Off the beaten path

I'm here for your safety

Just a quick post on two interesting things I read today, from a couple of blogs that deserve more traffic.

First off, Off the Wire has an excellent piece on “El Vigilante,” or to put it in criollo terms, “El Guachimán.” Its author, Brian Pablo, an expat journalist who recently moved from Rio to Caracas, focuses on the security guards, those ever-present characters of daily life in Venezuela. The money quote:

“Whenever something goes wrong, the first one they blame is the vigilante,” said the security guard at my mother-in-law’s lower-middle-class gated community after a house was robbed a block away. The kid’s got a technical degree and trying to finish highschool but he can’t get his studies done while on the job. My in-laws get along well with him and his coworkers, taking them food on holidays and cracking jokes on the way in and out of the gate.

That’s not the usual relationship. In one apartment I lived in, the landlord was shocked when I asked him to leave the key with the security guards. “With those criminals? Are you crazy?”

In looking for pictures, I stumbled on a less romantic vision of guachimanes in the dormant blog Cagá e país.

Another interesting piece on PDVSA and Exxon is in Harvard Prof. Noel Maurer’s blog, The Power and the Money (HT: Setty). I don’t know why the author knows so much about Venezuela, but hehas some interesting things to say. The money quote:

Exxon received from PDVSA what it was contractually entitled to get. The standard used by the ICC was the market value of the assets, not book value. The assumptions used to calculate that market value, however — chief among them estimates of the expected future price of oil — were limited by a clause in ExxonMobil’s 1998 association contract that effectively put a ceiling on the value of the company’s investment.

Is a thank-you card coming soon to Luis Giusti’s mailbox? Perhaps an e-card? I think he’s earned it.

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  1. “La culpa es del vigilante…”
    In my last visit to Caracas, the first one with my canadian husband, he was amazed at the hard posts we had to go through when going to visit people, not only in Caracas but in Margarita as well. It was something he just couldn’t understand.
    The “vigilantes” have turned into something so normal for venezuelans that nobody questions anymore why we have them in first place.

    • This whole vigilante thing is interesting. What strikes me is how, with all the car theft and car-jacking in venezuela, and things like “getting towed” by the “transit police” (i.e. what might be described in my country as some variant of theft/car-jacking/kidnapping and/or extortion), people nevertheless just throw their car keys to some unknown guy standing outside a restaurant, shop etc, confident that the car will be there at the end of the evening, as it was before, and with all of its contents. Or engage some complete stranger on a street corner to watch the car for some random sum to be paid after the fact (i.e. pocket change for not stealing the Peugeot during lunch). It strikes me as a strange anomaly. In a place where you can lose your car (and everything else) through the simple act of obeying a red light at an intersection after dark, where you can’t go into a bakery but there’s a guy guarding the pan de jamon with a gun, where the authorities treat crime with indifference (except where they are the direct or indirect beneficiaries of it), where insurance appears to be treated by a good chunk of the car driving population like some kind of optional accessory- like a sun roof- venezuelan car owners nevertheless regularly and without the slightest hesitation hand over their vehicles to complete strangers to perform the service of…parking.

  2. OT – following the links in the post, I saw the governments video about “Ahora twitter es de todos”. I had not seen that one but it’s worth commenting, just as we did with LL’s cartoon.
    It has so many stupidities that I am not sure where to start: maybe at the title itself?: “Now twitter is everybody”s”, like if Chavez nationalized twitter when he opened his account?


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