Crab Lice Chronicles


Over on The New York Times, Simón Romero schools the nation on the horrors of Queue Culture, Caracas-style (and sends some love Juan’s way while he’s at it!)

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  1. Gotta love how the tone of the article tells it about the Venezuelan people. Stomp us and trample us, but you’ll never break us.

      • But that’s because they don’t know any better!

        Sure, some of us still complain at the ridiculousness of it all, but that’s because we have seen how it is in other places. To the great majority of venezuelans this is the only way, and they might as well be happy with it instead of grow bitter over a system that’s the only one they know.

  2. The Venezuelan Sociology of Lines is just plain sad. People that talk this way should be sent on a foced Shopping Trip to Cúcuta.

    Do a supermarket, a bank, a Restaurant and a gas-station.

    And let them figure out that the nice thing is to spend your time choosing the goods and services you actually need and want to acquire.

    These are the same people that you see with an air of exhilaration as they walk the isles of your average supermarket when they travel out Of Venezuela.

    Somehow in their distorted reality we Venezuelan’s can’t or are not supposed to aspire to that plentyfullness. I wonder why ?

    Why can Colombians ?

    Why can Brazilians ?

    Why can Mexicans ?

    Why can’t Venezuelans ?

    • I agree. I don’t know who these people are who think “la cola” is part of being Venezuelan. Nobody enjoys this.

      • I am not so sure… In my visits back to Venezuela I find that people at some level actually enjoy the cues. For example, go to the airport and people stand in the cue waiting to check-in for hours and hours before the counter actually begins to work. This only exacerbates the cue as by the time you get there (the 2-3 hour that has become the standard everywhere else) you find that 30 people are already there.

        When I tried to get a cédula a couple of years ago, we had to get there at 6 AM for a 10 AM appointment and a good 15 people were already there. I could give more and more examples, but I must say that Venezuelans do love their “colas”

      • You should have a post about Santo’s 2nd Legislature opening speech. Compare it on focus for social development and poverty reduction peso x peso with Esteban’s.

    • Unfortunately Venezuelans have not yet started to migrate in massive numbers, and returning. When that happens, there will be experience of a different world.

  3. I took a friend visiting from Boston to Margarita and we took the ferry, which had a reputation for being the mother de todas las colas. I hope it is different now a days. Anyhow, he was hating the whole experience till somebody tried to cut in line many hours into the ordeal. El bravo pueblo started the classic “cola, cola, cola” and he joined in with bravado and had the time of his life.

    • Be careful with your friend in Margarita. Los malandros se mudaron pa’ alla también.

      Do not miss Macanao, Las Arepas de Los Hermanos Moya close to El Tirano, Cachapas, Cocadas, and Empanadas at the beach.

      Hope you get lucky with the Electricity rationing.

  4. There’s a historical reference to a simpler time, which was little better, in the ordeal of Erna Ferguson in Simon Romero’s article.

    For all we carry around about following irrational American customs and wanting to imitate the U.S. of A…

    Here it is, Venezuela historically instituted the tradition of bureaucracy typical of Europe (French, Spanish or maybe Italian, who knows), and produced big fat folders (like those Ferguson probably had to carry) and long lines. Same situation today.

    Except that it is outdated. Europeans tired of it and left it in the wayside alongside totalitarian ideologies. Doing things in Europe (Even southern Europe) is much faster and simpler these days. Documents come in simple A4 sheets with a single seal, that you can actually get in an hour in any given morning. Unless you are an immigrant seeking renewal of an stay permit. These they make feel like they were thieves and stand in line. Possibly, they want immigrants to remember how it was in their country of origin, or for them to apply at the soonest for permanent residence and citizenship (joking!!!).

    The government/banks/others do not trust even your own ID documents or good faith and put the onus of proving that you are who you claim and that you have good intentions on your person, never mind that often they issue the documents you take to them and seal them. Not that this will stop corruption or fraud. Far from it. Not that in Venezuela anyone will be prosecuted for fraudulent documents. In fact fraud and corruption is the only way of getting certain documents as the offices in charge are non-functioning.

    Go on, tell me how European civil servants are more efficient and have computerized archives. I have seen it working in places where things are done by hand and where the procedure is not more efficient, it’s SIMPLER… Ah, it’s not a question of being more efficient. It’s a question of cutting the crap to a minimum. So even the least efficient of civil servants is constrained to process your request within the half hour. So even the least honest or amiable of persons will have no excuse to hang on unnecessarily to your request or deny it.

      • Analysis? What analysis? Where?

        I only need look at the document freaks that were handed me by the Venezuelan government after I duly registered them. Seven or more pages added, ribbons, ten or so tax stamps in pages of their own, seals everywhere, three or more signatures variously certifying each other to be genuine.

        Makes me think of documents, maybe issued by the King of France or Spain, or the Papa Re (Pope-King), and of all the corruption, and groveling to a secretary of a chamberlain, and long lines since the wee hours to get them. The only discernible evolution in modern day Latin America is that materials and travel are inexpensive enough in these days that it is actually feasible to force a peasant like me to waste time and money to procure the monstrosities.

        Then I make the comparison… with bureaucratic procedures and the documents obtained as a result in the developed world (including, specially Italy, Spain and France) to the same effect, that fulfill exactly the same function.

        I begin to feel dizzy… really I do. Then I formulate my wish to have no future dealings, ever! with Venezuelan authorities or any remotely similar.

    • Tell you where: Just go to Colombia.

      It is sad, but I wonder if there is any other country that is as bad in this as Venezuela, other than Cuba.

  5. This reminds me of my mother’s first impression of Venezuela during the 60’s and 70’s:

    “All they do is stand in line like sheep, and when they move, they move like sheep being herded”

  6. “Para poder discutir la sociedad en que se vive, es necesario antes ser capaz de discutirse a sí mismo.” graffitti del Mayo Francés de 1968.

    • Oh, definitely we do! We also have line vendors selling everything from photocopies to ices to drinks and snacks, and the lines are of course fertile grounds for “gestores”, as the fixers mentioned in the articles are called. I have always had a love/hate relationship with these gestores. On the one hand, who really wants to stand in line for hours, yet on the other hand, paying someone to “expedite” your needs rubs me the wrong way.

      Many times, one suspects that things are set up that way on purpose, and the functionaries for sure must be getting a cut from the gestores.

      The last time I had to renew my residency it was set up so that you could only hand in your paperwork in the afternoon, and you could only pickup your passport in the morning. So if you did it the right way you ended up wasting at least two half days. If it had been the other way around, you could theoretically hand over your paperwork in the morning and pick up in the afternoon, but nooooooooooooooooooooo! Not in Venezuela!

      Needless to say, there were plenty of gestores around. You could easily spot them if

      A) They were reading the “Gaceta Hipica” (Horse racing news)
      B) All the bureaucrats knew them by name (sorta like Norm on Cheers!)
      C) Had no credentials but went in and out of the “official” zone without so much as a “by your leave”.

      • “One suspects that things are set up that way on purpose…”

        Guess how many would hire the gestores if the procedure was fast and smooth! Have you seen “gestores” in public offices in the developed world (outside of immigration offices?). Yet another advantage of emigrating…

        “…and the functionaries for sure must be getting a cut from the gestores.”

        I’d bet Bolivares Fuertes against Gold Sovereigns on that.

        At least some fancy gifts (Scotch or the like) they get from the gestores. Else can you imagine our friendly government bureaucrats admitting strangers into off-limit areas? It’s difficult as it is for the general public to get to the areas where they are supposed to wait!

  7. It will continue this way only so long as the population tolerates it. When people adopt the concept that “time is money”, they can then view their time as a “scarce resource” that should be spent efficiently and wisely.

    In a society where there is an excess of personal time and labor, there will be little impetus toward improving the systems to save time. If Venezuela were to experience an economic boom which produced a labor shortage, then (and only then) would we see real effort to improve efficiency in the bureaucracy.

  8. Sorry to change subjects, but does anyone have any clue why the government would try to start an investigation against Capriles for fraud & corruption, only to render the decision to investigate him null and void the very next day?

    I get why they want to investigate him (and I assume they eventually will do so to try to eliminate him as a competitor), but this start and stop thing is a is crazy to me. I think it reminds everyone of the investigations Capriles had against him when he was mayor. In the end, the investigation made him look better and the government worse.

    • This is part of what I meant a couple of weeks back when I wrote that Chávez’s absence means instability for Venezuela. Nobody else in the chavista universe has the authority to dictate the party line (verb chosen carefully.) So with the guy undergoing chemo, you can expect a lot of these sorts of weird turnarounds as chavismo works out who (other than Chávez) has the right to set policy.

      Apparently, this guy Gerson Pérez was just playing in posición adelantada…

    • The thing I don’t understand is why no one, not even the folks who read and post in this blog, has raised a stink about the fact that the antejuicio has been called off BECASUE MR. PEREZ DOES NOT BELONG TO THE PSUV!!!!!! WTF!!!

      • I understand your frustration, Roberto. I’m not Venezuelan, nor have I ever been. However, this particular issue is something that SHOULD be raised more than just a stink; absolute HELL needs to be raised!

      • My understanding is not that it was called off because he doesn’t belong to the PSUV, precisely; it was called off because he was not speaking in name of whom he claimed to be speaking, in this case the PSUV.

        • Extorres, so what? The request for an antejuicio has merit or doesn’t, whether you represent yourself, the PSUV or ASOPENDEJOS.

          • My understanding is that it does matter under Venezuelan law. Only certain people related in specific ways to a case can put them forth to the Supreme court, and that they must describe said relation very specifically for the case to be accepted.

            In this case, though, it was rejected on different grounds. Imagine that you put forth a case in name of PSUV. The supreme court would reject it right off the bat, merely because your document, however valid, is a fruit from a rotten tree.

            I think they wouldn’t accept a case from Batman, either, because he is not properly identified. And I think that if you present a case regarding my wrongful death, they wouldn’t accept it unless you prove that you were directly affected by my death.

            Screwy, I know, but they’ve been consistent that way.

    • He made the mistake of showing some intiative. Thinking on your own is a big no no in chavismo! Because he had waged dirty attacks on several people before he thought he could do one on his own. What a duffus!

      Of course it’s also the TSJ’s fault. They just saw his name and figured it was ok, that he had permission. I mean, what’s so hard about picking up the phone and calling the Situational Room in Miraflores?


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