Friday, December 30, 2011

Red page special: when populism sends people up in flames

And thus we end the year with tragedy upon tragedy.  Not only we are apparently now the country in LatAm with the highest crime index but we are also one of the worse ones as far as security on the road.  Today a gas carrying truck fell on the road side, overturned, released gasoline which quickly found a spark.  Apparently at least one kilometer of the Panamerican highway between Los Teques and Caracas burst into flames killing 12 passengers in a bus and a driver in a car,  16 to 20 people were hurt and a few survived because they threw themselves into the bushes down hill until they reached help.  Apparently the public services from cops to fireman were on site as early as possible.  All the Los Teques to Salias area was cut off from Caracas for several hours.

I am not writing to comment on the accident but to wonder how come such disasters are not more frequent.  Surely we must be a country of exceptional drivers to be able to deal with all the obstacles that exist today in Venezuelan roads:

- Pot holes everywhere
- Gigantic pot holes more often than what you think, even in highways.
- Almost nonexistent Highway police except in "alcabalas" which are usually Nazional guard affairs where trucks are stopped and found deficient on this or that so that they bribe the Nazional Guard to keep driving.
- Highways which have become mere boulevards as the regime has allowed for so many squatters to settle on the side of Highways.  I let you imagine how these people cross the way as if nothing, ignoring that cars are SUPPOSED to drive at 80 km per hour.
- No speed control anywhere and thus cars and trucks which can drive at ABOVE 80 km/h, no one bothering them.  I let you imagine the effect on cars and traffic of cars falling at 80 in a deep pothole....
- No car or truck inspection whatsoever except for their paperwork.  At night you simply cannot drive anymore because too many trucks and cars do not bother to replace their position lights.
- Crime which operates a lot at night when they put nails on the road to force people to stop and then rob them.  This also happens on day time and trucks can then be looted while they are stuck in traffic jam caused by the looters.
- And all sorts of additional inconveniences such as unmarked roads, rare direction signs, lack of decent service joints because crime forces them to shut down or degrade their offer, etc, etc.....

So it is quite possible that today's accident is solely the fault of the driver of the PDVSA truck, but no matter what, the regime takes the blame because it needs to answer the following the questions:

- Was the driver of a gas truck properly trained?
. Was the truck duly inspected and certified for its brakes and emergency equipment?
- Was the Panamerican road in good enough shape that a driving bomb could use it?
- How come that truck was driving at that time of day (2 PM) when it should be driving at less crowded hours (5 AM)?
- Etc....

So yes, the driver will be arraigned but the one that should be arraigned is Chavez because it is his fault to refuse to invest in road security because it does not give him votes.  Period.


  1. Anonymous5:58 AM

    i think most who read this blog would agree that chavez is an incompetent menace, but surely it's too soon to employ this tragedy for political commentary.

  2. anonymous

    pray, do tell thee who to blame?

    this or that accident at this point the mortality in the roads is in large part responsibility of the administration.

  3. Anonymous6:55 AM

    Si las carreteras estuviesen en buen estado y la policia de transito hiciese su trabajo arrestando los choferes peligrosos no pasaria esas tragedias sea quien sea el gobierno. La Maga Lee

  4. Anonymous,

    Road security has always been very very bad in Venezuela. Half of Venezuelans drive like suffering from a severe form of autism. Virtually all Venezuelans got their driving license without having done a proper test. There has never been, as Daniel says, technical controls of cars.

    And yet:

    1) more potholes, less maintenance because Chávez abolished toll road payment
    2) traffic is much greater thanks to having petrol for almost nothing, not even in Nigeria or Libya is the price so low
    3) more crime is committed

    So: a lot of things were rotten with roads in Venezuela before but if we also have 1, 2 and 3 and the current government has been in power for almost 13 years now we have the right to protest.

    This is no "tragedy" as a thunder hitting someone.

    I am really so pissed off of people taking things in Venezuela as "unavoidable".

    I have been paying some attention to the lethal car accidents announced in the first page of El Universal or Notitarde all the time . It's the same thing over and over again: X people killed and the driver of a lorry or bus stating "se me fueron los frenos"
    "perdí el control"
    and that's it, as if everything were the product of some magic
    They are absolute idiots
    and people get killed.

    Venezuela does have the worst traffic-related death rate in America.

  5. Anonymous2:20 PM

    Indeed I have often wondered why this sort of tragedy doesn't happen more often with the current PDVSA administration.

    A couple of months ago on the Lara-Zulia highway I saw a Chlorine gas truck doing well over 100 Km/hr. Do these people have any idea what would happen if this truck were to crash and turn over on the highway?


  6. Anonymous2:46 PM

    It would not be a surprise to me that this due to lack of maintenance on the truck (brakes, engine, safety measures, etc) or improperly trained driver. Just look at the accidents at their refineries over the years. They don't care about safety or investments in new and better equipment. They don't care about investing in training or hiring qualified personnel. They only care about getting as much oil out of the ground and shipping it for dollars. They just want their spending money for Hugo at any cost.

  7. oso negro3:40 PM

    Gasoline trucks are the most dangerous vehicles on the road. They have a high center of gravity and an unstable (liquid) cargo. In regards to chlorine gas, there was a terrible accident about 3 or 4 years ago near Clarines in Anzoategui. A truck crashed releasing gas killing a dozen unsuspecting people passing by in their cars. Yet the same continues to happen. I drive between Barcelona and Anaco and its like the Indy 500 with cars and SUVs exceeding 140 kph and trucks driving over 120 kph. I hate driving in Venezuela even in the city if you drive the "speed limit" you'll get headlights and honking behind you, swerving drivers that will almost clip you as they go around. Nuts!

  8. kepler

    and let's not forget that in late 2009 early 2009 Chavez made a big show from taking away from governors, in particular newly elected opposition one, the management of roads because "they did not have the means to do so". not to mention that by calculating a budget at an oil price of 50 when it it is 100, it robs governors and mayors of up to 50% of their budget, leaving barely enough money for paychecks and basic services which means that they can fix only some of the streets that are still under their responsibility. thus even the potholes in front of my home in a side street is at least 50% Chavez fault.

    so, any blame for accidents on the Panamericana or ARC or La Guaira highways is Chavez blame. and his own.

  9. Driving is horrible in Venezuela, and I often wondered why there were not even more accidents than there were as well....When I moved back to the US i thought about this, and I think I know why :

    In Venezuela you have to learn to drive in a hyper alert - defensive cannot count on anything...and our bodies have the intelligence to sense extremely rapidly any danger, if we are attuned to it, and not living in our heads...

    but I bet your bottom dollar if another government gets strict, sends the police to arrest those breaking the law, and enforces strict safety rules etc, people will be crying" Police State!"It is the habitual nature of Venezuelans to complain without discernment....which ends up a bit like the crying wolf parody.

    We have some of this in the US as well, to a lesser degree...though it is getting worse with changing democgraphics....people who complain but they want solutions to only be easy for them; nothing that demands any sacrifice.

  10. Anonymous5:11 PM

    I didn't say your commentary was wrong, only felt that the dead deserved a few hours more of mourning before their charred bodies were used to score political points. Yes, all true: the centralization of power, corruption, incompetence of the Chavez regime Contributes mightily to lack of road safety. But all of those traits, plus an avoidance of personal responsibility, selfishness, recklessness, etc., are Venezuelan traits. Add them up and not only do you get gas trucks exploding on the road, you get a government like the one you have. Chavez is an incompetent menace, yes, but hIs rule is born if the same country-wide traits that caused this accident.

  11. Anonymous8:17 PM

    OT but hilarious (in Spanish, though). Someone is selling a "Casco Antirayo Imperial Cancerígeno" on mercadolibre:

    Y no se pierdan las preguntas al vendedor que tambien son para morirse de la risa.

  12. Anonymous10:08 PM

    I think the US and CIA also got Chavez with a "constipation" ray....because he is always full of S#$%!!!

  13. Daniel,

    As a professional in a technical/industrial field, please let me say that it is not fair to those same professionals to apportion blame before the investigation has been done.

    Which is not to say that I don't get where you are coming from, and that I don't suspect the same things you do. Nevertheless, I am uncomfortable using this tragedy as political fodder without at least some small amount of time to pass to allow at least some of the facts in the case to emerge.

  14. Anonymous6:05 PM


    Happy New year to you and all of your readers! May 2012 be filled with peace, joy and prosperity! May Venezuela see the changes that are sure to come!!!

    Thank you for your dedication to your blog and providing all of us with constant news from Venezuela!

    Happy New Year!!!!!!!

  15. Island Canuck7:14 PM

    Happy New Year, Daniel

    May we all survive 2012

  16. Island,

    Amen to that, brother.


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