Monday, March 22, 2010

We are a miserable country and we deserve what we get

UPDATE: This morning the government claimed it was all under control courtesy of the wonderful equipment, organization, people, etc, etc...  tonight the mountain is still burning.  They do not even have the decency to shut up for a few hours....
I cannot describe my mood tonight as I learn that my beloved mountain, Caracas Avila National Park is going up in flames.  Not only that, but the part actually burning in part, so far, is one that had not burnt in a century or more, carrying vestiges of the rain forest before the Spaniards moved in, not that Native Americans did not burn woodland on their own.

That the Avila should burn should not surprise anyone as the government of Chavez has been remiss with the care of all of Venezuela's National Parks and natural areas, be them the Upper Caroni basin where the military does business tolerating illegal garimpeiro strip mining which is increasing the mercury levels of the Guri dam to letting the National Parks near Caracas and Valencia be invaded by squatters.

Oh, but Chavez is great at changing the names of National Parks!  The Avila now supposedly wears the Native name of Guaraira Repano which no one for sure knows exactly what it means or what Natives used it and for what. But someone within chavismo decided that the words described the park or the mountain or something and that was all what it took.  Just as the hour was arbitrarily advanced by thirty minutes while the government stubbornly refuses to consider retrograding 30 minutes which could save quite a lot of the electricity that the Guri is producing.

But ask how many Forest rangers exist in Venezuela? (1) What are their working conditions?  Are they well paid?  Is there a stern park policy considering how dry the weather has been?   How come people were allowed in considering the risk?  Because make no mistake, that fire was set on purpose, be it from some witchcraft voodoo practitioners who love to do rituals in the park to some disgruntled opposition nut case trying to make Chavez look bad, as if he needed that extra blame.

El Universal coincidentally carries today an article on the National Guard Helicopter unit that tries desperately to throw water on burning forests, help fireman and rescue them when necessary.  It is not an easy job and although the officer interviewed does not say it, you sense that the unit is not large enough, not supplied enough but that it does its best, this cannot be denied.  You read that article and you have a sense of foreboding, that those people cannot cope with the magnitude of the disaster that the country is becoming this year.  And sure enough, a few hours after I read the article confirmation came.

And what was Chavez doing this afternoon as someone was setting the park aflame?  He was like Nero, holding his stupid and silly Alo Presidente in a 'bolivarian' computer center of La Vega where standing up he held hostage for hours a whole bunch of chavistas sitting down at each computer dutifully open at some official governmental page.  As Nero he rhapsodized over how Henri Falcon betrayed him, as to whom would rescue the PPT from its sure demise, stating shamelessly that the high crime in Venezuela was due to a Colombian policy, and other idiocies of a desperate man who cannot find enough scape goats to account for the destruction he brought himself upon us.

When I think at all the money this narcissistic idiot has wasted outside of Venezuela, amen of all the corruption money lost inside, and I think at all that could have done to protect such a vulnerable park for a tiny fraction of the wasted money, I just want to cry.

But we are a miserable country where we only think about today, about what we can get from free from the state, where we are easily amused by Chavez antics and actually like the guy for his screwing up things and insulting people instead of fixing up what he was elected to do for in 1998.  After eleven years of messing up the country there are still scores of people who do not see him for the egotistical buffoon he is or who do not care about the shape the country is as long as they get their week end beer and some action.

And so goes up in flame my Avila, the most visible mark of yet another lost decade, realizing that I am already too old to see it reborn, if Chavez ever even considers spending money in its reforestation when he could instead buy votes with free bags of food or reforest Cuba if Raul were to ask him for it.

The picture above is from Jose Ceballos as borrowed from El Universal.

1) this week end I read that we are woefully deficient in the numbers of policemen that cities like Caracas should have.  Another reason why crime is so high.  If Chavez does not care about protecting the life of people, do you think he is going to care at having the staff to protect National Parks?

PS: I probably will be too depressed to blog for a few days, I am even considering not going to Caracas for a while as the burnt area is in direct view of my home there. But you have three posts to comment on for only this Sunday.   Cheer me up, will you, if possible.


  1. Sorry Daniel, I cannot cheer you up a bit, I am in tears now, my Avila on fire as I have never seen it in my whole life. :( it's sad

  2. Roger5:26 AM

    I wish I had something good to say but without those trees and brush, when the heavy rains come there will be mudslides just like in California!
    Sorry Daniel.

  3. When the fire ends, check with the "guardaparque"(if they are still there) and plant a tree in El Avila Park.
    If there aren't "guardaparques", still plant a tree, and care for it. This will cheer us up and it wiil rescue our beloved Avila.

  4. Boludo Tejano6:07 AM

    A sad situation, but a beautiful picture. As you say, an allegory for Venezuela.

  5. It was predictable for anyone but the "authorities".

    Still, I have to say I doubt those were primeval forest.
    Already Alexander von Humboldt wrote about the fires there.
    Here just some on the fire, somewhere else (when he arrives to Valencia) he talks a lot about the environmental issues:
    "I remained two months at Caracas, where M. Bonpland and I lived in a large house in the most elevated part of the town. From a gallery we could survey at once the summit of the Silla, the serrated ridge of the Galipano, and the charming valley of the Guayra, the rich culture of which was pleasingly contrasted with the gloomy curtain of the surrounding mountains. It was in the dry season, and to improve the pasturage, the savannahs and the turf covering the steepest rocks were set on fire. These vast conflagrations, viewed from a distance, produce the most singular effects of light. Wherever the savannahs, following the undulating slope of the rocks, have filled up the furrows hollowed out by the waters, the flame appears in a dark night like currents of lava suspended over the valley. The vivid but steady light assumes a reddish tint, when the wind, descending from the Silla, accumulates streams of vapour in the low regions. At other times (and this effect is still more curious) these luminous bands, enveloped in thick clouds, appear only at intervals where it is clear; and as the clouds ascend, their edges reflect a splendid light. These various phenomena, so common in the tropics, acquire additional interest from the form of the mountains, the direction of the slopes, and the height of the savannahs covered with alpine grasses. During the day, the wind of Petare, blowing from the east, drives the smoke towards the town, and diminishes the transparency of the air."

  6. Sorry to see this, but, let it burn, get it over with. Forests gotta burn, it's their way. Next spring you will be amazed.

  7. Someone please keep us updated on the progress of the fire, and putting it out. I'd like to know just how much is burning/has burned when it's over.

    Nero - yes. Perhps the only difference is that he was literally fiddling.

  8. I had dinner last night with a couple I had not seen in a long time. I met them several years ago in Venezuela when there was still hope. But they fled Venezuela last year to live in a new place, to escape the "New PDVSA", the forced attendance at gov't rallies, the "we are watching you" when voting. To live in a more secure country, to be able to study in a safe university and start new careers with a real future. To start a family together where their children will be safe, and have a future of their choosing. We talked of all this, and their fear for their families that remain in Venezuela.. The overall conversation was good, to see friends again, but it was also so sad.

    And I came home to read this. It was a beautiful, lively country when I arrived, but is becoming a sad, miserable country. And what is the future with so many good capable, educated people fleeing?

  9. I was so happy friday and saturday!!! Thursday's rain had such a nice clearing effect on Caracas atmosphere. The hazzyness was gone and the temps were lower, even a nice breeze.

    Same breeze that did contrubute to the fire, I'm sure.

    I have a nice view of the mountain from my balcony, but not so close like the pic posted. Did not notice anything during my busy sunday afternoon, I saw it when it was already dark and could't see the outline of the mountain; thus no idea of how big it was!!!

    OTOH Daniel, are you sure that part had not burned before? It looks like the 'cortafuegos'. Which used to caught fire many times in my lifetime. I grew up between Los Chorros and El Marqués.

    Last night I pondered how usefull are the Sukhois....

  10. Daniel,I am also an Avila lover, she is part of my soul.How many of us are there who feel this way? So many we cannot count, I am sure.

    Caracas is like Japan with its varied and numerous views of Mt Fuji ; we have our countless views of the Avila in Caracas as well.I always observed each view as I would observe a precious jewel-studying each view not to judge them but to savor them.

    She has survived much and has the battle scars to prove it.In her history, she has become a part of all our dreams, hopes, thoughts,and desires.In my estimate, what makes these fiery assaults so remarkable is not a fearful recognition among viewers across time and space,but that in the here and now its burning and fire is, and always will be, a symbol for anger, transformation and renewal.It is painful and sad, but like all pain, it gives the chance for regeneration.

    That Chavismo would rename the Avila as would a group of the pathological envious who rewrite history in an attempt to change the soul of a country-only proves to me that these people are outsiders in the soul sense.While an entire "alien" civilization comes and goes, with the names of its despots, warlords, locals,"heroes" and " heroins", lost to us in any essential sense, most parts of the Avila and its glory will survive for in time as testimony to the 'otherness' of this alien civilization's presence.They are strangers in their own land.

    The Avila burns for us.It burns because we burn,and we burn because it burns.Nobody deserves what has taken place.Maybe we were greatly responsible for letting it happen,just as nature can lament the dryness it has created, but if we realize that neither the Avila deserves its destruction, nor do we, we can use the anger of fire to rectify past neglect.The Avila cries out and sends her message.

  11. Liz

    What was burning was the lower valley that goes to Los Chorros. True, it is surrounded by grass land. The question is how much of the forest in the valley could escape, if any and how far up it managed to go which is really the danger zone as it is old forest and the water source of Los Chorros.

    The wind was strong and thus it could well have burnt part of the forest. We will know more today. Hopefully my initial fear might not be as bad I thought, but still it is bad because that area was also in slow recovery from ancient fires (top soil has been washed out and only grassland remains). thus it is a major set back any which way we look at it.

  12. OT, but paradoxically:
    Sukhoi is a Slavic name, but it also means "dry". Venezuela is really sukhoi-dida.

  13. 1979 Boat People6:39 PM

    After watching the "One Ocean" documentary from Dr. David Suzuki on TV then read Daniel post late last night, these two stories made me more depressed.

  14. Bob Sacamano9:50 PM

    That's Mordor, Daniel!

    Venezuela is royally and totally f*cked.

  15. Anonymous11:13 PM

    Of all the things to complain about in Venezuela you have to complain about this?

    Who cares? If it started naturally the whole Avila could burn up and that is nothing more than nature at work.

    In national parks in the U.S. they have a "natural burn" policy of not doing anything to stop forest fires if they started naturally (ie, not by campers) and don't threaten property or lives. Hence, huge sections of places like Yellowstone National Park have been allowed to burn down. Its been known for a long time that forests burning down and then regrowing is an important part of the natural cycle.

    So at least when it comes to this the government is likely doing the correct thing - just ignoring it and letting it run its natural course.


  16. OW

    Coming back after so many months for this? It really was not worth it.

    You show with your words that you do not understand the value of the Avila (or is that Guraraira Repano for you?).

    Your forest management plan shows that you do not understand the difference between Temperate forest and Tropical ones which range from savanna style at 900 meters, to rain forest above 1300 to semi paramo conditions above 2000. Should they all burn happily together at the same time? Have you ever watched the mountains along the ARC between Valencia and Maracay where mountainsides have been allowed to burn happily?

    And in addition I observe that you do not regard the other elements of the post that put the blame on Chavez. But then again such details were never the bother of your blog.

    finally, do they set up/let burn the fire to Central Park? the Palissades? The Berkshires?

  17. La Maga Lee5:48 AM

    LO VI! Es un desastre, oficialmente dicen 100 hectáreas quemadas, yo, a la vista digo que son por lo menos 300. Se quemó toda la reforestación de hace 20 años. De donde vivo ví cuando se declaro el incendio y a que velocidad , impresionante!. Ahora en vez de mandar plata a todas partes me pregunto porque no tiene el gobierno aviones, helicópteros adecuados para apagar esta clase de incendios, esto es como lo del Guri, del agua, del aseo urbano, de la libertad de prensa (Esta noche se llevaron preso a Oswaldo Alvarez Paz, por opinar sobre lo del juez español. Es desesperante esta situación.

  18. Argh.. I cannot resist but to say it Daniel, sorry if I break the rules.

    OW just shows how little he cares about this country!!!! El propio PSF con su bozal de arepa$$.

  19. Sylvia5:00 PM

    OW: You can not compare the temperate forests of the US with the cloudy tropical forests of Venezuela. Areas that caught fire in the fifties have yet to regenerate. When a fire blazes through the Avila (most of it man made) what grows back is not cloudy forest but weeds that catch fire quite easily after that, instead of the thick vegetation that tyoical is hard to ignite unless it gets very dry and nothing id done about it. So, you are comparing apples and oranges.

  20. Sylvia

    Of course.

    The reason for what you say is that when forest burns in tropical mountains the heavy rain season washes away a large amount of top soil. That is why regeneration is so difficult.

    But as Liz would say, what do I know? I just live in Venezuela.....

  21. Boludo Tejano5:01 AM

    FWIW, Flikr has some good photos of the fire, w tags "avila" and "fuego,"


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