This very soon will be no more, and La Bodeguita, if it retains its name, might start serving "carne en vara" or, gasp, "chicharron" if it can serve anything. If you want something green or vegetably or merely well cooked and presented, you might have to wait, hold tight for that, for the Mac Donald after Valencia.
Needless to say that I was a frequent visitor of La Bodeguita and that the amount of people I sent there cannot be counted anymore.
See, the INTI has taken over La Carolina and its end is near. Why did the INTI decided to take over a piece of land that was well kept, productive with all of its produce either sold at La Bodeguita, or in the Nirgua markets or at the milk processing plant across the street? For political revenge on Diego Arria, the main stock owner of the company which holds the titles to the land.
What is the INTI, to begin with? It is the state agency that has for mission to slowly but surely take away private lands and make it into public lands. It is important to stress "public" because the INTI never, at least as far as I know, gives property right on the "redistributed" land. The beneficiaries of such a redistribution get a right of usage as long as they do what the revolution asks them to do. As such they have no access to bank credits, loans to buy machinery, etc... whatever help they get to take charge of these lands must come out of necessity from a negligent state who makes a big show of rooting out the evil capitalists and as soon as possible forgets about the people it used to replace the former naughty capitalist who were able to sort of feed the country before Chavez came to power.
There is no mystery why we must import now more than half of our food when we were able to produce most of it in 1998. Statistics cannot be fudged: even with population and welfare increases which supposedly are the cause of the occasional food shortages, there is no way to hide the overall drop in agricultural production since Chavez came to office. This is crudely exposed today after the January devaluation which sped up the decrease in purchasing power for the masses: in spite of a drop in consumption, shortages remained and often got worse than before. No fudging allowed anymore, no hiding the reality when people go to the grocery store: there are less products, less brands to chose from, that is, if you still have a choice, and all at 30%+ inflation from last year!
You may visit, if you please, the Web page of the INTI and see by yourself that it is mostly political propaganda and news about Chavez diverse land grabs. Nowhere will you find a well documented success story after an INTI take over. The best you can do is read about some communities that can now etch a meager living on a land who now feeds dozens when once upon a time it fed hundreds. I suppose we should believe that empowerment alone will feed the country's guts. There is not a single example since the INTI started around 2002 of a farm that was taken over and that produced in value the same amount three years after, or even two and perhaps even one year later. Not a single example. If there was one we would know about it through the incessant state advertisement that are forced upon any Venezuelan media. In these advertisement we only see projects, changes, redesign, and such stuff but we are yet to see real results. Elsewhere, outside of the Chavez media empire, we see lands abandoned, turned to waste as the original "beneficiaries" preferred to return to town once they realized they had been left to their own devices, used for political gains.
It is important to understand how the INTI under chavismo orders is acting to grasp the true extent of La Carolina drama unfolding this week. Between Barquisimeto and Caracas, from the road La Carolina is perhaps the best kept hacienda. You can see some that are OK from the road, but none like La Carolina which meet northern standards of cleanliness, order, production, variety and what not. I have been once there for work and the inside impression bests the outside one. It has taken years to build this little jewel and we can be absolutely sure that it will take mere weeks to ruin it, to halve its production, to mess the irrigation systems, to burn down some building, to wreck the machinery....
All of this because Diego Arria, a former minister of Carlos Andres, former governor of Caracas, former chairman of the UN Security Council is a stern opponent of Chavez, and this past week was at a major Human Rights conference in Oslo. Thus had to be punished once and for all. There was a previous incident two years ago when masked assailants had taken over the land one night, mistreated the employees, wrecked havoc with the installations and left, never found of course. Witnesses said it looked like a guerrilla/army type of commando rather than your plain delinquents. It was an operation designed to scare Mr. Arria. I know details because over the years of stopping at La Bodeguita I have befriended the personnel and I was told by one of the victims.
This is just yet another act of fascist revenge. Commies take over all the land at once, fascist do it drop wise, to scare the other side into submission in the belief that if they stay quiet nothing will happen to them. Diego Arria has resurrected from his political past to become one of the active opponents of Chavez and this cannot be tolerated. Since he benefits from international renown and works overseas he is not ripe yet to be thrown in jail next to Oswaldo Alvarez Paz. So we start with character assassination, stealing his land and probably accusing him of all sorts of things such as conspiracy.
But Chavez ordering that action is going to be another mistake (such action cannot have taken place without Chavez knowledge as Arria is too well know from his notable career as an international diplomat). Overseas where Diego Arria is well know it will help to bring the Venezuelan reality to many governments. Already the ABC of Spain is writing over La Carolina seizure (along the Polar one). Never mind that the popularity of La Bodeguita and the injustice of this all will promote him as a political figure at home, just as it did for Alvarez Paz. It will not help that Diego Arria was not even allowed today to get inside, for example, to collect his family personal belongings. Under chavismo even the family portraits belong to the state.
But there is something new: you can actually follow the Carolina take over in Twitter if you decide to follow Diego Arria at @Diego_Arria
You can read for example that one of the INTI guys laid on Arria's bed saying that Diosdado Cabello and "micomandante" will fuck nicely there. Or that they even took inventory of the clothes of Arria's daughter's and his wife (fondling them, I am sure). Or that Arria worries about all the employees of the farm who will probably have to leave in an area with few jobs. He even worries about the chapel, hoping it will not be desecrated. Apparently the INTI guys had no problem in saying the hacienda was productive but they were "following orders".
Meanwhile we are left to cry about another haven of civility gone to savagery, wondering when will it be the time to carry all of food and beverage in the car when we travel, as it used to be the case when I was a kid, when few places could sell you a modest cold soda at best. Everyday under Chavez we fall back a little bit more into backwardness, into routine violence, into a Cuban like dark age. Soon, like in Cuba, we will follow our starvation through twitter, just as Yoani Sanchez keep telling us as long as they do not take her cell phone away.