Off The Rails

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Quico says: Sometimes, you have to take your hat off to the sheer audacity of chavista officialdom in full larceny mode. Say what you will about them, but when the time comes to think up corruption-hotbed-moneypit-boondoggles, these guys think big. I mean, really: 5% cuts on public employee insurance contracts are so Fourth Republic.

Even by their standards, though, the latest presidential brain fart raises the bar. Together with his Argentine counterpart, a Venezuelan government spokesmen recently announced plans to spend $9 billion on a 6,200 Km. railway between Caracas and Buenos Aires.

With a straight face.

That’s nine zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero dollars; enough to buy every man, woman and child in Venezuela a Nintendo Wii.

Oh and, did I mention? The train can’t go through Brazil: Lula’s not on board.

Where to even start? Maybe with the patently, almost embarrassingly, obvious: it’s never gonna happen. You are never going to board a train in Venezuela and disembark in Argentina.

Think about it. If the (by comparison, dead simple) scheme to run a gas pipeline from the Caribbean through Brazil into Argentina foundered on the shoals its own technical and financial inviablity, this far more complex, far less economically sensible project just doesn’t stand a chance.

I mean, lets review the bidding here. We’re talking about a government that, in ten years, hasn’t even managed to finish the four lane highway covering the couple of hundred kilometers of flat coastal plain between Caracas and Puerto La Cruz, a government from a country with a grand total of 41 kilometers of active passenger railways, somehow getting it together to build and electrify tracks over thousands of kilometers of dense rain forest, zero-rainfall deserts, some of the world’s tallest mountains, two imperialist-lackey-run countries and a war zone.

The chasm between capabilities and ambitions here is so psychiatrically off the charts, it feels faintly ridiculous to go through the detail of it.

So what are we really looking at here? What we’re looking at here is a form of corruption so audacious, so unencumbered by any sense of restraint, that it simply refuses to make any of the usual concessions in the general direction of keeping up appearances.

Thing is, the bigger the contract, the bigger the cut, and if you’re serious about taking your embezzlement to the next level, the only way forward is to pitch bigger and bigger projects with bigger and bigger price tags and less and less concern with verisimilitude.

Your great fortune, however, is that you find yourself pitching these transparently unworkable plans to a guy whose ego long since burst its banks, a guy who loves nothing more than a transparently unworkable project to embody his increasingly unhinged sense of historical import. The kind of guy who hears “$9 billion…6,200 km…six countries… Andes… Atacama… Amazon” and instead of calling in the men in white lab coats to pack you off to an insane asylum thinks “hmmmm, I like it!”

And so another batch of boli-millionaires is created on our dime, another chunk of the oil bonanza is tossed into the pyre, and the obscene parade of revolution ambles forward toward its next bout of narcissistic-lunacy-cum-quotidianity.

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