We all poured over the newspaper yesterday morning as El
Nacional had an intriguing headline on
its front page, which seemed to come out of that Marquezian magic realism
that Chavismo seems to be living in these days. The headline said:
“Traffic jams are a lie” says Minister Rondon
Directing you to page C-3 of the paper. Certainly worth
checking out given that Mr. Rondon is none other than the Minister of
Infrastructure. Recall that my office moved 840 meters recently, which saves me
an hour a day, so I definitely had to check out the ministers words, which
seemed to be a mysterious prelude to the day’s tragic events.
The article relates that candidates for Mayor and users
all agree that a unique authority to preside over the chaos and tangles of the
city’s traffic, to which the Minister said in his most pompous style:
“Venezuela does not govern itself. The President only
thinks about the well being of the Venezuelans. If he considers that this topic
should be analyzed, we will study it”
This statement demonstrates that despite the headline,
Minister Rondon is certainly well versed in the peculiar form of democracy that
Chavismo believes in: Even if everyone agrees on something or that something
has to be done, it is up to I, the Supreme, who deeply cares about us, to
decide whether the topic even deserves consideration, at which point HE will
then decide to study it.
Such depths of Chavista democratic wisdom even in such a
Unfortunately, the remainder is somewhat disappointing, as
it simply demonstrates that Minister Rondon’s abilities do not extend
themselves to either his job or logic, to wit:
“That stuff about Caracas having traffic jams is a lie. I
have been monitoring other countries and it is the same. We have the best
possible roads; the problem is the excess of vehicles. People have to leave
their car in storage, leave individualism aside. Five people can go in vehicle,
instead of the selfishness that it is used by a single person”
Where should I begin? From a logical point of view these
are a bunch of concatenated statements that have little to do with each other. Traffic
jams are there or not, but they are not lies. Then he says he has monitored
them, but in other countries is the same? What is the same? The traffic jams or
the lies? What countries? Then he says we have the best possible roads. For
what? Not a single major road has been built in Caracas in twenty years.
Despite this, does he claim they are the best? Does he drive around? Finally,
he first says we have to leave the cars in storage but then he wants us to
share them. Aren’t the two incompatible? Did this guy graduate from high
school, or is it a verbal problem?
But then, it has been Chavez who has kept gas prices
cheap, subsidized cars at the official rate of exchange and otherwise has done
nothing for improving traffic, including going to Court to ban measures made by
Mayors. So who is to blame for the current state of affairs? Precisely the man
that supposedly only has our well-being in mind.
But there has to be some form of divine or poetic justice
when on the same day, Caracas has the biggest lies, pardon me, traffic jams in
memory due to rains and flooding. The rodas simply did not have traffic jams, they became parking lots last night.
Much as in the days prior to the Vargas tragedy of 1999, which
coincided with the vote to approve the new Constitution, Caracas has been
having rather unusual weather. It has been raining daily and continuously most afternoons
and early evenings for the last two weeks. This saturates the soil and causes
landslides and floods, as the ground simply cannot absorb water. And yesterday
the rains turned into a downpour and the city collapsed, as there were
landslides and fallen trees everywhere and even roads collapsed.
The traffic jam in the south part of Caracas became a
total tie up as the Autopista del Este and that of Prado del Este became
parking lots. People got off buses and walked in the rain in the hope to get
home or simply called the nearest friend to stay the night.
But as the city was already collapsing and municipal
authorities were warning people to stay home, here came Hugo Chavez with one of
his infamous “cadenas”, obligatory nationwide addresses. Everyone was expecting the
man who cares so much about our well being to talk about the rains, but instead
we watched as he condecorared a South Vietnamese official, inaugurated a
non-existent factory and talked about (ranted?) Ho Chi Min and all he stood for.
But in the dryness of the Miraflores Palace stood the
whole Cabinet, lead by a nodding Minister of Finance who celebrated each
sentence. While I seldom watch Chavez tirades anymore, I did because I was
transmitting information to friends who had no access to TV’s and were trying
to decide when and if to go home. (Most got home well after midnight and one
stayed at the office all night)
As Chavez seemed to be gaining speed and force, something
happened, he must have been given a signal and all of a sudden he said the
Government will deal with the problem of the rain and wrapped it all up and was done in a
minute and we went back to regular programming.
While the yuppie Mayors and candidates of the opposition
appeared on TV getting muddy and wet and dealing with the problems, Chavista
authorities for the Metropolitan area were nowhere to be seen in the Government’s
TV station or Globovision. In fact, we did not see Barreto (who is in Paris
enjoying his last days as Mayor of Caracas) or Bernal or Diosdado at all last
night. The lone figure was the head of Civil Defense, who should not be
partisan, who kept talking about the floods as a “fortuitous” phenomenon as if
we did not have to deal with them every year.
Very late, two Chavista candidates appear on the studios
of VTV worried about what is going on as more than 50 homes are covered in mud
and nine people lose their lives.
Today, as the thunder turns to rain again, we do see those
that should have been out there last night. But wait! There is one missing. The
man who cares so much for our well-being has not been seen today. He has not
visited any of the many sites where tragedy struck last night, He has not been
on TV, radio or even said a line like he is monitoring the situation.
Maybe, just maybe, since he cares so much for our well
being he has spent the day going over the latest polls to guarantee that his
collaborators will be allowed to protect and care for us for the next four
But better yet, I hope that after seeing the projections,
he is just depressed…