Venezuela Drifting Further Away From The World

August 6, 2014

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I was in Caracas last week. Almost did not go for the simple reason that it is quite difficult, besides expensive, to find an airline ticket out of Caracas. Venezuela is simply drifting away, further and further apart from the world.

In my case, my trip, more like a saga, began when I found a ticket Caracas-Aruba in Aserca to make a connection to a US airline in Aruba. Plenty of time between the two, Aserca was leaving at 11:30 AM, the other flight leaving at 3:35 PM. Given that the flight to Aruba is 35 to 40 minutes, there should be no problem. On top of that, I had only hand luggage.

Chop half an hour from the time between flights, thanks to now banned Chavista genius Navarro, as I did not take into account (my fault) the half an hour difference between the two countries. I did show up at the airport a three full hours before flight time. Seemed like a good precaution, as Aserca has no line for those without luggage.

Well, when I showed up, there was a huge line for the full flight and all but four passengers were in line in front of me. Fortunately (or maybe I should have worried about it) there was a sign that check-in would close at 9:30 a full two hours before the flight. That meant, that the line would only last one hour.

And it did. With about three minutes to spare.

In the line, I learned a number of things from the ladies ahead of me. For one, they bring their food to Aruba, you know, they told me, food is so much more expensive there. Thus, they bring their food, hiding it under the clothes, so that Aruba customs does not take it away. That happened to me, said a different lady. They also discussed how bringing lots of food is good, more space to bring back the stuff they buy in Aruba, which turns out to be paper products (toilet paper and diapers are favorites), food (not fancy ones, those you can get in Caracas. It’s all the stuff he government controls or imports that they bring back) and cosmetics. Cosmetics, like soap, shampoo and similar things, lest you think that they bring back expensive things like perfume. I also learned you have to stay a full week in Aruba in order to get the full US$ 700 from Cadivi. Better to go to Aruba than Miami, said a third lady, the ticket is cheaper and you get the same amount of money. Besides, I bring my kids, they don’t cost as much and I can ask for US$ 700 for each.

I trust I am not passing bad information, I haven’t checked it. But on how to squeeze the Chavista foreign exchange/travel system, these ladies seemed like true experts.

To my surprise, right before check-in there was a guy that would actually ask you if you were connecting to another flight. I thought I was the only one. How wrong I was. There were people connecting to my flight and to at least four other ones. In fact, looking over his writings on the reservation list (the only thing that was respected all day) about half the flight, including many kids, were making connections to the US and/or Europe. There were twelve connecting to my flight. I should have gotten worried when the agent told me that Aserca was not responsible for any of my expenses if I did not make the connection. I actually expressed confidence that there was plenty of time between flights, to which he answered: “Well, yesterday one passenger did not show up and it took an hour and a half for the National Guard to allow the removal of the baggage belonging to that passenger. The plane left with a three and a half hour delay.”

But I am a lucky devil, no pun intended, so I went to immigration confident that  there would be no problem.

Think again!

We were told to be at the gate at 10:30 AM, so I drifted towards Gate 22 at 10:15 AM not that I expected the flight to leave without me. Gate 22 must be the gate from hell. It is a combination of Venezuelan organizational planning, combined with Venezuelan military organizational planning (A true oxymoron).

You see, when you approach Gate 22, there are two signs: Gate 22 in the back and gate 17 in the front. If you are dumb enough to follow the Gate 22 sign, you reach a corridor, blocked by cardboard. Thus, you have to go back to gate 17. That is Gate 22. Obvious no?

There are no signs in gate 17 ( or 22). Just an escalator going down and stairs coming up. Given that there were four flights waiting to use Gate 22, the upstairs lounge was completely full, since it did not even have capacity for a  small commercial jet. Downstairs is different. It is empty, there are seats. But even though you have just passed security once, the chairs in the waiting lounge are blocked and you have to go through the National Guard security in order to get to the lounge and eventually on to the buses to the plane.

A not so pleasant looking Guardsman comes up to me and tells me to go back up until my flight is called. Up the stairs I go, not before he gives me the explanation: Your gate number could be changed (I should have paid more attention at this point), for example, and you would be down here.

Sounds perfectly logical, but I still don’t understand why flights that required a bus, need double security.

I go back up. During the time I was there, I saw some two dozen people go downstairs and then trek back up, including a pregnant lady with two kids.

Order (ha! ha!) was restored when the Aserca people showed up, roughly at the same time as the La Venezolana staff (different flight). This happened about ten minutes after the time we were supposed to be at the gate. Then began the placebo explanations of the Aserca staff. The plane is being filled with gasoline. Next customer up, the plane is in the national terminal. Next customer, if the plane is brought here we will leave from a different gate. (Told you I should have listened!)

As I am getting impatient, a passenger says: “We have to be very patient, this is Venezuela”. I feel like telling her why I don’t want to be patient, but I shut up. About an hour later, we are told the plane is full of gas (Cheers!), but it will be brought over now to the international terminal (Booo!). This means we have to go to Gate 28. (Which is actually Gate 28)

A real gate! No second National Guard check up of our hand luggage. Makes sense, no? Just kidding!

At the gate I meet a lot of fellow “conectees” worried about time. I meet a guy who is connecting to my flight. I tell him I only have hand luggage and have my boarding pass printed. I explain that the airline closes the flight 45 minutes ahead of time, thus, if we are further delayed, he will not make it. He does the check in in his phone. (He is the only other person that made the connection: “Thanks Devil” this guy should say. You are welcome!). There is a family going to San Francisco, a girl to meet her Spanish fiancee in Scotland. A guy who is moving to the US. Another getting his visa soon. Another bought a fish business. And finally, an Arubian/Venezuelan (Doctor, builder, grandfather and tool smuggler into Aruba) who clearly has done this many times and explains at the gate and on board exactly what obstacles you will have in Aruba to make the connection. (Thanks buddy!)

We finally board. A little disorganized, but hey, Germanic compared to everything what went  on before. We might yet make it.

As we are sitting on the plane, the Captain apologizes for the delay and says…we will have another delay, because the truck to start the engines is in the National terminal and has to be brought over. (Why did they move the plane then?)

It looks tough now. Very tough.

As we wait, the stewardess asks me to check if my seat has a life saver underneath. It does. Two mechanics come on board and start checking for life savers around my area. They are all there, but there is a report that one was missing. Finally it is determined, that it was the seat of the girl going to Scotland, sitting behind me, that did not have one, it was an empty bag under her seat. How would she know. She is given a life saver to put in the pocket ahead.

To my surprise the two mechanics that boarded the plane to check the life savers, stay on board. I don’t even want to ask why. They are seated in front of me, this must be the safe area of the plane, I tell myself…

We finally move at 1:45 PM Caracas time, which is 2:15 PM Aruba time, my flight is at 3:35 PM. Looks bad.

Flight goes well. I am seated close to the front. I leave the plane and start running. I get to Aruba immigration and the lines are huge, like 50 people deep. The not so considerate gentleman organizing the line tells me to get in any line, he can’t do anything for me. My new friend follows. We ask the people in the next line if we can go ahead of them. they say sure, they are vacationers going to Aruba, we look stressed. We bypass a bunch of people and when I am called, the immigration lady  I got is given a pack of eight passports to process ahead of me. “You can stay here, she says”

I smile.

And then I run. Remembering the instructions by the Aruban/Venezuelan guy on the plane, I exit the terminal, take a left. Then another left to departures. I keep running, O.J. Simpson style  (dated joke, last time I did this was in 1977, still recall the analogy). Then I do Aruba immigration and security. I keep running. Then I do US immigration and security. No lines, thanks God. Nice agent.

Then I run more, My plane is at the last gate at the airport. gate 8. I show my boarding pass. Lady says: “Mr. Octavio, I thought you were already on board”. I run, get in the plane, sweating by now, sit down and the stewardess offers me a glass of water and some paper towels (Thanks Veronica!) . She then turns around and closes the door to the plane.

I made it, but I realize that Venezuela is slowly drifting apart form the world. It is further and further away every day in all possible senses: Physically, intellectually and cronologically. And this increasing remoteness is true for both those abroad like me and for those who still live there.

What a tragedy!

 

 

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65 Responses to “Venezuela Drifting Further Away From The World”

  1. firepigette Says:

    Great post Miguel…even from here, lately when I think of Venezuela, it is something I can only vaguely sense, and there is this sensation of it all drifting away, little by little…depressing

  2. Rick Flowers Says:

    Tragic that people are still so stupid and gullible to fall for the lies of communists. Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

  3. Victor Says:

    If Venezuelan people are like Cuban people, and do nothing, or even worse, grow complacent to all this (like it seems is is happening), all we have to say unfortunately is a Criolla phrase “Esto se lo llevo quien lo trajo” or maybe another one “el ultimo, que apague la luz”. It makes me want to cry.

  4. moctavio Says:

    It’s simple, they don’t have the money to pay the airlines. Thus, they can’t do much about it. The airlines that agreed to be paid a very small part, have not been paid. They owe them too much, as simple as that.

    • Ira Says:

      Part of the rumor mill is that they’re selling Citgo to pay in part the airlines’ debt.

      Which we all know is bullshit.

      Chavistas don’t pay anything to anyone they don’t absolutely have to.

  5. Odette Says:

    I am frustrated and tired just reading about your odyssey Octavio. It does not leave a thread of hope.
    I was looking at the Laser web site and they fly Caracas to Aruba 6 days a week and I can buy ticket on line. Problem is they do not do Aruba>Caracas>Porlmar and back. I have to call Caracas to see if there is anyway they can help. The 7.5 hrs between arrival and take off in Caracas was bad enough, adding another country has eliminated at least 50% of the December to April crowd that come in from Europe and Canada to Porlmar. Many I skype with are starting to look at other location so they can book in October. I really dont understand what is going on between Maburros ears. They know they need Euros & Dollars yet they dont understand the Cash-cows tourist are.
    ” Cheverito ” started his vacation tour .. he got shot the first day. ( I was happy 😀 ) tienes que amar el ingenio de aquellos estudiantes.

    • Island Canuck Says:

      And to top it all off if as a tourist you do make it to Venezuela & Isla Margarita and are uninformed enough to use a debit or credit card you will be charged at the Bs.6,3 rate instead of the “tourist” SICAD 2 rate of approx. Bs.50 to US$1.

      How’s that for a finger in the air?

      • odette Says:

        Hello fellow Canuck: I was counting on the secad II, that is what they had announced-guess I should know better by now, they lie. Flights are just under 4,000.00. return each person. Connect Mexico or Aruba. We sit, we wait.
        Hope your ok .. this must be hell … very, but really very few ways around the system now. Peace be with you …

  6. moctavio Says:

    Of course, it is more complicated than that. But I always found it amazing that if you make a list of British colonies and other (more than Spain) how much better the British column is. Even countries that “imitated” the British system, like Thailand, are better off. But Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, etc. are pretty amazing examples. Besides the obvious ones. Few like that in the other column.

    • Kepler Says:

      Of course, Octavio, but I ask you to take a look at the book I mentioned. There are also some videos of Jared Diamond explaining part of what he means on Youtube.

      He doesn’t tackle your examples specifically but you can see the patterns if you try to find out about their histories.

      Singapore is a tiny area. First take a look at its history. This would do:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Singapore
      You have been there. Over half of the population have Chinese background, people who were particularly educated merchants and the like and their descendants. Even the Chinese migrants to Myanmar had the same pattern: they were among the most educated…in a region that had already reached sedentary stage way before native Americans did.
      Thailand is not so far, but then please, please compare Chile and Mexico to Thailand. Go travel around Thailand and see the differences. Not for nothing Thai women are more common in Germany than Mexican women in the USA.

      Australia is a rather similar thing to the USA. It is quite another when you have a whole population that didn’t even have writing system (Thais did and Malaysians did).

      I am no historian, but if we are not ready to make the effort to delve at least a tiny bit into the histories of the countries we visit or hear about we are bound to generalise in dangerous ways.

      Bear in mind also: the Spaniards could weaken the two societies that had reached some urbanized level due to the guns, germs and steel I mentioned earlier and but then they did not firstly developed a region as British did until the end of the XVIII century but went all the way through and MERGED, MERGED, with the complex dynamics that that brings.

      Of course, they also had the problem of depending too much on oil and silver, as someone else mentioned here. The Brits didn’t have that in North(ern) America.

  7. Kepler Says:

    Octavio,
    Definitely there is something about the British rule of law and all that stuff and the way in which Spain went into feudal mode specially from Phillip II, but things are more complicated than that.
    If not, Rhodesia and South Africa would be at a similar level of development as Canada or the USA. There is one important thing and that is to build a cohesive state with a clear majority of people having a high level of education as compared to the world.
    When the US became independent and in the next couple of decades it was primarily a nation of people who, if not shared the same language (English), had a very common background – Germans, Dutch. The majority of them
    could read. Only about 10% of the population were slaves with a completely different background (or rather backgrounds) coming from cultures that were just entering into neolithic times (I refer to you to Jared Diamond’s book I already mentioned).

    Once they expanded, they expanded by basically exterminating the others, so they could actually start from “tabula rasa”.

    Yes, the general protestant mentality and the way it had on things such as literacy plus a more liberal view, a spirit of debate, contributed to their development, but they could do so much more easily than the Spaniards
    who merged with the conquered societies almost from the start.

    • Ira Says:

      But can you compare development in the U.S. with its population and opportunities (land and other) to these mentioned other places?

      Then of course. Not now.

  8. moctavio Says:

    Its 250 miles between Maiquetia and Aruba, with take off and landing in a small jet. Given they dont go up as high, they go slower. I doubt you could see Aruba. Curacao is much closer.

  9. raf@ Says:

    Vergacion!

  10. Tony Says:

    The distance between Venezuela and Aruba is about half of that between Cuba and the US. Surely you could swim it (hand luggage only). Or enjoy the luxury of a raft. I shouldn’t joke: I left Cuba by plane. My airport experience was less traumatic than yours, but everything else was really tough. Anyway, passports ready even if your readers intend to go by raft.

    • Ira Says:

      Yeah–I was surprised he said the flight was 35 to 40 minutes, but I guess take offs and landings take time,

      I could see Aruba from my apartment in Macuto, and it looked like 30 minutes by BOAT.

  11. El Trader Says:

    Venezuela is over folks.


  12. I don’t want to sound depressing, but Venezuelans should be aware: it’s going to get a lot worse.

  13. LVS Says:

    It is incredible that people just adapt – they seem to make a new game of what is unthinkable anywhere else. They just go to Aruba to buy basic goods, take food with them, etc. These are people that can pay for the ticket, so what is going on with those that can’t?

    These are stories that cannot be made up, and they are a daily reality in Venezuela. From afar, it is really not that far from Cuba, or at least a lot closer than people want to believe.

    There is no resemblance to the place where i grew up and I just don’t see how it would be ever go back to that (and that was not even its best times)


  14. “This means we have to go to Gate 28. (Which is actually Gate 28)”

    Well, there’s an organizational cock-up right there! How could they let Gate 28 be Gate 28?! That’s unbolivarian of them…

    • Roy Says:

      The Gate 17/22 dysfunction has been there for many years. Most of the passengers know about it, so it isn’t a problem. But, people seem to take delight in watching the newbies traipse down the escalators and up the stairs several times before just accepting that the signage is wrong.

  15. David Says:

    Thanks for this info and the detail. It just makes you realize how much harder they want to make it for those trying to come in or go out of Venezuela/ unless you are enchufado. They can travel in their private planes

  16. Kepler Says:

    Miguel,
    Did you have to pay the stupid “tax” in Maiquetía?

  17. Roy Says:

    Miguel,

    Thanks for the primer. I going to the U.S. via Aruba in a couple of weeks. Your account of how to work this is very helpful.

  18. Tom ODonnell Says:

    Oh man! Such excruciating detail!

    We’re supposed to go in September… it just gets to be too much, esp. with a family in tow. (And by then it is expected that there will no water left in Maracaibo, on top of everything else …)

    Back to the future. …. Your story brings to mind a chapter in the book “Men of Maracaibo” written in the 1930’s. There is a description of taking a boat trip down the Lago and,of a connection with a train. The departure delays and excuses were a very similar story. The author’s theoretical framework / explanation was of course different then, as you can imagine.

  19. Ira Says:

    CSPAN 3–American History TV–has been running the House Judiciary Committee hearings on the articles for Nixon’s impeachment, since we’re now at their 40th anniversary. (Nixon resigned Aug. 9, 1974.)

    It’s a lot of hours, but it is FASCINATING to watch. The contrast between what transpired here and what has transpired in VZ is shocking. Also apparent is that while the oral arguments before voting are along party lines, they’re not VICIOUSLY along party lines, with several dissenters from party lines.

    Most interesting, surprising, and DEPRESSING to me is the high level of polite, civil and respectful interaction between opposing viewholders. In this respect, the U.S. has sadly gone down the path of the fiery rhetoric so characteristic of Latin American politics.

    I highly recommend watching it if you have the channel. There are quite a few direct attacks on Nixon’s actions which could easily be levied against Hugo and the bus driver.

    • captainccs Says:

      >>>Also apparent is that while the oral arguments before voting are along party lines, they’re not VICIOUSLY along party lines, with several dissenters from party lines.

      Can you say the same for ObamaCare?

      • Ira Says:

        No–that’s what’s so depressing about it.

        I used to view Dem-Repub fighting as getting worse over the years, but I also attributed that to my advancing age; maybe it’s just me, and things haven’t changed all that much.

        But these hearings, I thought at least, showed a higher level of decorum than we see today in the U.S.

        As far as VZ goes, forget it. They’re not even in the ballpark.

  20. Shrillary Clinton Says:

    just think what a different place S America would be if it had been settled by the English instead of the Spanish….it boggles the mind

    • captainccs Says:

      Sorry, but that’s a boatload of CRAP.

    • Ira Says:

      Why do you think it would be any different?

      Maybe because everyone would speak ENGLISH, and that alone would integrate them more fairly and better with the American economy and society in general.

    • Kepler Says:

      I just hope your children, if you have any, will only have primarily Spanish speaking offspring.

      • Ira Says:

        My wife and I screwed up:

        My older son (23) is autistic, and my other son is 18–but she didn’t speak Spanish to either of them, so they’re monolingual.

        Es ridiculo que yo hablo espanol (mas o menos) y ellos no.

        • Kepler Says:

          Ira,

          I was referring to this Clinton character. I don’t know why she/he/it keeps commenting here if it is all the time with that ethnic contempt.

          On the other hand, your younger son could and should start now. It’s never late and even in the USA it can be useful.

          Your son is younger than this bloke when he started:

          • moctavio Says:

            Is it ethnic? I think there is something to be said for the positive importance of the British rule of law and for the (negative) impact of the catholic church on how people think about economic development. Why is it that British colonies have done so much better? There has to be a common thread, it is not ethnic, is is cultural and I think the Catholic church has a lot of the blame.

            • Deanna Says:

              I agree Miguel. there was such a thing as Protestant ethic with the English colonists, which made them more hard-working and productive, therefore making English colonies much more successful. You only have to look at not only the US and Canada, but also Australia, New Zealand, Hongkong, even Zimbabwe (before it became Zimbabwe). I believe that it has nothing to do with ethnicity, but rather the religious upbringing of the early English colonists. Also, those English colonists were escaping from religious persecution and hoping for a better place to live in freedom. On the other hand, most Spaniards went to South and Central America looking for gold, not necessarily to make a new life for themselves because their hope was to go back to Spain with their golden wealth and live happily ever after.

            • Kepler Says:

              I explained myself below. The counter examples I put should be enough. Again, you can hardly complain a country that was basically founded by people who were literate, had customs that belonged to the Enlightment and one where those literate where a tiny tiny minority living among a huge majority that came from very different cultures that were about reaching Neolithic times. And that is what happened over and over again.

              And that is why Sudan or South Africa are not the USA or Australia (by the way: Australia is almost the same thing as the USA: the big big majority were simply Europeans transplanted and numerically dominating their new environment). The exception with Asian countries is also explained by the fact those civilizations the found there 1) did not completely collapsed due to guns, germs and steel and 2) were already at a development stage not so different from the European one.

              And again: compare Chile to Thailand and think about that.

          • Ira Says:

            I taught myself very similarly, but there’s still a lot more to it than that.

            In the DR, before I really started learning, I asked the hotel front desk for soap…making showering gestures…and saying “Necesito sopa.” The guy knew I didn’t want to shower with soup, so he gave me habon.

            In VZ, I was very embarrassed about something, and exclaimed to my wife’s entire family, “Estoy muy embarazado.”

            • Roy Says:

              “Estoy muy embarazado.”… LOL

              I made the same mistake once when I was beginning to learn Spanish. The looks I got…

              Assuming that every word has a Spanish cognate can trip you up fast. But, if that’s all you have, you still have to try it.

            • Kepler Says:

              Well: from the looks on their face, you won’t ever forget that word.

              Even if we almost never buy physical newspapers these days, perhaps you might consider buying a Spanish rag or a Spanish book and read it close to where your 18-year old son is, let him know there is a whole culture out there. It’s a widely spoken language and you don’t necessarily get the same information you get in English.

    • Roberto N Says:

      Look at practically any place in the world that was colonized by the British and you will find, to this day, conflict, war and worse.

      Thanks but no thanks.

      • Dean A Nash Says:

        Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong, India, USA, Australia, et al. Hell, there’s a world war, right there. I’m not agreeing with the argument that Latin America would be better off if it were Anglo-Saxon, I’m merely pointing out the folly of Roberto N’s comment.

        • Kepler Says:

          Sudan, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, India, Pakistan, etc.

          Of course the discussion is stupid, both ways. It was about whether one group displaced and murdered all the initial inhabitants, something that “makes things easier”, specially if the incoming group had technical advantages as derived by complex processes as explained by Jared Diamond on his book on Guns, Germs & Steel…of if they just melted and merged with the original populations.

          And yes, that is only part of the story.

      • jak Says:

        And you can add the USA to the list too 😉

    • Roy Says:

      Silly comment… What if the Germans had won WWII? What if the Baring Straight had been crossed twenty thousand years ago, instead of ten thousand? What if Genghis Khan had not been stopped before conquering and looting Europe? What if, what if, what if…

    • Boludo Tejano Says:

      The Spanish found gold and silver, and acted accordingly. Had the English found gold and silver, I doubt they would have behaved much differently from the Spanish.

      • Roy Says:

        Actually, I think they would have. The English pursued a radically different model of colonization than the Spanish everywhere they went. Some of the reason for that was cultural bias, but a lot of it was from necessity born of being based on a an island (the British Isles). Being isolated from the rest of Europe by the sea, they were forced to develop more complex trading systems. Their economy became dependent on long-term trade.

    • Victor Says:

      This has nothing to do with Spanish and English. This is Venezuelan history. Unfortunately Venezuela has been a militarist county for the last 200 years. The 40 years of democracy were just an accident in modern history in this country. The only difference (and very unfortunate one) is that the democratic governments after Perez Jimenez fell, allowed the communist doctrine infiltrate the military (thus Chavez and his gang). This started when AD governments let anyone get into the military academy. They were “escupiendo para arriba” without noticing. Ask if in Colombia you see a leftist military. Not in a 1000 years..Venezuelans are now trapped. The communist military are ruling. What an aberration.


  21. And my 87 year old mother wants to see her great-grand kid. I don’t think it’s going to happen ;-(

  22. m_astera Says:

    Bro, try flying around or into Mexxico these days, Not better. I assume you will not censure this comment as you have my earlier ones, but you and your readers are the losers for that. I have the story to tell about Messico.

    • moctavio Says:

      ????I have never censored a comment by you.

      In the history of this blog, I have censored two people, for serial comments that were each longer than the posts and two comments which contained swear words and insults. You were not involved in any of them. Thus, I have no clue what you are talking about.

  23. Juli Carbonell Says:

    So true!

  24. captainccs Says:

    Devil, not drifting “apart” but backwards right to the Dark Ages.

    • metodex Says:

      I saw on the news that residents of La Candelaria are putting torches, actual torches on lamp posts to keep the neiborghood lit up on the daily blackouts.

      Gas prices are going up now, probably along with everything else for the 3rd time this year. Are we going to see carts with goods on the streets?Pirates? Outlaws and renegades?


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