Archive for February 21st, 2011

The Devil Does Not Live Here Anymore

February 21, 2011

Thirty three years ago I came back to Venezuela fresh from a Ph.D. in Physics from well-known US University. It was an exciting time, Venezuela was moving forward, we all felt we were ready to take the country to the next stage of development, you could get research funding and lots of people were either leaving to study abroad or coming back with degrees in many fields. The first few years were exciting, things went well, I came back to Venezuela to work in a lab which already had good equipment and I was able to get more, got grants in Venezuela and abroad, my career took off. I also helped start an engineering research institute.

Then came “El Viernes Negro” (Black Friday), when the country’s economy had its first large devaluation in decades. This was February 18th. 1983. Within months the Venezuelan currency had lost almost 60% of its value, things got more difficult. It was a sign of things to come.

Things began to oscillate a lot. There were good years and bad years. Not much new funding. I was working in a field that required ever more sophisticated equipment, lots of running expenses. It was hard to stay at the edge, but I gave it my best try for quite a while.

Then politics got in the way. Technical employees where I worked began demanding the same perks as researchers, without being willing to assume all of the duties and responsibilities. Then there was a tough strike and I decided I had to either leave the country to do Physics or switch fields. Staying in the country, where my extended family resided, was important to me. I stayed. I was then consulting for a small local broker on how to construct indexes for markets, they had actually started by offering me a job. I decided to give it a try, see how things developed, maybe there would be improvements at the Institute where I had worked since I was 18 years old. It was downhill at that place from there, by now the revolution has insured that what was once one of the top scientific institutes in Latin America, has slid down into an irreversible path to complete mediocrity.

The new job went well. There were ups and downs, but the ups were always exhilarating, I learned so much new stuff along the way. We did lots of things, all of them quite well and with professionalism. Then last year Chavez decided to blame someone for his economic mismanagement and targeted one of the companies of the group that I worked for. It was the equivalent of our “farm” being illegally taken over by the Government.

It was time to go.

Thus, this weekend I moved with my family to another country. I will go back periodically for work reasons, but my main residence will be elsewhere. There were two main reasons for this tough decision, one that came from the mind, not the heart: Crime and the absence of the rule of law. I stared at both of these in the face and it is something I don’t wish on anyone. You feel like you are not playing on a level field. If the crooks don’t get you, the other “crooks” will and you have no way to defend yourself. There are no instances, no appeals, you have no rights. Time to leave.

And so it goes…it’s called self-preservation.

The blog will continue. I started this eight and a half years ago and will continue to document the absurdity of it all, as long as it continues. I think Quico, Alex, Daniel and I have played an important role over the years in telling the story of Chavez outside the country. That job is mostly done. But as blogs have lost some sex appeal, there are lots of stories still to tell about what is going in Venezuela, which can not be Tweeted or Facebooked. Clearly, not being on the ground will deny me some of the insights one gets from being there. But I will go back regularly and hope to compensate partially with it. I hope to sustain the quality, if I don’t, let me know (In private, of course 🙂 )

So, the Devil will continue to be around. I won many battles in my dear Venezuela during the last three decades, but I lost the overall war. Time to move on with some sorrow.

But, in the end…

Semper diabolus vincit