"Nos fueramos quedao con las contratistas"

Juan Cristóbal says: – (Note: An anonymous reader gives us a first-hand impression of what is going on in the eastern shores of Lake Maracaibo after Chávez nationalized most of the local economy – see here for background).

The situation is dire. Ciudad Ojeda, traditionally a city with lots going on, looks like a ghost town. There are few cars out on the street, few people in the local banks. Friday the 8th of May, the day everything was nationalized, right before Mother’s Day, they were practically empty. This past weekend, end of the month, there were fewer than 20 people in each of the three banks I went to. Normally, these are so crowded that ATMs drop out of the network due to congestion.

Everyone owes everyone else. Yesterday, during the protests, local TV showed a few people saying “Nos fueramos quedao con las contratistas” … “we should have stayed with the contractors.” Another said, “I support 12 people, my wife, my children, my parents, and I haven’t been paid in three weeks. I want to be paid so that I can at least sell Panorama in traffic lights.”

(Translator’s Note: In Zulia, people refer to “newspaper” as “Panorama”, the name of Maracaibo’s leading daily)

My students at the University are terrified – they are being affected, either directly or indirectly. Their parents either work in some of the expropriated companies, or in the services sector that is seeing their customers disappear. Many of them are on scholarship and believe at any moment the state government will stop paying them. Two former students who are doing their internships and dissertations in some of the expropriated companies were literally crying to me yesterday, not knowing what to do because PDVSA won’t acknowledge the work they have done, and if the employer doesn’t validate their work, the University won’t deem it sufficient to graduate.

Two students told me yesterday about how workers haven’t been paid since Chávez took over. Another one told me his father made BsF 4000 a month (about US$700 at black-market rates), and now he will struggle to reach BsF 1500. The few that got paid were paid roughly the same, BsF 340 for the first week with PDVSA, and they weren’t paid on Friday as is customary but the following Wednesday. Private clinics don’t want to see them because they don’t have anything to pay with, drug stores won’t fill their prescriptions for the same reason, and the latest rumor is that Chávez is going to take over the region’s three private clinics in retaliation.

Many service boats have burnt-out engines, other have been “cannibalized” in order to sell the spare parts. Many boats haven’t been out yet because PDVSA has not complied with the customary logistics (water, ice, food for employees, etc) and the workers refuse to board.

The picture is bleak.