there are celebrations for the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I am happy for them (not that Venezuela has communism, it has a petrodollar dictatorship with a lot of communist talk).


  1. Well, the wall came down, but the 9.11. was also the Kristallnacht that happen in 1938... in that night 300 ppl died.
    Anyway the 9.11.89 was finaly the fall of the iron curtain..

    Now we change the numbers, the 11.9. also changed the world.
    Crazy somehow..

    Regards from Germany

  2. You are right the Kristallnacht was also there. Thanks God Germany has progressed so much since then, in spite of the persistent problems.

    In Venezuela the authoritarian process is, obviously quite different (even if there are some common methods, as ever with authoritarian streams).

    And once it ends, the political
    stagnation will take much longer to break. Ignorance has kept us stuck in history, going in rounds, the proverbial dog eating its own vomit. The great efforts carried out in the forties to provide better education and more transparency became less effective once the petrodollar state and the politization of everything (in a "democratic" way) set up.
    Our corruption, present since the early days of the Spanish conquest, does the rest.

    I sincerely don't know how to heal a nation of the widespread corruption we have.
    I have put some ideas on the right side of the blog, but I know they are far from enough.
    If we could deal with corruption in an effective way, half the way would be gain. Real education for the masses would do most of the rest.

  3. Anonymous,

    Wenn Sie frische Erfahrungen von Deutschen mit der venezolanischen Behörden haben, wäre ich Ihnen dankbar, wenn Sie sie mir weiter leiten könnten. Ich habe vor kurzem die Reisehinweise der deutschen Botschaft für Venezuela gelesen. Ich kannte die Seite zwar schon seit langem, es war aber interessant (und traurig) zu sehen, wie sie sich entwickelt hat: die Leute der Botschaft passen sie wirklich regelmässig an. Vor 10, 15 Jahren gab es schon Warnungen über den einen und den anderen Ort in Venezuela, nun sieht das aber so aus, als handelt es sich um Warnungen für Afghanistan.
    Und das tut mir leid. Früher habe ich nur mit Begeisterung über mein Land gesprochen. Nun muss ich vor allem warnen. Alles andere wäre verantwortungslos.
    Obwohl ich vieles kenne, können persönliche Berichte (Zoll, Kontrolle, usw) immer interessant sein.


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