Going south, deep in the red, yet surviving

The liquidation of my sorta-hometown bookstore today brought mixed feelings.

I’m sad to see a place that I visited so often go down in flames. But on the other hand, capitalism is like that. Businesses thrive and fall, creative destruction allows for new enterprises to prosper on the ashes of old ones, and mankind somehow progresses. If it wasn’t like this we’d all still be watching Betamax.

That bookstores are going the way of the Dodo is a fact of the world. The world, that is, beyond Venezuela’s borders.

Witness the thriving chain of Venezuelan bookstores called Librerías del Sur. The stores are everywhere, from La Grita to Puerto Ayacucho, from Maracaibo to Altamira.

In case the name doesn’t give it away for you, the chain is owned – and heavily subsidized – by the State.

In it, you will find an assortment of left-wing propaganda and discussion books, as well as a complete treasure trove of chavista apologetics.

It wasn’t surprising to see them well stocked with many copies of the anachronistic The Chávez Code, but other titles simply left my head scratching.

Want some literature for your kids? Well, prominently featured is “Los hijos de Fidel,” by Domingo León, a collection of short stories told from the lap of the octogenarian dictator himself.

Interested in economics? Have a shot at “Buenos Muchachos,” by José Natanson, a detailed exposé of neoliberal economists.

This last one piqued my interest, and I quickly flipped through it, curious to see which of my friends was being trashed. Imagine my disappointment when I realized both the book and its many subjects focused on Argentina.

I’m no marketing genius, but a detailed account of the many foils of Domingo Cavallo and his team strike me as being of little interest to readers in Upata.

The bookstore is a barren wasteland, both in terms of the literature and in terms of customers. Witnessing what Monteávila Editores’ collection has been reduced to depressed me. The tired face of the cashier almost made me suicidal.

And yet, it’s thriving. By my counts, there are 48 of these stores scattered in each and every state. And you can bet not a single one of these is profitable.

Someone should have told Borders CEO Mike Edwards that one way to save his chain was to sell his soul to the sugar-daddy of the South, and become a sort of ideological and literary Citgo, peddling left-wing rubbish deep in the heart of the empire. I’m sure Ann Arborites would have been thrilled.

Maybe then he could have saved the 10,000 jobs being lost today.

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