Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vargas today

In Vargas state Chavez has named Garcia Carneiro to run for governor, succeeding Rodriguez San Juan who has been, well, words fail me to describe his peculiar type of failure. In a way Vargas is a mystery. Even thought it has been equally battered by nature in 1999 as by Chavez since, it has remained stubbornly faithful to Chavez. But this might be changing as Roberto Smith is giving a run to Garcia Carneiro, a lousy candidate if any, riding on a shred of coat tail left to Chavez. The explanation in part comes from the pictures below, taken last May.

Vargas has become the epitome of all that is wrong with chavismo, and in 5 pictures I hope to bring a clear and short summary.

Irresolution. The reconstruction program has been unable to make the tough decisions as to all that must be reconstructed and all that should be empty for the next flood to pass with minimum damage (we know it now, the Vargas disaster is a cyclical event and within the next 30 years a similar flooding as the one in 1999 can be expected). the picture below is of a building used mostly for the Caracas weekender. The government has been unable to allow its restoration but it has been unable to bring it down. As a result homeless have invaded the building and as needed replaced damaged windows with cardboard's. No electricity (legal) or water service is operating. And I am pretty sure that drainage has long ago collapsed. You can see on the left the ruins of another building, and on the right, in the background, another one who has also met the same fate of homeless take over. Needless to say that this area has become a dangerous no man's land...

Disrespect. This next picture is of people doing their laundry. They probably come from the building above as this one is about 20 yards to the right. Remember, this situation has probably dragged since 2000-2001 when homeless started taking over abandoned buildings.

Grossness. In this picture the first thing you notice are some of the boulders that went rolling down the mountain in 1999. You can certainly understand the damage. But this is 2008, the street is of course blocked now forever as no bridge will be rebuilt. But, could not an effort had been made at disposing of debris a little bit better. I mean, it has been now 8 years. In the background yet another abandoned building and also taken over by homeless.

Lack of vision. So the resort area of Vargas was destroyed. In other countries people would have taken this dreadful "opportunity" to rebuild and reorganize the area. Chavismo did not do so. The feeble attempts that you see here and there at are rebuilding some cheap facilities for mass tourism, the one that does not bring much as much to local taxes as a more middle class resort atmosphere that helps paying for the services for the less favored groups. You can see this lack of vision at the way the embankments of the torrent were redone. True, we cannot expect great usage of the stream bed since it is filled up at regular intervals (out of embankment flooding is a decade long event). But what about the sides? Was it not possible to create a park pathway where people could jog, walk their dog or benefit from the breeze coming up freely from the sea below sitting under the shade of some tree? No, just another no man's land, another wasted opportunity.

Lack of cultural memory. Chavismo has made a virtue of ignorance and rewriting of the past according to what Chavez thinks the past was. The town of Macuto benefited form a certain ensemble of period pieces such as La Guzmania, the beach villa of Guzman Blanco who received many a head of state since its construction. The simple but precious jewel has been washed away and the government has not even tried to rebuild it. Maybe I can deal with that but what I cannot deal with is that the government has lost an opportunity to reorient the whole of Macuto as a sort of artsy colony. The infrastructure is there, many old villas still survive such as the one in the picture even though it is rather ruined down in spite (or because?) of being an administrative facility (there is also a jail close to it! In the middle of what is supposed to be a tourist area!). Imagine this interesting villa transformed in a bed and breakfast on a water front pedestrian boulevard instead of a jail. Would tourist not flock to it and walk around the small streets of Macuto, enjoying the galleries, the souvenir shops and its restaurants? But no, Macuto is a ruin, the emblematic Plaza de Las Palomas a half hacked job where people gather to drink beer on Sundays while on the new land gained through the 1999 disaster there is only an improvised softball field. And let's not even talk of the remaining beaches.

So yes, perhaps my point of view is the one from a small educated elite, but please, tell me from these pictures where has the people benefited from the Chavez tenure in Vargas? Any reconstruction program which has as many squatters as Vargas has after 8 years is a failed program. Anywhere in the world, no excuses.

-The end-

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