I belong now by Oligarco Burguesito
I confess I am an oligarch. As I sit here typing, I look through the window and see another mugging right outside my building. But I don’t care. I am happy now. I have now joined the robolution. I have become a XXIst. Century Socialist. I have joined the informal economy. Who would have thought that I would be converted? I still detest Chavez and his militarism. His grab for power in the name of the “people”. The fact that if it comes from his right, it’s called a coup, but if it comes from his left it’s called a new dawn for democracy. The fact that despite the dozens of phantom attempts on his life, he is still alive. His cheating in elections. His abuse of power. His disregard for human rights. I still despise him, but I have learned to love the revolution like thousands of Venezuelans. I am indeed a XXIst. Century Socialist. I don’t wear a red shirt, but mentally I belong now. I have learned to love the robolution, it’s positive aspects. It does indeed treat me well now.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning. It all began last February as I sat right here at this same window watching another mugging. Carnival vacation was coming up and I was thinking of going to Margarita Island. I called my buddy Jose, the travel agent, asking about some cheap place in Margarita, airfare, car rental. How much would it cost for four days? -I asked Jose.
Are you nuts Oli? Margarita? Why would you ever want to go to a crummy place over there, when you can fly to Aruba, stay at a fancy Hotel and have good service, running water, electricity and smaller crowds at a cheaper price? You can even bring back some sugar from the trip! He said.
By now I thought Jose had smoked an egg roll, like Aristobulo accused Chavez a few years ago before Chavez named him Minister. What are you talking about?
It’s easy Oli, said Jose. The airfare is more expensive, but you pay at the official rate of exchange. On top of that, you go to Aruba and ask CADIVI for your travel dollars, you get $5,900 total at the official rate. With that you can stay at a better hotel than in Margarita for the same price, eat food of better quality, but cheaper and the money you don’t spend, you can go to the Casino, buy chips, bet on red for a couple of spins, cash in and you have now received your full CADIVI allotment at the official rate of exchange. You sell those dollars in the swap market and the trip ends up being almost free.
Wow! I told Jose, I didn’t know any of this. How do I get started? Well, just come tomorrow to my office with your passport, register at CADIVI and we will get the ball rolling.
Passport? I don’t have a passport, how fast can I get one? – I asked Jose.
Well, you know it is very complicated, but just give me Bs. 200,000 and I have a buddy that will get it for you in a week, unless of course you signed against Chavez in the referendum. Did you?
Of course I did Jose; you know how much I dislike Chavez!
Well, Oli, in that case, you will have to give me Bs. 500,000, Tascon cases are much tougher and more expensive.
At the time I thought-thanks God for free enterprise!- remember I was still an oligarch then. But clearly free enterprise in the robolution had saved my trip. Within a week, I had my passport; my $400 in cash from CADIVI and my tickets and off I went to Aruba. My transformation into a XXIst. Century Socialist man had begun.
Aruba was grand, I met a gringa there, we partied for four days and in the end I spent about $1,800. I came back to Caracas, sold the remainder $4,100 at Bs. 4,200, and with those 17.2 million Bs. I paid the 3.87 million of the trip, the 8,8 million for the remainder dollars and pocketed Bs. 4.5 million “profit” from my vacation.
That was as much as I made in a month working hard at my job at a local steel company, where I have to show up early, work hard, stay late, worry about things. I began to see that something was seriously wrong with the capitalist system and maybe Chavez was right about this XXIst. Century Socialism after all.
The next day, I woke up early and even though I don’t usually read the paper, I saw a headline about a Bono del Sur coming out soon. I wondered what that was about, but since I know nothing about finance, I called my other friend Miguel, he has a blog and writes often about such topics, and maybe he can explain it to me.
It’s simple, Miguel said: The Government sells you a bond which has different parts in Bs. And $. You pay for the dollar part at the official rate of exchange, you turned around sell the parts, get back some Bolivars, get back some dollars and you sell the dollars in the parallel swap market, for each dollar you get you make about Bs. 800. Some brokers lend you money, so that you can finance part of the order and get more than the Bolivars you have. I said this did not make any sense and Miguel went into a tirade about liquidity, absorption and such terms, which I barely understood, but he seems to know what he is talking about, so I went to the broker across the street from my office and placed an order for $20,000, borrowing half of what I would get.
I was assigned $8,000, half of it was in $, sold them and lo and behold I had added Bs. 3.2 million to my Aruba kitty in a flash.
I called Miguel to thank him and when I was about to hang up, he said: “Well, have you asked for your Internet CADIVI dollars?” Huh? I said, no I have not, how much is that? Well, Miguel told me, you get $3,000 at the official rate of exchange.
Within two days, I had used this quota to buy a new Mac, a printer, an 80GB IPod and a Bose speaker system for my iPod. I also looked into buying an iPhone but learned it does not work here, so I used the last $500 of my Internet quota to buy an external hard drive, a WiFi system and a digital camera. Wow! It was late March and my standard of living had improved significantly and my doubts about the robolution began to surface. Had I misjudged Chavez? This was really a different life. No competition, no hard work and big payoffs, what else could a young oligarch ask for? Or was I turning into a socialist? A lot of my kitty had been spent, but my home was now part of the space age.
Soon after all of the Apple stuff arrived, the Government announced the PDVSA bond. Time to call Miguel again. He says is a steal, I jump in, asking for 100,000 dollars, 90% of it financed by my bank as long as I keep it for month. I tremble at the thought ,but go ahead anyway. Remarkably, I am assigned 45,000 dollars at an average price of Bs. 2,900 but have to wait a month to sell them at Bs. 3,500 and make a tidy Bs. 600 profit per dollar. But I am so lucky that after a month the parallel market is up to Bs. 4,000, I make Bs. 1,100 per dollar assigned and now I have a whopping 49 million Bs. in my pocket. That is more that I make in one year!
It is at that point that I realize how little I have understood the revolution up to now. Of course it’s appealing. You get everything for free, you don’t have to work. I could make more money if I worked hard; develop contacts to get contracts with Government outfits and the like. But why bother? In one month I have made more money that in one year busting my butt working at my job.
So, I quit my job and have joined the ranks of the informal economy. I wake up late everyday. What do I do? Easy. Everyday I look for someone I know without the means to buy the Internet quota that the Government gives them. I help them get a debit card and through a friend in Miami I “spend” their whole quota. Each quota costs me 6.45 million Bs., I sell the dollars in the swap market at Bs. 4,900. The difference is Bs. 8.25 million, I pay my clients 1.5 million for their quota, and so I net Bs. 6.75 million per client. That is why I only work one client each day, I have joined the ranks of the XXIst. Century S
ocialist. Minimum effort, maximum return. Twenty clients a month net me three times what I used to make at my old job. There are no benefits now, no health care. But hey, I do little and make so much more. Lots of time for partying! I practically live at Tinajero de Los Helechos after 4 PM, where my fellow socialists invite me to drink 18 year old Scotch.
I still don’t wear a red shirt. But a friend told me I could go to a PSUV meeting wearing one and maybe I could sign up twenty people as clients in one day. Just think! I would only have to work one day a month that way!
I belong now. I have seen the light. I love the robolution. It treats me well, even if I disagree with it. I barely work. I can’t wait for the new year, so I can go to Cancun with next year’s quota. I have jumped into XXIst Century Socialism!
And I may even change my name, Chavistas have a hard time with it, even if I tell them to call me Oli.
I do belong now!