Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To understand how degraded Venezuela is, travel by plane....

Registration under Chavez
I left for a short holiday to Margarita and truly, it is an awesome experience. Not for the adventure, good food, beautiful scenery, but for the lousy service, the degraded infrastructure, the lack of basic items such as milk....  So there, a little summary.

It all started with the difficulty in finding a plane ticket. In Venezuela now, if you want to have a choice of travel dates, you need to buy a month ahead, even in low season, which is my case. By trying to get my ticket with barely three weeks notice, I could not find the adequate dates and I lost one day of my "package" while having to pay the full price anyway.  Not to mention the aggravation of useless web pages of Venezuelan airline companies which forced me in the end to go to an agency....
Proof that Chavez was a reactionary

But I got my ticket and on the set day I went to Valencia to take my flight.  To decorate this entry I have a collection of the airport political propaganda that I had to endure while at the airport: I had to be there two hours earlier to make sure I would not be bumped for a "waiting list" and my flight was 1 hour and a half late without any explanation. Click the pictures to enlarge for details.

The wait was made heavy because there is no relief from propaganda.  Everywhere, from the registration desk to the bathroom entry there is some large expensive poster with Chavez, Chavez thoughts, Chavez battalion uniform, and one, for Maduro and his 12 step program....

gate entertainment
Waiting at the gate
I was asked to go through security at the accorded time. So the wait was at the gate area, boring, drab, announcing a WiFi that did not work, with a TV screen stuck on VTV, the state propaganda network. The program went back and forth between the only worthy news of the day for the regime, which was an electoral rehearsal for next December, and old speeches of Chavez that are broadcast all the time..... Fortunately the sound was set so low that the AC noise was enough to cover the TV noise.

Eventually, my flight arrived. The last passenger had barely descended the plane that we started boarding. Meaning? There was no time to clean the plane or its toilets. So I tried not to look where I sat and certainly did not even consider going to the john...
Maduro's 12 step....
When you arrive in Margarita you check as if you were arriving to some international airport immigration: you need to have your finger print taken and show your national ID. Supposedly it is to check for eventual delinquents and protect tourists and avoid drug trafficking. But delinquents can rent a boat on mainland and in barely one hour can land discretely in Margarita...  Never mind that in Caracas airport it is not that difficult to hide 1.3 tons of cocaine in regular scheduled international flights. Thus having my finger print taken was not reassuring whatsoever, just another waste of time (you have to stand in line), just another aggravation.

Anyway, I got into my taxi on my way to the hotel. I confirmed my observations from my last visits: taxis are getting jalopier by the day. The lack of spare parts is taking its toll and in one of the several taxis I took I was wondering how long it would take for the motor to explode....

Chavez waits for you on the
way to the rest rooms
The usual hotel I stay in keeps degrading. Now they do not even bother taking your credit card voucher for expenses if you do not take the package. Either you take the full package or you pay as you go.  Too many people bailing out of their bills.  With the end of luxury tourism in Margarita  now we get cheap mass tourism service whether we have the means to indulge on occasional fake luxury. Let's not forget that luxury tourism is the tax source to pay for services for all type of concurring tourism activities: you are not going to pay for beautifying Margarita with the tax income from youth hostels. Luxury, and even not so luxury tourism is gone from Margarita because of insecurity, lack of amenities, degradation of the free trade zone, extinction of casinos, dirt, ill service, etc...  People have much better places to go than Margarita where to spend their hard earned tourism dollars.
Chavez battalion hymn,
gate entrance....

Next day I hit the beach. The upkeep is lousy.  Until last year there was some effort to pick up the garbage that comes drifting, or left shamelessly by visitors. Whether they are still doing it, they have got less efficient at it.

I think I'll stop before I get bitter and I ruin my last hours...  But there are reasons as to why tourism is degrading so much, besides being forced to contemplate for hours propaganda in waiting rooms. For example let me tell you why air travel is so bad now.

For years the regime has refused to give enough dollars to the airline companies to buy planes and spare parts. At the same time it blocks ticket prices and does not provide adequately for airport services.  With time airlines have to cut down on service, jam their airplanes with fixed prices fares so that at least they manage to stay even, at best. I fear to think about the security of these planes....

And Izarra, the tourism minister, former propaganda minister, claims that if there are not many tourists coming to Venezuela, it is due to people like me writing ill of Venezuelan conditions. Yeah, right.....

PS: reading the paper I find out that Giusti had a much harder a time at Caracas airport to go to Margarita than I had travelling from Valencia....


  1. Anonymous4:23 PM

    Chavismo's goal is to impoverish Venezuela in order to control it. This is called Cubanization. People will have no choice but to go to the government to get anything.

    Is Margarita still a staging area for Iranian and Hamas agents?

  2. Boludo Tejano6:37 PM

    Never mind that in Caracas airport it is not that difficult to hide 1.3 tons of cocaine in regular scheduled international flights.

    Oh, that dry humor. LOL.

    I confirmed my observations from my last visits: taxis are getting jalopier by the day.

    Inventive: as far as I can tell, you are the first person to use jalopier on the Internet as an adjective. Or is that an adverb?

    The Chavismo-induced decline of Venezuela will not be accompanied by a decline in writing quality at VN&V

    1. Oh dear! I could never have imagined that there would be a word for that!!! Tells you how mainstream porn has become.... Maybe I should spell it jalopyer?

      And thank you for the compliment. We try.

  3. Anonymous9:11 PM

    "Inventive: as far as I can tell, you are the first person to use jalopier on the Internet as an adjective. Or is that an adverb?"

    Knowing Daniel, it is probably a French derived verb.

    Oh those French, corrupting the English Language!!!

    Anon 242

    1. Ah ah... No, for once it is from good american stock. I was struck long ago when learning English by a sentence "jaunting jalopy" from some US writer whose name escapes me right now (Faulkner?) . not that I do not adapt words from French, Spanish or Italian but for once, it is not the case.

    2. Boludo Tejano12:22 AM

      The term is definitely american.[Or as Kepler would say, US American.] "Jalopy" is probably used less these days than in days bygone. From my childhood days, because the people I knew who used the word were good mechanics, I associate a jalopy with having an owner who performs weekly [?] miracles on the engine and body to keep the car going. From my associations with the word jalopy, if you have to pay a mechanic to keep the car going, you don't own a jalopy. But I don't know if others have the same point of view. There are quite a few car owners in Venezuela who by that definition own jalopies, as they maintain the vehicles themselves. And because they perform mechanical miracles to keep the vehicles operating.

      The online dictionaries I consulted said the word was of unknown origin, with the exception of the Urban Dictionary: Derived from the misspelling of the word "Jalapa", which is the name of some town in Mexico that is famous for the Jalapeno pepper, and its former junk-car-scrapping industry.

      I don't know how reliable the Urban Dictionary is for etymology, but it was the only example I could find.

    3. Be thankful that the French invaded Britain and revolutionized the English tongue. Otherwise, English would sound very much like German sounds right now...even worse: like Saxon German with a Danish twang.

  4. Anonymous11:44 PM

    Try to enjoy the rest of your time on the island. We were over there about six months ago, and it had deteriorated so much that we said we would never go back. Complete with blackouts, and the worst food and service possible. The only decent meal we had was some nice pargo cooked on the beach apart from the all inclusive. Truly sad as we used to enjoy frequent visits over before chavez set his sights on it after the event that led to him taking over the Hilton and systematically destroying the infrastructure that supported tourism.


  5. Being a regular reader of your blog, Daniel, very little of what you describe here comes as a surprise. What does surprise me is that you guys put up with it and don't see emigration as a real option. Of course there is a cost but what is the price of life free of control freaks?

  6. 1979 Boat People6:29 PM

    You are still brave flying Venezuela airplanes. :)

    May be these old air planes still safer than the new coming Russia's air planes.

  7. Even back in the 90's I had a pilot friend who worked for Aeropostal who told me that they held plane doors shut with Duck tape.No maintenance in paradise.


  8. Firepig....Did you ever see the small planes to Los Roques that use bungy cords on the doors !!! I believe that VNZAn planes can not fly into cities in the US because their safety and maintenance logs are not up to standards. I know it was so a few years ago and I imagine it is worse now...Things will change when the Socialist model is chucked, It never works...

  9. "Jolopier" could easily be the name of a Hugo Blanco song. I can almost hear it now, with percussion on hubcaps instead of drums.

  10. I was considering travelling to Caracas this summer from London to do some primary on-the-ground research for my thesis on Bolivarian democracy and also for tourist-like reasons, but my partner warned against it for some of the exact same reasons you pointed out.. I'm kind of glad now but still would be nice to see what i'm writing about up close and personal!

  11. We hiked Mt. Roraima that year and a woman from Belgium in our group was detained at the airport for for 2 hours, searched (even the pages of her books) and suspected because she was traveling alone. Beautiful country, tragic government.


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