The Americas Quarterly Review


Hey! Our book just got a very generous review by the WSJ’s José de Cordoba in Americas Quarterly. Check it out

The authors may be unashamedly anti-chavista, but they are unsparing in their analysis of the opposition’s foibles, mistakes and painful triumphs. The book, like the blogs that inspired it, is a labor of love. One hopes that Venezuelans, and everyone else interested in the fate of the country, will continue to be served by the entertaining and insightful dispatches of Caracas Chronicles.

And if you haven’t yet, now’s as good a time as any to, y’know, get the book.


  1. Congratulations to both of you.
    Juan, your post on cubazuela (and commentary — especially that welcoming new chavista “Judy Lynn”) is priceless. I’m really sorry it didn’t get into the book, perhaps the next time.

    • Oh, it’s in the book, it’s just that De Córdoba didn’t mention it. It was one of those posts that I had forgotten about, only to re-read it in the process of putting the book together. It’s one of my faves (modestia aparte).

  2. Congratulations, guys.

    OT: I ran across the twitter feed from Mugabe’s Party in Zimbabwe. If you read through them, you will find them totally bizarre, but not different in kind from some of the crap we get from the PSUV. Anyway, I thought one of you might be able to do something with it.

  3. The De Cordoba review is well-deserved. Featured are two FT observations that I think are key to understanding Venezuela’s current predicament: 1)”Breaking the Petrostate as a social system is child’s play compared to…breaking the Petrostate as an idea.” Basically, the Communist philosophy/political system fails, among other reasons, due to the inability to comprehend that there is not enough financial capital, which, even if mathematically evenly-distributed, to make all citizens of any given country, much less the world, feel comfortably satisfied/well-off. And, Venezuela, in real money terms, has nowhere near the financial capital of most Western democracies, even though the illusion persists, among virtually all strata of Venezuelan society, that Venezuela is a “rich” country; 2)J. M. Briceno’s “savage” discourse from …”wounds left by the Spanish conquest and African slavery… ” which, in effect, are still (genetically-culturally) felt today by the millions which Chavez manipulated into his hard-core base, which millions see…”Western rationalist critique common to most (Oppo) as profoundly oppressive”, and is why, I believe, this base, in spite of many day-to-day hardships (inflation/crime/insufficient income-job opportunities/ high real unemployment/lack of sufficient basic education-medical-infrastructure services, etc. etc.) have not yet changed political affiliation or rebelled publicly.

    • NET, perhaps what people mean by “Venezuela is a “rich” country” is as simple as asserting that other countries do not have Venezuela’s riches.

      • According to the US Energy Intelligence Agency If we extrapolate Venezuelas oil income from the 1st semester of 2013 , we get a per capita oil income of close to US$ 1.800 for the whole of 2013 (lower than the figure for 2012) , the equivalent of US$ 150 per month or 950 Bs per month ( at the official rate) . Because we now export nothing but oil , this gives us an idea of how notionally rich or poor we are. Much of this income of course gets wasted or stolen or given away to friendly allies so that only a trickle of this income ever gets to the pockets of ordinary venezuelans . .

        • If only those facts were better known; they’d deflate delusional notions. Also required — for perspective — are the future costs of extraction of “las reservas más grandes del planeta” (Capriles dixit — repeatedly).

          • Kepler, no, I’m not suggesting those things. I’m only suggesting that some people may see Venezuela as a rich nation merely because it is rich in natural resources. Does your reply imply that you believe no one sees it that way?

          • I typed “define rich” in Google search and got:
            “rich …
            “2.(of a country or region) Having valuable natural resources …”

          • Yes!!! Congo is very rich of course, people are making heaps on money exploiting their mines. Ex. Dan Gertler. Actually there is much chance to become a millionaire in Congo than in Germany. Same thing in Venezuela, the connections the corruptions etc. The difference between Germany and Congo is their culture, people and their government. So in that regards I agree with Torres, the possibility to transfer that natural richness and make it into $$$$ is there. The problem is the corruption obviously. That has been Torres predicament since I have reading him, how to bypass the richness to the people without the corrupt and inefficient hand of the government. But Congo is no Bangladesh, Congo have all the possibilities in the world to be a very rich country, with everything working, all kind of services and you name it just like Venezuela. We could invest. The problem is their corrupt government and perhaps lack of tradition how to make things work. Lack of vision from their governments too who want to make easy money and become dictators instead of transfer it to the population. Like Venezuela.

            And like Congo, Venezuela took foreigners to come and see the possibilities.

            I do understand NET what he said about the savage discourse, obviously it’s there and that’s why we r not a developed country right now. But the potential is there.

            So both arguments are partially right, Net and Torres.

          • Read Jared Diamond’s work (Guns, Germs & Steel, for instance).
            Try to understand a little bit of what education processes happened in Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance and how that did NOT happen in Venezuela.

            As longas the so-called elite thinks in feudal terms, we are not moving. It is beyond “la cultura de ese pueblo que tenemos y de la chusma”

          • Kepler, the problem with your argument is that you are trying to think Venezuela as it is part of Europe, I assume that’s why you r mentioning a book you are not caring to tell why you those European educational process during the middle age and the renaissance are important to this conversation. Many things happen in that time, care to point out what part of that process fit in this discussion.

            Your little uppity tone of “trying to understand” like you are an scholar and nobody is up to your level is not gonna fly with me darlin’. If you want to have a discussion with me tone the level down and keep it to the arguments. You are mentioning a book, but as usual you are not getting to the specifics on why it’s important.

            You remind me of people who on a conversation like to “name dropping” to make sure people know he/she knows people.

            I don’t get your “la cultura de ese pueblo y de la chusma” can you elaborate?

          • feathers, thank you. I like your world view. I’ll just point out that I did not disagree with NET; I merely pointed out that perhaps it’s not that people disagree with NET, just that they may be using a different meaning of rich. I think even the majority of those who say Venezuela is rich would agree with what NET put forth. If I were a betting person, I would even bet that NET understood my point the first time around.

  4. Using the same US EIA source mentioned above , the rounded up figures for other Opec countries are : US$42k Quatar, US$24k Kuwait, US$14.5K UAE, Saudi Arabia US$8k, Lybia US$6k, US$Angola 4k , Iraq US$2.3k . Venezuela at US$ 1.8K per capita oil income is higher than only two other Opec countries : Nigeria and Algeria .

      • To my knowledge there are no statistic on the “value” of oil reserves in different countries because each oil deposit will have a variable value depending on the specifc quality and properties of the oil , the percentage of the oil in situ which can be extracted ( somehing which itself depends on the technology which can be used to extract it at different stages of its exploitation ) the ease and cost of producing , transporting, proessing it and selling it to the different consumer markets etc. There are only statistics on the “volume” of oil which is estimated to exist in each country . For example if the deposit is of extra heavy crude with high metal content at low depthts the cost and difficulty of allowing for its extraction , transportation and ultimate marketing are bound to be high which reduces the value of the in situ oil because the party exploiting it has to make a very large investment to make it into something saleable and profitable . If in contrast the oil is light or medium without too high a sulfur and metallic content easy to extract at hight percentages and not very costly to produce transport process and sell at the best priced markets then the value of the oil deposit rises .

          • Yep, on a per capita basis we are on the list of countries with the highest volumetric reserves after Kuwait, Quatar , UAE , Saudi Arabia and Lybia . Their oil of course is light to medium , ours is for the most part heavy and extra heavy , Still on an absolute purely volumetric terms we are at the top of the heap.

          • Vol/capita, I have us at rank 4:
            Country; Population; Oil Reserves MM; Barrels per Capita
            Kuwait; 2,646,314; 111,500; 42,134
            UAE; 5,314,317; 97,800; 18,403
            Qatar; 1,951,591; 25,382; 13,006
            Venezuela; 28,047,938; 297,571; 10,609
            Saudi Arabia; 26,534,504; 265,405; 10,002
            Libya; 5,613,380; 48,014; 8,553

            If we did the same type of calculation for carbon deposits, bauxite, gold, etc., we’d find Venezuela in an enviable ranking position of natural resources. It is the enormous discrepancy between Venezuela’s potential and its reality that is so tragic, but there is a clear validity to the claim that Venezuela is a rich country, based on natural resources.

          • You ve hit the nail in the head , rich in natural resources dont make us economically rich only potentially rich to the extent we have the capacity to exploit that natural wealth and make good use of it , Until we learn to do so we remain “a pauper sitting on a pot of gold” i.e: Poor !!

          • Most Venezuelans think like you, Extorres: that Venezuela is somehow rich because of the natural resources or potentially so.
            Venezuela is a bit like Congo.

            Germany is rich. Switzerland is rich. Norway’s oil is more of an accident than anything else. It is a tiny hedge over Sweden or Denmark but that is about it and only because Norway’s population is so tiny.

            Only when the State can guarantee a real educational revolution and the land property situation stops being feudal will we have a chance.

          • Until a country has economically feasible access to the full gamut of its natural resources, and this includes viable transportation to distribution points…
            Until a country can EXTRACT and PRODUCE its full gamut of natural resources…
            Until a country can ensure that a good portion of that production goes towards developing and enriching goods and services for its population…
            Nationals of that country are delusional to think that their country is rich.

            There’s more…. If certain nationals of that country go around saying that their country is rich, when the above conditions have not been met, there is the danger that the delusion of riches becomes ingrained in the country’s national psyche. That has happened in Vzla. And it is DESTRUCTIVE. For, it creates an Alfred E. Neuman condition (What, me worry?) that does not propel energies forward in a clear-headed and systematic manner. There’s always that “Hey, we’re rich” veneer to fall back on, which is a completely false premise.

            My 2 cents.

            P.S. The Canadian Arctic has untold wealth in its natural resources. But since a great many of these resources are undeveloped, as are the goods and services to the small populations in this vast territory, one would have to be delusional to consider the region as rich. In fact, there is great poverty in the region.

          • syd, you’re right. I’ve heard some people claim that they are poor because they have zero income. They may live in an 8 million dollar house, which they own, but they consider themselves poor. In fact, because they have no income, they penny pinch here and there, even to eat. I can see why they consider themselves poor, but I can also see why someone else could consider them rich. The terms rich and poor depend greatly on the measure used.

            In Venezuela’s case, I can see why you consider Venezuela poor, and I even understand the pragmatics behind making the claim in those terms, and the detrimental effect expressing otherwise could cause. The question is, can you see why someone else would still *validly* claim Venezuela is rich? I can. Heck, Kepler even accepts that most people see it this latter way. I can see even see other uses of the terms rich and poor regarding Venezuela. That’s all. No biggie.

          • Kepler:

            1) I have not stated how I think, Kepler. Just because I am putting forth the possible explanation for someone holding the position that Venezuela is a rich country does not establish my position.

            2) You talk about education, but when I put forth a simple argument based on a simple definition out of a general dictionary you refuse to accept that the argument is valid. Aren’t learning how to use a dictionary and accepting statements based on its definitions things that would be taught in the educational revolution of which you speak?

            billl bass:

            1) NET suggested that those who thought Venezuela is rich are wrong to think so. I suggested that they may think so merely based on its reserves of natural resources. Your arguments seem to pull towards the individuals (e.g., with income per capita) whereas I’ve been emphasizing the country (e.g., with reserves). What is ironic is that in earlier exchanges you seemed to refuse to accept talk of Venezuela as referring to its people, yet now you seem to refuse to talk of Venezuela as referring to anything but its people.


            I have in no way implied that you are wrong to hold your position. I am merely pointing out that others are not wrong to hold their position, either. Even if I agree with you, I am open minded enough to realize that both “Venezuela is not rich” and “Venezuela is rich” are valid statements. If you consider yourself a rational person, then you’ve got to accept that someone make the latter statement without you cringing.

          • Extorres,

            It’s because I am beyond dictionaries, it is because I have contributed to the production of digital dictionaries ages ago and I am very aware of their inadequacies
            and I have discussed that and heard discussions about them so for so long, it’s because I have later worked on semantic technology and formal definitions, it is because I have worked on trying to get to compromises between a semantic, simplistic representation of reality and real, actual things, that I tell you: give me a break.

            You use such a primitive dictionary definition for such a complex matter as the wealth of a nation.

            Wealth is always a relative and highly complex matter.

            That definition you pointed at was good for the discussions I had with my mates at age 8. We should be over that at this point.

            I am telling you: Congo is chock-a-block with natural resources. Switzerland is not.

          • But Kepler you are the one dissecting Torres comments to a basic level, yes becoming a rich nation is a complex issue, Torres have a point as you have one as well.

            For countries like Venezuela and Congo, Western developed democracies haven’t being the best choice, partly because they are not real democracies, and the level of corruption. Might as well have somebody with vision to see the possibilities, like the Al Saud Family, who I have no sympathy for, or the Qatar emir, or the emirs from the UAE who have been able to transfer the oil wealth to their countries. I mean you can say everything you want to say about their religion and their middle age ruling (which as a western woman I don’t agree), but they are rich countries, I would say.

          • Kepler,

            I made a simple statement with which, as you pointed out, *most* people would agree, that people may be saying that Venezuela is rich because of its riches. Your reply is that you are above the “childish” level of that stance, beyond that “primitive” general language usage, and you want me to give *you* a break?! High horse much?

          • I repeat: wealth is a relative term. That definition is utterly simplistic and I think most people with some inkling of economy might agree.
            Even in the Ancient world a country having gold under its soil was not precisely rich. Rich was the country that could control such gold. It could do it only – only – by having an advantage in terms of organisation – thus education at some level.
            Case: Egyptian Empire versus Nubia. The same thing applies now…and much more so.

            The broken glass Spaniards gave to native Americans in exchange for pearls and gold were worthless until the moment of contact – because of the differences in value systems and information.
            And that is more so today.
            Sure, people in common talk say someone is rich if he has at a given moment gold or they say he is intelligent just because he repeated something he had learnt without analysing. That still doesn’t make it more correct.

          • Kepler,

            You don’t have to repeat about wealth nor about how you use the term “rich”. I get it.

            Here’s what you don’t get: If I were reading in another blog a person called Relpek saying that Venezuela is rich and that those people who say that Venezuela is not rich need to learn that Venezuela is rich, then I’d be pointing out to them that perhaps those who think that Venezuela is not rich are making that statement using the definition of rich based on wealth, which is a relative, and a complex topic. If Relpek insisted that the dictionary says that a country is rich if it has valuable natural resources so any other use is invalid, then I’d be pointing out that rich can be viewed differently and both positions are valid.

            The same way I would expect Relpek to accept your use of “rich” as a valid use, I expect Kepler to accept Relpek’s use, too. By the way, Congo is rich in culture, besides it other riches, wouldn’t you say?

            I’m surprised that with all your claimed involvement with dictionaries and definitions, it never quite sank in that some words have more than one meaning, you know, like my use of the phrase “sank in”…

  5. Queen Christina of Sweden was an italianate renaissance intellectual with catholic sympathies who ruled over a passionately anti catholic lutheran nation so that she was constantly facing a dilemma between revealing her innermost views and holding on to her crown . She had a ring made with a crown at the centre surrounded by the words “non me basta en non me bisogna” ( neither enough nor superflous) . meaning that she felt her crown as somehing she had to have but also as insufficient to sattisfy her inner yearnings . The same thing can be said of Venezuelas natural resources , we need them for our development but they are not enough to make us into the kind of country many of us want to live in . Ex torres appears to suggest that the crown is what matters most while kepler seems to take a view regarding those resources closer to Queen Christinas view of her crown. Its easier for me to follow Keplers view than Ex torres but there is of course justification for thinking that our natural resources are also important. May I suggest we all move on to discussion of other more productive subject such as that presented by Juan Nagels most recent blog on how top economist view the road to economic development .

    • bill bass, Holy moly. After all my explanations and the simplicity of the topic you still are so off in describing my view! Hint: Using your analogy, no, I am not saying the crown is what matters most. Skipping the analogy, no, I am not saying natural resources are enough.

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