A Micro Tale

 We’re going to begin the next chapter of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole, “El Dorado”,on Monday so today and tomorrow’s content will be a little different although, as always, we’ll start with some current dispatches.

 Havana Times had a great piece on the new “Reverse Colonialism”. The cold war style rhetoric we hear coming from Cuba, Nicaragua,Venezuela, and other socialist/Marxist enclaves all have one thing in common as far a many media outlets are concerned. They would have you believe that without these fierce anti-imperialists, Maduro,Ortega,et al said countries would fall to the “US Empire”. My thinking is “maybe they would just be free?”

 Our amigos at Caracas Chronicles are a bit skeptical,as are we, regarding the upcoming elections in Venezuela slated for November and whether they will be any less fraudulent than every election there since 2015. The Chavistas got buried in 2015 by the way. Since then Venezuela has had all kinds of issues especially with voting machines. The Smartmatic software they were using, by many reliable reports including Smartmatic, may have been responsible for mis-allocating votes, possibly up to a million? So they got rid of Smartmatic but all the replacement machines were destroyed in a massive fire. Now we have a new system that nobody seems to know much about. The reliability of the vote tally will be further complicated by whether there will be a credible vote monitoring and auditing procedure which is to be negotiated in the upcoming talks in Mexico. You know, the talks the Chavistas all insist they are really looking forward to. Stay tuned…

 Oh, and BNN Bloomberg reports the Mexico negotiations between the regime and the opposition are set to begin next week. I can hardly wait.

 Then there was the Miami Herald reporting that a Miami man has been arrested for involvement in a money laundering scheme and other charges.Big surprise huh? There are thousands of guys like that scattered everywhere and by most accounts they are sitting on well over $500 billion looted from Venezuela with the complicity of Chavistas.

 This was followed up by a US DOJ (Department Of Justice) report that a Miami man, a Syrian national, and US permanent resident, has been charged with money laundering AND violation of the FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) or as we say bribery. The FCPA violations relate to  contracts with CASA, the Venezuelan Government’s food procurement arm (remember, Maduro is being investigated already for all kinds of shady deals relating to the CLAP food program) and various PDVSA joint ventures. Note:both stories are about the same guy.

 And just in case you thought ‘el Petro’ Maduro’s thoroughly fraudulent cryptocurrency had gone away…well…it hasn’t. Bitcoin.com reports that Maduro hints at offering crypto loans to the agricultural sector to boost production. ‘el Petro was mentioned specifically but Maduro says they will work with all cryptocurrencies, as they have for three years. He didn’t say that it’s been all talk for three years (and five launches and seven white papers).

 So now, let’s get to our Micro Tale. We have talked before about how 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism has destroyed virtually every aspect of life in Venezuela doing it bit by bit. That is the insidious nature of Chavismo. The destruction happens a little at a time until,after years have gone by, there is almost nothing left. That’s what Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole is all about as well as our daily current news dispatches. That is the Macro Tale. The Micro Tale I’m going to tell you is a good parallel to this.

 I was thinking about all the years I vacationed in Venezuela as well as living there from 2009 – 2021. It was, for years, a marvelous experience and I don’t regret any of it. Without it I wouldn’t have the lovely and talented Duglimar and the delightful little Rachell in my life. But those early and middle years bear no resemblance to the Venezuela we escaped from this year.Here’s what I’m talking about.

 My time there was,for the most part, almost idyllic. I used to love swimming laps in our gorgeous pool,watching the iguanas wander by, and maybe enjoying coconut water from a fresh off the tree coconut.Well, I had to give up swimming laps due to the lack of chlorine. The pool guys substituted copper sulfate and it turned my blonde hair green, I mean really green.Then, over time, I began to see fewer and fewer iguanas until seeing one was a rarity. The workers were eating them because they couldn’t afford to buy food. The coconuts disappeared as well for the same reason.

 In another food related observation, I used to see our security guards making the rounds and they would look in our in-ground trash receptacles for large water bottles for their beverages and to make ice, which they could sell. As time went by they weren’t looking for water bottles anymore. They were looking for food! FYI, they were all getting really skinny…. like Somalia skinny. (remember the “Maduro Diet”)

 Another enjoyable part of life there was the fantastic open air grills. I loved relaxing in the evening,enjoying my platter of grilled meats, and just watching the locals do … whatever the locals do. Eventually that went away because it wasn’t safe to go out at night.

 I had a very comfortable routine for years. So much so that I limited myself to one beach day a week so I wouldn’t turn into a fat and lazy beach bum. I could jump in my car,drive up and over the mountain, be treated to some spectacular views, and on to my favorite beach. At my favorite beachfront restaurant I could get a toldo (two lounge chairs,table,and umbrella) and spend my day having whatever I wanted brought to me right there in the sand. Between the eating and drinking I would swim and watch the tourists strolling up and down the beach along with the ubiquitous beach vendors.Very pleasant. Then in one fell swoop the Chavistas came in and demolished my favorite place along with all the other beachfront restaurants. It was supposedly for a new development the government had planned that would enable the beach to be enjoyed by more people. Years later there was still nothing there. Thousands of people depended on that beachfront to earn a living for themselves and their families. My guess, there was a development planned and whoever the international partners were demanded the Chavistas demolish all those shops and restaurants before they would move forward with their plans along with their Chavista partners. Then all the money for the development somehow went missing, as is common in almost every Chavista partnership, and the investors,or at least most of them, pulled the plug.

 At least I had an option. My Venezuelan brother opened a place down the shoreline from there because it was adjacent to his posada (boutique hotel) and was therefore allowed. It was an excellent plan B and after a few months of construction I was back to enjoying my day a week at the beach.Little did I know that my day a week was in jeopardy as was my mobility in general. When Juan Guaido burst onto the political scene it wasn’t long before the Maduro regime got a lot more aggressive which meant the control points scattered about became more aggressive. The somewhat casual shakedowns at these control points (I used to laugh about them) were now an actual threat to my safety. On the advice of my Venezuelan brother, who I trust completely on all things Venezuela related, it wasn’t safe for me to drive anymore. All it takes is for things to go sideways at a control point and in an instant…it’s over! Whenever I could I would have Duglimar take me out there or my bro would pick me up and his wife would bring me home but it was never the same.I also now needed rides everywhere else. My quality of life,especially convenience wise,was taking a nose dive.

 Oh well, at least I still had the beach right in front of my condo right? Well, no. What used to be a quieter alternative for me was no longer safe. You could get robbed in broad daylight. The robbers were starving and getting brazen. And speaking of brazen, how about that time I was in my local grocery store and heard a loud bang outside. Turns out a guy got shot right across the street.

 I knew things had really taken a turn for the worse when my favorite breakfast cereal disappeared. Special K had been a staple in Venezuela for as long as I had been going there.It was kinda’ cool. In the US we had sports stars on Wheaties boxes, in Venezuela we had beauty queens on Special K boxes. Then, like everything else, it was just gone. It’s a little thing but it’s emblematic of everything else in the country. Everything that was a constant just went away.

 Eventually it even had an effect on our landscaping. I started noticing a more than usual amount of trees being cut down on our grounds as well as stands of these bamboo-like things. When the gasoline shortages got bad so did the propane gas situation which most Venezuelans use for cooking. No wonder they were taking everything from our grounds they thought they could get away with to cart home for their fires.

 Then,as we discussed in our Down The Rabbit Hole segments on “Just The Basics” the power outages became more frequent and of longer duration as did the water problems.That was when it was time to go although we would have to wait over a year because of coronavirus. While we were biding our time and in survival mode another staple of life in Venezuela went away. DIRECTV pulled out of Venezuela impacting almost everybody. Talk about adding insult to injury. It took three months before there was a replacement TV service.

 There are many things I’m sure I’m missing in this recounting of how Chavismo impacted my existence in Venezuela but I don’t want to beat a dead horse (in Venezuela they would eat it). Just like the country as a whole, little by little the Chavistas ruined everything that was good and enjoyable in my life there, except for my Venezuelan family. Most of my problems there were what I refer to as high class problems,in short, they were not life threatening and I had the means to adjust,survive, and ultimately to get the hell out of there. For most Venezuelans there are no options and it gets worse every day.

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