Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Venezuela Remains A Dangerous Place

Many sailors have made a second home in Venezuela.  It used to be a great place to go to dodge hurricanes while enjoying some of the best that South America had to offer. 

 Hugo Chavez changed part of that.  While making life a little better for most Venezuelans, he seized private companies and private property and gave a cold shoulder to Americans.  Using the Fidel Castro approach, he set up block captains whose job it is to keep track of dissenting citizens, rather than to protect their barrios.  

Meanwhile, violent crime in Caracas has made the country one of the most deadly places to live in the world short of bona-fide war zones.  Protests have rocked the country with midnight roundups and rumors of torture, common.  

Corruption is rampant and inflation has made nearly everything more expensive in Venezuela.  Price controlled items are cheaper if they can be found.  However, corrupt people buy out price controlled items and sell them on the black market at the world price.  One of the most prized possessions today is a simple roll of toilet paper.

While citizens might be better off, they are only slightly better off, rather than wealthy from the billions of dollars in oil revenue generated every year.  At least 10 billion dollars of those profits that could go to Venezuelan citizens is given to Cuba, which sells the oil to finance domestic operations and to oppose "imperialistic thinking".

The Nicolas Maduro government, which was handed power after the death of Hugo Chavez, and then elected after silencing opposing views in the press, blames the U.S. for an alleged wild plot to overthrow the government.  Journalists have been expelled from the country and a major television station removed from the air for reporting on the Maduro regime.  Hence, visitors should obtain press credentials when reporting, while non-professional reporters should be careful what they say, lest they be accused of plotting against the government.  Social media is subject to government scrutiny.  

Still, the people of Venezuela are wonderful people who welcome tourists, as outside of oil, tourism is one of the few industries left.  

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