Friday, January 15, 2010

Caracas es Caracas y lo demás monte y culebra

I am not sure whether I got this right, and this late, but it seems that the suspension of electrical rationing is ONLY in Caracas.  If this is indeed true then we are in front of a MAJOR political mistake of Chavez.  So far through Google news I do find that indeed, from AFP to Tribuna Latina, Chavez has said last night, HE SAID!, that Caracas was off but the rationing continues elsewhere in Venezuela!

With this Chavez demonstrates that his regime has become as Caracas centered as the "ancien regime" to which, AFTER ELEVEN (11) YEARS IN OFFICE, he still tries to pin all of his very own mistakes and incompetence.

Of course, we the provincial victims are not going to take this lightly.  We are already upset enough that Caracas gets much more than the rest proportionally but one thing is that it happens another to be so blatantly insulting about it.

We have a saying in Venezuela, used in different ways and that is the title of this post.  Pejoratively Caraqueños use it to say that we in the province are just a bunch of hicks "Caracas is Caracas and the rest is scrub-land and snakes".  Monte can mean anything from jungle to overgrown backyard, your pick according to how offensive you wish to be.  On the other hands we use that saying to blame Caraqueños AND the government from their arrogance. 

If Chavez persists in such attitudes, he so sure footed about the province feelings until recently, then I cannot tell you how much damage this could do to him.  As an example on how exhausted and out of touch the regime has become I can hardly think of a better image than Chavez publicly favoring Caracas over the Province at La Hojilla of all places!


  1. marc in calgary12:27 AM

    Is there a sense in Venezuela, of "us against the capital" ? or not yet...?
    Is it better to ask this in april / may after a few months of power outages in "the tier 2 states"?

    In Canada, we outside of government circles are quite used to the idea of the capital being of the less preferred location. We see it as a sink-hole for tax dollars, and sympathies would be near zero.
    Some here have spoken the words, "flush (the toilet) twice, Ottawa is a long way".

    Has Hugo threatened war with Colombia in the past week? I guess there's no sense in starting a war while the power is out half the time...

  2. The reverse of the decision for Caracas only made the wall street journal. I had to smile when they said "un-powered traffic lights created dangerous traffic jams." It was no surprise that the government of Venezuela never thought that this might happen.....the idiots. And the 80% of the population that lives outside Caracas must start making some noise.

  3. I am following the news about the spur in consumer spending in durable goods brought on by the devaluation. It occurred to me that the USA economic stimulus aspired for the same result. Could it be that Chavez found a way to spur spending, stimulate the economy and recover from the recession while at the same time pocketing billions to fund the elections of 2010? What a genius!

    And then I read Ledesma's statement that went something like "people will by a toaster they don't need to protect their money."

    And to top it off, I finally understand why my lovely wife of ten years, from Caracas, buys so much stuff at one time. That's how you hedge against inflation!

  4. Charly1:11 AM

    Daniel, another good news considering that all municipios except Libertador turned their back on chavista candidates, also Diodados beaten, Aristobulo beaten. Betting on Caracas is no sure bet. Talking of bets, back in 2007 I placed one betting that this scoudrel would be gone during 2010 because by then the time would be ripe for the chicken to come home to roost. I am praying hard these days that I will win my bet and it seems to work. So far so good!

  5. Marc

    That anti capital feeling is prevalent anywhere when the main city of the country is also the economic capital. Elsewhere it is variable. For example in Switzerland Geneva and Zurich are the punching ball. In the US New York or LA get the bad rap while DC is semi ignored.

    But in France Parisians are generally disliked and in Venezuela it is becoming so.

    A good argument to have small colorless capitals such as Ottawa or Canberra.

  6. Roger3:28 AM

    Using provinces seems like a promotion. The word I most commonly heard by Caracas natives was to call the rest of Venezuela "The Interior"! Like there is nothing out there except Oil, Aluminum, Hydro Power and cows and yuca and such. All of which sound too much like work.
    Can he escape the blame? I don't think so. Go to a tire burning (protest) over pot holes in the road in Santa Elena Uarin and they the protesters are chanting for El Presidente to fix the road!
    actualy will probably see such protests at nite so as to also light the street with the fire.

  7. La Maga Lee3:58 AM

    Esto si es una grandísima metida de pata, como es posible que nuestro Presidente suspenda esta medida de corte de luz a través de un programa del canal chavista (no de todos) casi a media noche, por teléfono en un programa que no tiene nada de intelectual y todo muy vulgar. Da verguenza!

  8. Javier4:46 AM

    El colmo! Lo impensable!
    i can only say, that it makes me a little bit happy, cause i know how bad move that was for chavismo in Zulia, for example.
    Here everyone is mad, even chavismo, we cannot understand whats going on in chavez mind when he cuts the electricity to the state thats being giving so much money to this country and to his revolution, its a huge humilliation, and the angry feeling is now evident everywhere... Electricity here is what makes life possible, and chavez is practicaly cutting off our life support... if this keeps going on i spect a huge unrest in the coming weeks.

    the price eventually is going to be bigger for him than it is right now for me, and the fact that for the first time ive seen hardcore chavistas that i know curse chavez in all possible way makes me happy...

  9. Interesting. Sounds a little like the Roman Empire, there is Rome and the rest is just empire.

  10. I'm not on the ground there, but I just have this feeling that Chavez is really in trouble this time. Am I right, or is this just wishful thinking (again)?

  11. Daniel makes good example of Switzerland. But there are many other regions. Germany is another example. Berlin may be a big attraction culturally speaking, but there is a lot everywhere else. Public education in a Bavarian village can and is usally better than in Berlin or Frankfurt (of course, many issues are at play here). Belgium, Netherlands, Norway and many other places: they may have a big capital, but the other regions are not forgotten. Hell, even in Spain people are aware about the importance to considering all regions.

    I also wrote in Spanish about that: the opposition should be saying "los del interior tambien son gente".

    And the opposition, again, is not using the possibility. It is no wonder: almost all of them were born in the capital and live there, only Oscariz comes from Maracay (perhaps it is because of that he has more link to the poor in Sucre, even if he is not from poor background), Ledezma is also from the interior, but he is a 4th Republic man.

    They are blind: Venezuela is mostly an urban country BUT most people do not live in the top 3 cities, even if the capital is by far the largest city.
    Maturin has half a million people and the opposition is a tiny minority there. Puerto cabello, Guacara, calabozo and many other cities have over 100 000 inhabitants.

    This "caracas es caracas y lo demas es monte y culebra" may be true to some extent, but it is a self-fulfilling prophecy or rather, policy than a natural law.
    And it is a very stupid, very counter-productive policy.
    Forget about other region? Hell, then expect everbody to come and settle in your city.
    Only when people in the capital understand Venezuela needs to develop its regions will we move forward.

    There was less focus on the capital before independence times and it was bad already back then.

  12. Anonymous12:30 PM

    Something tells me that Barinas is not included in the rationing - it's certainly not "monte y culebra" in Chavez's mind like the rest of the country.

  13. sheik yer bouti3:22 PM

    I still havent "heard" a word from Hugoslavia about helping Haiti? Have you?

    its Bushes fault of course

  14. 1979 Boat People4:42 PM

    Come and visit (even stay permanently to build this greate democratic nation stronger)my Canada that has a "small corlorless Ottawa".

  15. sheik

    Venezuela was among the first countries to end help to Haiti. I cannot vouch for the quality or quantity of that help, but help was sent.

    And please, keep your comments on the adequate thread.

  16. This is just getting sadder:

    Communication Hegemony FAIL!

  17. amieres7:48 PM

    It used to be:
    "Caracas es la sucursal del cielo y lo demás es monte y culebras"

    Caracas, heaven's branch and the rest is wilderness and snakes.

    But I guess it stopped being heaven's branch decades ago.

  18. 1979 Boat People9:38 PM


    Magnitude 5.4 quake shakes Venezuela coast town

  19. Hi Daniel, you may remember that I wrote to you about 2 months ago just before heading to Venezuela. I've now completed my travel there and am currently in Manaus.

    Shortly: 1) I've not seen one single street crime in Venezuela although I've heard about many ones. 2) I've gone alone also to those places which I had strongly recommended not to visit but nothing happened to me. 3) Instead I've noticed a widespread, generalized lack of environmental consciousness among the people. I may extensively witness in this regard.

    For this reason I'm leaving a comment to your post dealing with electricity shortages. The latter were certainly predictable and I don't question here the government responsibility which does exist. However governments are always representatives to some extent of their civil societies: in the case of Venezuela, it seems to me that people are so much used to waste row materials that governments energy policies cannot help but being demagogic and populist. Electricity shortages follow from this and are going to be more and more frequent.

    Eventually you find a positive note regarding my days in the Orinoco Delta at the link

    best wishes

  20. Marco

    I am certainly glad that no harm was done to you through your trip. I had to write to you (privately) stern recommendations because I do that to anyone who writes me as I do not want to have a misshaping on my conscience.

    However I find amusing that you say you did not witness crime in the streets! What did you expect? Chicago gang style drive by shootings every five minutes?

    Crime is swift by definition since the perpetrator must go away fast with his loot before anyone has the time to react. What matters here is what happens to you. In the past ten years my home has been violated twice, my car twice. My credit card has been cloned once. And all forms of corruption.

    I consider myself lucky when I compare my trials to those of others who have been taken at gun point, and more than once. I am glad to read that your Spanish was good enough to learn that people are routinely subjected to some form of crime.

  21. Marco,

    I am glad you had a nice time visiting Venezuela. Now,
    the fact you did not have an encounter with crime means just you were lucky, also it is somewhat lower in areas outside the big urban centres. Even that is changing rapidly. I have friends who live in very rural areas and they have seen violent crime increasing a lot as well.

    I have many friends and relatives who have been shot at, robbed, something you did not see as often decades ago.

    This is not something, as a government official said, of "perception".
    There are statistics that are hard to manipulate: the number of murdered people. Venezuela's murder rate has more than tripled in the last 10 years. No other country in South America has seen such an increase. In fact: most have seen numbers keep stable (there have been increases in c.a. in Honduras and Guatemala and Nicaragua and in the caribbean in Jamaica and some other islands).

    The murder rate in Venezuela is above 60x100000. In chile it is around 1.6x100000, in the second most dangerous country in South America, colombia, it is now about 40 and slowly falling.
    In Western European countries it is more in line with chile.

    You will actually always find people who "never had a problem" even in a slum. You will also find people who have never had a health problem even if they were chain smokers or who are mountain climbers and never had an accident.
    Venezuela is by far the most dangerous country in South America (yes, the most).

    As for the responsability: indeed, it is not just the head of state, it is the people who elected him and much more. That is obvious. But the head of state has a special responsability.

  22. Dear Daniel,

    I understand your view and condition very well. I've heard of people being robbed at the Caracas international airport by daylight. Others have been kidnapped in the city...I just wanted to emphasize that the crime issue looks a kind of national paranoia which covers and hides other relevant questions. Your post was on the electricity crisis and my comment had just the modest goal to point out that Venezuelan lifestyles are in general unsustainable. Examples are manyfold. Just a few: 1) cars are too big, 2) gasoline is too cheap, 3) electricity and water are free in most of the villages nationwide, 4) people don't walk and eat badly...they start the day with horrible empanadas. As a result obesity is a national plague...likely more than crime.

  23. Marco,

    "I've gone alone also to those places which I had strongly recommended not to visit but nothing happened to me"

    Sounds more like an advertisement for a Superman movie than an objective evaluation.You were very lucky, and I am glad, but common sense tells us nothing more.

    Don't press your luck in the future.

    Thanks for your blog address.

  24. Marco,

    Come on .Obesity at least gives us a 'chancecito'.

    But crime, when it strikes has a more immediate grip.The fact that it is so random makes it all the worse, because there is little we can do to prepare for it( thus the continuous fear that may look exaggerated to the outsider who has not yet been a victim)

    Have you considered the fact that someone else might find your reaction to obesity a bit paranoid and exaggerated?

    An equivalent remark to your previous remarks on crime in Ven. would be something like :

    " hey my friend Ana is obese and 85 and is in perfect health"


  25. Anonymous4:45 PM


    Firstly: I think most educated Venezuelans know those things you try to reveal us. It is not a revelation.

    Now, paranoia, even in the non-literal sense, means a exagerated sense of danger, delusional anxiety and fear.
    A murder rate of >60 is not delusional.
    That is not just a magic number. It shows the possibility you get a bullet in your brains. It is more than 20 times the likelihood you get in Western Europe.
    And the likelihood of getting robbed with a gun and maybe hurt is way larger (different curves).

    There is this well-known saying: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."
    Yours is environment.
    Your relatives in Italy haven't been murdered by thieves. Most Venezuelans know at least several people who were murdered in the last years, real people, not illusions. Almost all have been robbed at one time or the other.
    That is not paranoia.

    I agree Venezuelans eat badly now, I know they have a bad relationship with their environment, rubbish disposal and and and and and.
    I have actually written some on all those issues myself. But I know their fear of criminality is justified.

    My mantra is education. I write a lot about it and mention it a lot elsewhere.
    I also know the environmental consciousness in Venezuela is almost nill. My Spanish blog has as title Sustainable Development for Venezuela...and YET:

    I am aware there are very important issues people naturally take firstly, like not getting murdered today or tomorrow and protecting their kids.
    Will fatness kill them? Hell, surely, that also affects. But then pollution in Rome is even worse than in caracas, smoking is even more widespread than in Venezuela.



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