Bye Bye Bucaramanga…

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high...
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high…

So the last few days at the ULibro book fair put on by the Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga were just awesome: Bucaramanga was a real revelation, and the fair itself was wonderful.

It was inspiring to see the drive, the energy, the intellectual ambition this little Andean university is able to muster. Real debate on real issues by real intellectuals, day after day, before packed houses full of eager students, put on by university leaders determined that “provincial” shall not rhyme with “mediocre”. It’s sad to say, but it’s impossible to imagine ULA, say, or even UCAB trying something on this scale.

And the city itself – for a Venezuelan with virtually no previous experience of Colombia – was hallucinogenic. It’s hard to know how to put it into words. So much of it is so familiar: the people, the cityscapes, the last names, even the accent wasn’t as alien as I’d expected. (Turns out Santandereanos don’t sound like Tachirenses at all.)

Yet, within this familiarity, so much of the bullshit that makes Venezuela insufferable these days is weirdly absent: everyone is unfailingly pleasant and polite. College kids go out to party at night with minimal concern about crime. Service standards are miles apart from the typical sour-faced-standoffishness Venezuelans have somehow come to accept as normal. Streets are largely free of the deep grime and squalor that now defines Venezuelan cities. That ever-present sense of menace that now pervades the urban experience in Venezuela is just…absent.

Plus, y’know, there’s the properly exotic shit such as just walking into any bank with pesos and walking out minutes later with dollars. It’s just weird out there!

I don’t know how to express it…it’s as though Colombia is the normalcy of which Venezuela is the fucked up dystopian alternate-universe version. They’re the same, but so, so different…

I’m on my way back to Canada now. BTW, my layover in Houston has been a hoot…


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  1. I remember taking a bus from Maracaibo across the border to Santa Marta as my girlfriend and I planned our move to Medellin (after a year in Venezuela waiting for her passport renewal). Her dad (a Chavista) told me “be careful over there, it’s just like here but worse”. He couldn’t have been more wrong. From the perspective of an American living in Venezuela at maybe the pinnacle of the Chavista’s legacy of failure I’ve always sensed that Colombia is now what Venezuela maybe once was decades ago.

  2. My parents took us several times to Colombia when I was a child in the late seventies, for shopping. I still remember how we would be extremely careful because of crime.

    Now my family has been there several times and they are amazed as how it has improved for the best. Even a couple of Colombians joked with them saying most thieves decided to move to Venezuela. A full blown Caraqueno friend “del Este del Este de Caracas” is happy working in Bogota as an engineer. That would have been incredibly strange 20 years ago.

    We got Maduro, though (Kepler running for cover, not a Tea Party-er, not one)

    • I would go to Barranquilla about 2x/year in the mid seventies to early 80s, when we lived in Caracas, as that is where my dad’s side of the family is from. As a small child in a well-off family, everything is idyllic and fun. And besides, Quilla was historically not as beset by the political violence seen in the other major cities. It certainly seemed a calmer place than Caracas at the time, though – it was there that the crime that wore my mom out of LatAm occurred. The last time I went, in 2004, to Cartagena, one memory that stayed with me was the convoy schedule in the paper for people who wanted to drive to the coast from Bogota. Those days are gone now, thank goodness. Going back to Quilla tomorrow, can’t wait.

  3. I visited Bucaramanga about ten years ago, and liked the city and the people immensely. At that time, though, there was a significant “death squad” presence in Santander, with the result that people in the university were scared out of their wits. This dampened debate.

    The paramilitary leader responsible for one of Colombia’s worst massacres, in nearby Barrancabermeja, announced that, though individual sympathy for the guerrillas could not be established, his murder of 36 young people at a local festival was justified because “The people we took came from the same social stratum as support the guerrillas”. This, too, had an effect on the willingness of many young people to participate in a free nightlife.

    It is really wonderful that things have gotten so much better in Santander, and in Colombia generally.

    • Yeah, I heard some pretty hairy stories about the bad old days, though people said the real problem was more like 15 years ago. There was this siege mentality back then, this sense that the guerrilla was just over the horizon, and any time you ventured out of the central core of the city you could be targetted. That stuff is a distant memory now – I heard a lot of older guys complain how “kids these days” have no idea what they went through back then.

      “Hoy día la violencia se siente lejos” is a phrase I heard again and again. People have a sense that it’s still out there, but now it’s a deep rural problem, it’s not breathing down their necks in town. In town, what people worry about are the usual things…traffic, the mayor being corrupt, and – this week – el paro.

      • Colombia is much better off security wise as much as it is painful to say because it came with human rights abuses. But the thing is that by remaing objective and not being seduced by approved tours you can actually understand a country not just what your prejudices predicted you would find.

  4. BTW this is the real Colombia today, the one lived by its citizens.

    National rural work stoppage

    I can’t say I am not smirking right now.

    • Funny thing about that…. so?

      Countries, from time to time, have a “work stoppage”.

      France seems to have them periodically, yet, I don’t think anyone would use that as an excuse that France is a generally bad country. Likewise, if you’ve been paying elsewhere, there’s been pseudo-work stoppageseses taking place in El Imperio. Albeit of the fast food variety as folks with a rather poor grasp of economics and few skills demand a 107% increase to their wages. Still, how many Venezuelans choose, or would choose had they the opportunity, to live in El Norte?

      You complain about human rights abuses by Colombia, and then bring up work stoppages. If the regime in Colombia was so very much a repressive entity, do you think the workers would be able to have these strikes?

      Or would they be punished somehow, like having their name included on a list and then persecuted by the government, and, say, forced from their jobs months later? Wouldn’t that be a repressive and abusive behavior?

  5. I’m glad you had a good time and that you weren’t affected badly by the strike! Fortunately it wasn’t nearly as bad in Bucaramanga as it was in Bogotá.

    I agree with you about how weird and interesting it is to see how similar and yet so different the two countries are. I’ve never been to Bucaramanga, I guess I’ll have to try and visit next time I’m in Colombia

  6. I visited Bogota two years ago and came back with the same impression. It’s only after you visit your neighbor when you get the perspective as to how bad things really are.

    On that same note, we had family visiting from Venezuela and they were AMAZED at the cleanliness and quality of, I kid-you-not, a bag of black beans. In Venezuela the norm is still that the bags are full of twigs, rocks and dirt. Pero tenemos patria…

  7. Despite what I know about the politics in Colombia and the actors there, at least on a national level, with great reluctance I admit having similar feelings passing through the place: it is like an inverted, hopeful, dynamic version of its neighbour, just with smaller arepas (I get a similar feeling sometimes going to the USA from Canada, on a less exaggerated level, with all of my misgivings about US politics and actors etc. etc.- it sometimes feels like somebody suddenly turned off the “mute” button). Those are feelings that need examination because of course there is a different story going on, which people like me don’t see. The experience would be much different in rural areas, most directly connected to the conflict. Or in a factory trying to unionize. Urban middle class life is a different story but not the half of it. But that is what the visitor sees, and it looks excellent by comparison to Venezuela. Ideas and an openness to the world, for starters. Relatively peaceful streets. A different level of civility in everyday interactions with strangers. Not all of this collective shrugging about lunacy. In urban Colombia I think: this is Venezuela’s way out. But then the rational side says: people who speak out get threatened or killed in Colombia a lot. Still. It is to a degree I am no expert on still in the grips of a past much darker than Venezuela’s.

    Do the tens of thousands of Colombians living in Venezuela sometimes think: when is it time to go back? that’s an honest question I have.

    • Possibly what struck me the most, politically, is that there is real debate about LAWS in Colombia. People actually discuss *legislative* solutions to actual problems. The Afro-Colombian activists in ULibro are a LOBBY GROUP engaged in the political process, pressing congress for action on a range of issues. Even the Comic Book publishers at ULibro had a legal strategy to obtain VAT excemptions for comic books, reclassifying them as “real books” in the process.

      There is, in Colombia – wonder of wonder miracle of miracles – AN ACTUAL OPERATING SEMI-OPEN POLITICAL PROCESS WHERE PEOPLE PRESS INSTITUTIONS TO PROVIDE ANSWERS TO THE PROBLEMS THEY FACE! Is it perfect? Very far from it. (The partido de la U’s main lobbyist told the comic book publishers for 150 million pesos they’d get congress to reclassify comic books as holy scripture, if that’s what they wanted!)

      But the process exists. People are able to engage in it. People do engage in it.

      Like I said, man, it’s WEIRD…

      • There’s engagement, no doubt about it, but then there are these kinds of responses to engagement:

        I would echo your observations about Colombia. I have those same observations. But I don’t have confidence in them (I’m talking about the observations, not the Colombians, or you of course). It is hard to say that things are better when there are still really bad things going on there.

        • In which connection, it’s worth reading Plinio Mendoza’s “Entre Dos Aguas”: a very adept Colombian author/journalist/poet, writing, inter alia but mostly, about the present times in Colombia. It seems to have more than one strong autbiographical thread in the whole loth of its narrative. If you’re ot there nor about to be, required reading, after a fashion, mine, anyway.

          • I think it is safe to make generalizations about the superior quality of certain aspects of Venezuelan cuisine.

    • This is something I think about a lot, and unfortunately my conclusion is a bit cheesy. I feel like the general “shittiness” in Colombia is very concentrated in a small group of people, while Venezuela has managed to spread it out a bit more equally. What I mean, urban Colombia seems great with relative safety and toilet paper and harina pan and dollars (all of which you can buy in the supermarket), but the people who truly have it bad in Colombia have it terrible. Just the millions of displaced people, the forcefully recruited minors, the kids killed and passed off as guerrilleros, the paramilitary massacres. Lining up for hours in Mercal is Beverly Hills compared to walking from el Chocó to Bogotá so that your family doesn’t get killed. I’ve said it many times, the “other” Colombia seems as foreign in Montreal or in Stockholm as it does in Bogotá.

  8. “Do the tens of thousands of Colombians living in Venezuela sometimes think: when is it time to go back? that’s an honest question I have.”

    NET immigration still flows eastward.

    • hate to feed the troll, but for what it’s worth -though I’m sure this would be very little in user Shame’s view- I am under the impression that most Venezuela-to-Colombia migration is made up of highly educated professionals while Colombia-to-Venezuela migration has historically involved poorer citizens… this being Latin America, it is obvious that one of this demographics is much larger than the other so it is of little value to just say ‘NET immigration still flows eastward’ and assume this somehow establishes one country to be generally more attractive than another.

      now, of course I’m not saying that someone is more or less valuable as an individual due to their level of education, but I find this difference between the education level and economic situation of migrants of both to be very telling of the current situation of each of these countries, as well as of the future they seem to be forging.

      • But you can train poor people, turning them into educated professionals, is not like we are trading one ton of gold for one ton of lead.

        The entire point is that for once in the oppo sphere could they ever be self aware enough to admit FOR ONCE that poor people in Venezuela have it better off than poor people in Colombia (or even Chile)? will that revelation break skulls en mass?

        I have no problem admitting that rich people are much better off in the more libertanian latinamerica. Even if the figures just show its either people fired from PDVSA, or just a handful of unverifiable anecdote.

        • Shame, what you don’t seem to realise is that Venezuelan poor in the sixties to eighties had it a lot lot better than Colombians then and now.



          The poor are given now a little bit more crumbles than during the nineties but much less than before 1988

          • 50’s and 60’s maybe, but not the 80’s, by then the rural to urban migration, Colombian migration, and high birthing rates had turned Venezuela into its inevitable conclusion that was the 90’s.

            Venezuela exploded demographically after the 50’s 6x in population when other countries barely register a doubling at best (Ven was smaller than Chile in 1950).

            Venezuela post 80’s is an entirely different country than Venezuela pre 80’s (Saudi Ven) and while Ven in the XXIst century is still closer to a post 80’s Ven (but not as bad anywhere), the illusion of a Saudi Venezuela not only came from high oil prices, but also 6x less people.

          • Addendum: I know that irony is lost over the internet, so I will just say this: Why, if population growth is so directly tied to living standards as you say, did Chavez not address that issue directly?

          • You are such a wicked Norwegian gringo! Of course our Comandante Eterno addressed the issue! He did that many times! You, evil you!
            I quote here from the Eternal Commandant:

            “Tú sabes, Venezuela ya está llegando a 30 millones de
            habitantes. Cuando nosotros nacimos, mi generación, creo que no llegábamos
            ni a 10 millones*, fíjate cómo ha crecido la población, y dentro de 20 años,
            dentro de 30, dentro de 40 años, es decir, en el 2050 Venezuela tendrá, con el
            favor de Dios, cerca de 50 millones de habitantes, esta tierra da para eso y
            para más, es una patria grande, ahora tenemos que seguir levantándola. Esto
            es vital, la producción de alimentos, vamos a mirar la sabana.
            Mira, la bandera de las veinte estrellas, la de mi general Zamora. Vamos a
            darle un aplauso a la Bandera revolucionaria.”
            Sarcasm off.
            Idiotic Chávez was basically taking the same position as his friend Akhmadinejad, who said Iran was a super power because it has so many people. Even if the caudillo was born in Los Llanos, he didn’t seem to know much about the geological restrictions that region imposes to settlement…and he knew absolutely nothing about sustainable development.

            * False: when Hugo I was born, there only about 5.5 million Venezuelans
            (Kepler dixit)

          • For once Shame is onto something , unchecked rapid population growth overwhelms the limited capacity of inept govts to deal with the problems of handling or managing collective or public tasks . Not that Chavez did anything about this problem or even understood it , but we might imagine what China would have achieved these last two decades if its population growht had not been arrested by the one child per family policy. The problem of unfettered population growth in Venezuela was even worse because it happened not among people who had the means to sustain themselves as a family but among the poorest , those living in an environment where the nuclear family had all but dissapeared to be replaced by largely disfunctional family groups of one poor mother having many children with many different mates none of whom would assumme responsability for her children , causing a breakdown in the social fabric of the poor and creating a mass of undernourished , underdeveloped , emotionally maimed individuals !!
            The perfect breeding ground for the resentments and infantile credulities that make Chavismo posible. !!

          • Bill,

            Chavismo not only did nothing to control the issue: at least if the will of Chávez was to be something, they wanted to have more and more people. It’s clear: they do not want to reduce poverty.
            Chávez dreamt of Venezuela with more than 50 million people! That’s crazy! And the stupid statement I hear all the time: Venezuela is big enough, look at Germany, etc!
            These people obviously do not know a thing or two about Venezuela’s geography. Most of the most fertile land Venezuela has now is full of cement, shanty towns, etc: it’s the Litoral de la Costa and valleys of Lara. The Llanos won’t be able to serve for settling too many people and the South much less.

            We also have a problem as some people within PJ are among the most conservative and abhor such things as proper sex education and the distribution of preservatives.

            Venezuela has one of the highest birth rates in Spanish America, save for Bolivia and Paraguay. It also has a particularly high percentage of teen age mothers.

        • I would say that it is easier to be poor in Venezuela than it is in other countries of the continent, just like someone with 100 deep cuts on their skin would be more comfortable in a vat full of morphine as opposed to a vat full of rubbing alcohol, but the truth is that both Venezuelan lower classes and the hypothetical victim in my analogy are just receiving treatment that makes their problems more bearable but don’t really treat their underlying condition; that is, while mass subsidizing via Misiones and the likes might make poverty more bearable, THIS IS ALL IT REALLY DOES instead of making it disappear (in fact, it perpetuates it).

          I believe that poor people are better off when they have an opportunity to rise from poverty into middle-class, something that I’m not really sure is the case in Colombia but I know for damn sure is almost impossible in Venezuela (at least within the confines of the law). I’m glad poor Venezuelans have a Cuban doctor that they can go to in case of an emergency but nobody in their right mind can say that this is better than having a decent public health system; I agree that underprivileged and uneducated lower income individuals can and should be trained to become educated professionals, and that it is the Venezuelan State’s responsibility to do so, but I fail to see this as the case in the last 14 years.

          Now, I don’t mean to be a pain in the ass but I must also disagree with your opinion that that rich people are much better off in the more libertarian Latin America… not only is Venezuela the country where it is easiest for a loose-morale wealthy individual to multiply their riches, but also the place where endemic corruption and lawlessness makes them almost untouchable to a point that would be unimaginable almost anywhere else.

          So, if I believe that the rich are better off and the poor survive more easily in Venezuela than elsewhere, who is it that actually suffers under Venezuela’s incompetent government? The middle-class that I belong to, all of us who try to get by earning an honest salary for a hard day’s work and find our savings decimated by high inflation rates and no access to more stable currencies, and find our lives constantly under threat from the rampant crime, and leave en masse to Colombia or Canada or Australia in most cases looking not for wealth, but for a real opportunity for ourselves and our children to experience quality of life.

          • There are two models , in one you distribute income and provide people with govt benefits in order to gain and retain their political support , in the other you create the conditions to foster economic growth and the creation of wealth and then proceed to create the conditions to democratize that wealth . The first model provides a short term paliative to the effects of poverty in the second you free people from poverty on a stable basis and give them a chance to develop into responsible and productive citizens . The first model goes by the name of clientelism and populism , the second has no given name but one might call it responsible government . in the second model whats most important is to give people an education or training that allows them to hold down a job and buy a home of their own or start their own business . An education or training , a home , a job are wealth . Distributing money or subsidised benefits is great for politics but destructive of a countrys future . If you are middle class in values and mentality you prefer the second model . If your are the victim of the brutalizing conditions of poverty through no fault of your own you will go for the first model , the one bringing you short term inmmediate benefits. the formula or populism and clientelism , the Chavista formula.

    • Actually, yes they do. I know many Colombians who have returned to Colombia bringing their Venezuelan wives. Almost of all of the Colombians have or are contemplating returning in spite of the money they make on official exchange remittances. Their main complaint is crime and quality of life.

      • I know of many who have gone back indeed. But more interesting fact, I know many (maids mostly) who stay here with their husbands, they have built their houses in Gramoven and La Dolorita – with the help of their patrons, not the gov- and don´t leave because they have their friends and relatives network here, and well paid steady jobs, steadier as more leave, and less want to work if they can find a suitable mision: BUT they are sending their children to their relatives in Colombia, were they are sure they will get a better education. Three of my friends are out of help this month because their muchachas are in la costa for the kid´s graduations.

  9. In 1992 I went to a conference in Colombia.It was hairy as were stopped by paramilitaries, and frisked before entering theatres.We were told not to open our car windows and stick our arms out when riding through Bogota because they might be chopped off.The vibe was heavy and I felt like kissing the Venezuelan soil upon return.

    Then 2 years ago, one of my husband’s bothers moved his businesses to Bogota and he and his family are now quite happy there.They still love Venezuela but cannot conceive of moving back.They claim to lack nothing, and are ecstatic about the lower crime rate than Venezuela .Their only complaints are:

    1They feel that it is way harder to make friends there.
    2. they hate the weather in Bogota

    I am looking forward to staying in their vacation house in Villa de Leyva.I never thought I would say something like this.

    I am pretty sure they will never go back to Venezuela.Too much fear.

  10. 22+ years ago I was in Colombia for a similar type of event in my field (physics). I got tear-gassed twice at the university gates and while I cannot complain about the hospitality of my Colombian friends, I can truthfully say I would not have wanted to live there. Today, many of my friends and former colleagues in Venezuelan academia have moved to Colombian universities and lead happy fulfilling careers.

    All of which leads me to conclude that there is hope for Venezuela. If Colombians, who are not all that different from us, can execute on a reversal of fortunes, so can we. So Quico, your post is actually a positive one.

  11. I had the chance to go to bogota this year and I was very impressed at the quality of their turistic sites I can say they are way above us regarding tourism promotion and the maintenance of the attractions, also they have a world class airport, their road infrastructure is not that impressive tough, I also saw that the colombians are very polite and almost everyone we talked to asked about the situation in venezuela. What I saw is definitely the way i’d like venezuela to be in the future

    • ” their road infrastructure is not that impressive”

      On behalf of everyone in Colombia I thank you for your kind words! Anything better than “they suck” regarding our roads is a compliment! Sadly, I’m not being sarcastic… But I’m glad you liked it!

  12. I visited Colombia about three years ago. It was everything Francisco says it was on his trip. Many Colombians asked me if I wasn’t worried about coming to Colombia because of the danger. I would laugh and explain that I lived in Venezuela. At that time, most of them were shocked when I described the current conditions. Now, I suppose everyone knows the truth about conditions in Venezuela.

    • Yeah I get that same reaction. I’ve been going between Florida & Colombia regularly for four years now since leaving Venezuela for the last time. Many Colombians in South Florida seem a bit unwilling to believe how much things have improved, understandable though. Venezuelans here seem to be a bit incredulous at Colombia’s improvement too but that seems to stem more from a general sense of superiority over Colombians and maybe an unwillingness to acknowledge it – present company excluded of course. I love adding fuel to that fire.. all you have to do is get a Venezuelan and a Colombian together in the kitchen, make the Venezuelan read the words Cundinamarca Colombia from the side of the Harina PAN package, then quietly exit stage-left.

  13. My husband worked in Colombia for two years in the mid 70s. We went everywhere, places our friends from Bogotá and Cali would not go -hell, we got stuck in a lonely dirt road in Rio Hacha for 3 hrs once- and loved it all. It deteriorated in the following decades, as everyone knows, but we kept going, even by car. Twice. As you have all commented, the recent years have seen la tortilla volteada, we are the poor ones, and our educated people want to move there.
    Granted, there is another side to the country, but progress doesn´t happen everywhere at once, it can slowly move from cities to rural areas. And it certainly doen´t happen destroying what was good in order to, sometime over the next 70 years when we´re all dead, make it better.
    Colombia is my hope, if they could, so could we. It´s all in the polititians hands: on their side, among other things, not to cave in in the conversations in Habana, on our side, well, it´s too long, but you know:

    • Paradoja, funny how time flies, isn’t it. The 70s were like yesterday but were 40 years ago! We were gringos growing up in Zulia and would drive up the Guajira peninsula to go into Colombia to market towns like Maicao, until some guy approached my dad and wanted to sell him drugs there. But we continued to visit Sinamaica, El Mojan and the beaches on the Venezuelan side of things, until things got so bad that we also stopped going there sometime in the 1980s. We made our last trip to Bogota in the mid 1980s, when we saw the bombed-out Palace of Justice, where at least a hundred people, including a dozen judges had been recently massacred during a siege. No one seems to talk about that incident anymore, how bad things really were, but it was palpable then, even to us as visitors, and the whole city was on some furtive edge. After that trip, the whole country became off-limits for us.
      In 2009 I made an unexpected trip to Cartagena. Imagine my pleasant surprise about the turn around there – it seemed so free, so safe, prospering and more importantly, everyone so happy! It was depressing going back to Venezuela, couldn’t believe it. Yes Quico weird out there.

  14. I was in Peru a few weeks back, in Lima visiting a friend and then for a week being a tourist in Cusco and the surrounding areas. I was very impressed by the country. Very safe, very good prices, clean (for latin america), and their tourism industry was pretty organized. Great food, of course.

    Venezuela has so much to offer in terms of tourism whenever it gets its act together.

  15. I live in Colombia people are nicer in the coast than in Bogota, being a professor of economic including colombian.Venezuelan specially middle class always take at poor look at other realities.Colombia is a very complex heterogenous country, fragmented and divided, Venezuelan immigrant live mostly in the north of Bogota , they do not known even the many slum in the south. Colombia has many problems including a very fragile economy 70% on commodities export more than 50 oil, develop mostly by Venezuelans,still poor people in rural areas and the coast see Venezuela as a place to get some free education and health, close to 80% of taxis I took in Barranquilla were chavistas because their family got something in Venezuela misiones , pensiones..Off course there is in large cities specially in Bogota and Medellin a large middle class trying to become modern living in a mostly premodern country. A big difference with Venezuelan as and Argentinian friend told me is that Colombians no se quejan..they just suffer in silence. Being a University professor, I don,t see now this develop intellectual world than you are talking about , may be because I worked in Europe , before and I see many but many shortcoming is every area. But I do see a want for change.I am the only PHD is a postgraduate department with 40 professor.I am not a patriotic person, I really not in the mood to make contrast between both countries which in my opinion are very different. Colombia is a very closed country only o,33 of her population is foreigner . Venezuela Close to 10 % not official data, if you include foreign born , first generation and second the total is between 35or 40% .By the way, the Venezuelan-Colombian community may be 6.4 millions that is born in Colombia plus their sons etc born in Venezuela ,a colombian colleague o of mine put the total in 8 millions. Think if all those people returned to Colombia what will happen to the colombian economic boom and the Venezuelan economy. If fact according to a research I am working ,close to 65 to 70 % colombian -Venezuelan community belongs to the D and E social classes. Did you known that the father and mother of arias Cardenas are from Santander . So I don’t see this mass of population running back, they have more public services in Venezuela that in their original homeland.When it comes to Venezuela I am not well informed, I read what opposition and chavistas write and it seem to me that both are chronic liars very subjective even so if the truth is in the middle the situation is very bad and the future black. I think on the other side that Colombia has a great future, including their universities because many Colombians are really making an effort to modernize but there are also retrograde forces in Colombia that could change the trend

  16. Posdata
    History is not written in advance so could Venezuela produce a change, well that’s a possibility this historic cycle is getting close. But something should surprise even venezuelan.After all the politicization you don’t have a political force physically exterminated like UP in Colombia neither a civil war, yes a lot of criminal violence.You have a good infrastructure needs maintenance, you are a very open society , to stay in Colombia even today is difficult , you have large deposits of oil , Colombia 7 years see BP report .If you control the contraband of extraction that goes to Colombia 10 billion dollar you could stabilize your internal market. I could see in the center of Barranquilla in open markets tons of hygienic paper from Venezuela when in Venezuela there were none. I think the problem of Venezuela , may be I am mistaken, is not the chavistas, but the lack of responsibility of their middle classes and elite toward their country, even a lack a dense culture and some humility to understand what’s going on.Venezuelan specially middle classes seems to me very superb unable to recognize their limitation , always right …

    • The problem in Venezuela is one of opportunity. Chavez’ ideology creates opportunities for easy profit across all classes. It is impossible that people will not take advantage of it. Ironically it is exactly the same process that happens in the US with petty drug dealers, criminalization has created easy profits that people are unlikely to pass up and a portion of those people are then put in jail. The irony is that Chavistas rail on about the futility of the war on drugs, but fail to recognize the futility of their war on arbitrage (really they are exactly the same war).

      With overly cheap gasoline and other consumer products the Venezuelan government creates the same incentive for people to become criminals in the lower classes, with massive government contracts and no follow up they do it in the upper classes. If you give anyone people – anywhere – the same opportunities it will not take them long to take advantage of them.

      • We must not forget that Colombia is a much poorer country than Venezuela and has been for a long time , this means that the Colombians have had to learn to earn whatever prosperity they have gained through hard work and intelligent organized effort ..As a result they are much better organized and phocused in achieving economic goals than Venezuelans are . This shows in their debts high international credit ratings Traditionally much better than Venezuelas

        Being so much poorer their populist pols have not been able to paliate the deep poverty of the country’s poorest as in Venezuela so the poor in Colombia probably lead worse lives than their Venezuelan counterparts . Notwithstanding that they ve done much with the comparatively little wealth that nature has given them and will probably overtake us in living standards in the next decade . If they had half the oil income we have they probably would have achieved much more than we have been able to achieve .

        They have well organized cohesive social elites that really rule their rooster with much more discipline and efficiency than Venezuelas battered and corrupted elites.. Remember an Alberto Quiroz article from years ago when he attended a meeting of press editors and how he commented on that. The existence of social elites is obnoxious to most Venezuelans who are natural born equalitarians but sometimes despite their defects they fulfill a social role that improves the life of the country in which they live .

        • I will recommend you to read Carlos Palacios ex rector of Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Colombia did not develop a populist system , in fact Gaitan was murder as many other candidates in the eighties

      • Francisco as many things in life some advantages come at a cost which can be higher or lower depending on how wisely or ineptly you handle the advantage and manage the costs ( yes ..sometimes the cost is so high that the advantage is better left unused) .

        If Venezuela lacked any oil resources , what would we be now , a small time agricultural economy absolutely oppressed by poverty, a big honduras , a big Salvador , a big Dominican Republic,??? only much worse because of our size and the corresponding size of a large poor countrys scaled up problems .

        One of the tragedies of Venezuela is its reluctance to understand and come to terms with its oil wealth , its belief that only by engaging in honest manufacturing or agricultural activities we might find some bucolic original virtue . I suspect that our problems have been compounded by our oil wealth but that the original sin lies elsewhere , somewhere deeper , which may be we dont want to face. !! Thats a big uncomfortable topic , maybe someday we will get to it.!!

        By the way sarcasm and belittlement of someone who in some respectss thinks different from your self is not what I expected from you !! Maybe chavista attitudes are contagious !! Hope its a lapsus mentis and not a recently acquired character trait.

        • I don’t think his sarcasm and belittlement is Chavistas’ fault.
          That attitude is very common among Venezuelans who consider themselves “intellectual elite” for centuries already.

          • Your right Kepler about Venezuelans general taste for cutting down any thing pretentious down to size through the use of ..banter and aggresive humour. !! Not just intellectuals !! Cabrujas wrote a nice piece about it . But I hold Francisco to a higher standard than I do common Venezuelans . He is usually elegant in his humour , at the same time sophisticated and biting . Also the treatment of the impact of oil wealth on a a nation as some kind of pestilence is too simplistic and out of wack. Not worthy of a person of his analytical talents . We all hate the Petrostate’s vices but Venezuelas oil wealth will be sorely missed when it is gone !!

  17. Any student of the Colombian economy knows that more than hard work the lack of many of the problems the colombians did not share with latin america in the egthies is related with the export of drugs . I do agree with bill bass that the elite in Colombia is well entrenched,in fact it seems to me that the social structure in Colombia is like Central Amrican country. May be the next candidates for the presidency will be two Santos, cousins. I do agree with bill pass on the character of Venezuelan igualilitarism and its effects on an political economy of distribution of wealth. Is is important to understand also the economic relation between Colombia and Venezuela, the fact that venezuelan has assumed the duties of the colombian society by absorbing large amount of poverty from Colombia with their demand for housing , education , health. That is a heavy toll on the problem riden venezuelan economy.I will recommend the chapter dedicated to colombian immigration in Venezuela in the book Anatomy of a Collapse by Hausman,and Rodriguez can be found in Internet. ohh let me tell you something that will surprise Venezuelans . International statistics show that Venezuelan work 1930 hours a year and colombian 1950. The same statistics show that labor productivity is much higher in Venezuela than Colombia ( project maddison). you Venezuelans should really tried to be more rational you are too inclinated to idealized and repeat cliches without looking for hard facts or easy to fell in a depression, Venezuela is living an historical conjuncture It will be over . your country has many advantages , the cycle of your civil war ended in 1903 with the battle of Ciudad Bolivar , colombian are still in the middle of a civil war. you stil are a much modern country tha Colombia. you confuse big colombian cities with the country, Colombia is a practically feudal nation in the rural an small cities circuits ….

    • On the other hand, Mario, both countries are not so dissimilar:
      Venezuela, even its English speaking “elite”, is, like Colombia, a profoundly feudal country. We Venezuelans might have better motor roads and import the latest fashion from Italy or the US, but that’s just thanks to oil.

      There is a certain social mobility but unlike what many think, there were some periods and regions during the very Middle Ages where there was also this kind of mobility.

      We still do not seem to grasp that land property relations – even in the XXI urban century – haven’t been resolved and this matters. The cadastre in Venezuela or Colombia are as well developed as that of England during the Anglo Saxon settlement of England…or worse…and it seems as if only some “expertos en catastro” are aware of that.

      We still follow personality cults and caudillos like many centuries ago.
      There are still clear castes and pretensions about having this or that degree, not about delivering this or that. Capitalism hasn’t arrived and feudal practices are confused with “capitalism”.

      The Enlightenment never arrived to our regions. People like the Bolívars were as superficial as it gets. There were mere slogans.

      Actual debates are not something we are comfortable with.

      But I agree with you Venezuela has taken a lot of burden from Colombia. Of course, our oil dependency, bad timing (Chávez came to power after a long period of bottom oil prices) and lack of education (even from our politicians right and left) have been fatal for Venezuela.
      I plotted this chart:
      I haven’t updated the figures for 2012 but the huge trade deficit for Venezuela
      ( surplus for Colombia) has reached the level of 2008

      And none of our politicians has the cojones to say so.

      • I have this time to disagree with you the rapid urbanization of Venezuela an immigration , around 800.000 European in a population of six million in the fifties is something never experience in Colombia. The agrarian problem in Colombia is real 25 % of her population is in rural areas, and I think that data from Dane underestimates the situation which is probably closer to 30- 35. In Venezuela may be between 5-10. So the agrarian problem is just an archaic invention of Chavistas. Most of the Elite in Venezuela is foreigner in their origins just look at their last name the traditional Boulton, Di Mase, Vollmer, Phelps or even the boliburgueses Ruperti and a bunch of Arabs last name. Just in the colombian cost you find something close to Venezuela.the national elite in Colombia practically has not change since the colony Restrepo , Lleras,Santos, few exception like Turbay Ayala.In Venezuela there are 14.000 Italian last names like Consalvi, Gervasi in Colombia not even fifty.In Fact in my opinion the social structure and economic arrangement of Colombia are closer to Central America , Venezuelan are closer to Argentina and Brazil. even some genetic studies done made Venezuela’s closer to th south Cone than the Andean countries, and I think is a plus to Colombia that strong and rigid oligarchy , because that definition applies perfectly to Colombia.In Venezuela talking about oligarchy is a no sense. can you imagine the president of Colombia without a partida de nacimiento like Maduro that we all know is colombian. In fact after all the propaganda and money spend in Venezuela still may be half of the population is against the government . That’s because with all shortcoming Venezuela in a modern country. There is something important that Venezuelan should study very carefully and is the relation between electoral vote and binational community. If you cross voting and geospaces where in caracas and maracay is concentrated the colombian population you will find historically 70 % of them vote for Chavez .they Colombians represent 10 %of electoral body , they are as important in Venezuela politics as Hispanic in the USA.Venezuela is a great country, modern and open is having a very difficult time, that’s fisiological to nature.Off course many Venezuelan are depressed and arrechos, but don’t forget that for most of the xx century you live in peace and progressing .I insist this cycle will end sooner that you think .Cycles in nation are longer than in human being.

        • Mario,

          I am not talking (only) about land for farmers. I am mostly talking about where you have your house, the land where you live.

          I know Venezuela has been more mobile. I also know it’s rubbish what they say about the old elite (with some exceptions): most lost most of the money and the vast majority of the richest are new rich and a lot are people whose grandparents came from Europe.

          Venezuela is also highly urbanized. And yet: a huge amount of people in such places as Western Caracas or Southern Valencia, not to mention half of the population or more in secondary cities such as those going all through the Panamericana do not have property rights.

          This is a problem. What does Chavismo do? It tells them to invade the few areas where people own houses legally instead of developing the areas that are property of the State. They don’t want to give control to the people and the opposition hasn’t used this because it doesn’t have this problem in mind.

          The fact that there are more Venezuelans living in cities doesn’t mean there is no problem with land.

          The military in Venezuela control vast swathes of land if you get out of the main cities. They use that land like the feudal lords use it: to hunt, to have their horses or just for nothing. It is considered “state” land but it is under control of the military…and then some landowners (like in Zulia or Barinas – think about the Chávez brothers etc).

        • Mario , Im really impressed with the acumen of your comments . you re right in the fact that the 50’s inmmigration of europeans displaced by ww II did make a difference in Venezuelan society and that colombia never had that , Also spot on in the characterization of Colombias elite class as native and highly politized as opposed to Venezuelas elite class which is largely of foreign origin , relatively recent in appearance and lacking in political protagonism , There are no Boulton or Vollmer’s appearing in the roster of Venezuelan presidents .

          Your reference to the very rapid urbanization of Venezuela vs Colombia is also relevant in that such process had a big impact in the deterioration of the traditional family in Venezuela as they moved to a marginal big city environment creating masses of people which could be attracted to the message of someone like Chavez. Even your reference to Venezuelans being genetically more like southern cone people is right according to a study done from Merida University .

          Im less sure about your assertion that most colombians in venezuela are Chavista sympathyzers , there are many that are very entrepeneural in spirit and Colomiba is one of the the south american countries where Chavez was least popular. Maybe we in certain ways are a more Modern Society than colombia , except that if you look at the urban poor , you are really looking at a socially half disintegrated class , where traditional restraints no longer apply but modern mores have never been fully adopted ,. In short you are looking at what Hannah Arendt classified as a Mob ( the rule of which is termed an Ochlocracy) . Also our clientocracy in steroids (from the oil income) could be seen as Kepler appears to see it as a kind of modern day feudalism !!

          Another way at looking at whats happening in Venezuela today is that a desocialized mob has put in power a radicalized group that has declared an all out war on a class which whatever their number , represent the middle class values of modern civil society . In short a struggle between barbarians within the gates and estructured civil society

    • Thank you Mario for the well considered comments, I lived as child in Bogota long before the violence got so ugly and really liked the place , specially the kids I shared classes with , I felt more attuned to their ‘manners and mentality than to those of my Caracas classmates They were polite , friendly , modest , nothing like the oafish thugish little machitos I had as clasmates back home. Colombians in Venezuela have a reputation as hard workers (also as a bit sly and sometimes not among the most honest) . My own grandad, a grizzled rough speaking quick tempered character called me ‘El Colombianito’ because of my polite ways. and careful speech ..
      Work statistics must be taken with a bit of salt , according to one I read the hardest working people in Europe were not Germans or Brits but the Portuguese and Greeks , Where productivity is tied to machinery and tools it possible that Venezuelans were more productive than Colombians in the years in which those could be easily imported to Venezuela . not sure that is the case now .
      Once read a book on how Colombia became so important to the drug trade , it appears that Colombians built an important export textile trade which the Europeans cut brutally when they became too competitive with their own . The Colombians also had built a thriving meat air transport business from bolivia which floundered . The released and resources was then used by resourceful well organized colombians to substitute it for the drug traffic trade .No doubt they have been enormously succesful at it .
      It used to surprise me how in the old days that Ecopetrols bonds got a better credit rating from International Rating Agencies than Pdvsa’s bonds ( then a much larger stronger company) . A NY finance expert them explained to me that this was no reflexion on Pdvsa but on the way the finances of each country were run. Colombian financial policies were long term predictable , Venezuelas werent , thus the difference in rating .
      This brings me to the main difference between Colombian and Venezuelan society , Venezuela is and has always been an indifferently managed chaos . in politics , in its economy , in everything . In Colombia there is more attention to getting organized , to creating stable orderly systems . To long term policies. This despite the noise made by its well organized criminal class and its insurrectionist and paramilitary gangs.
      Venezuela has never had social elites with economic power because they were wiped out during the war of independence , the country was too poor and war ridden to be able to sustain the creation of a stable elite class , and all they could do to prosper was to become the courtesans of rough provincial military caudillos usually of humble origins who constantly rotated their hold on power , even in the XIX century , before the coming of Oil the supreme source of wealth and influence..
      Must cut now or the other bloggers will get impatient . Thanks again for the suggested reading .

      • I really like the Colombia people but I don’t idealize them, let me tell you that Venezuela was one of the best managed economies in Latin America between 1925 and 1974 , inflation being lower that in USA, oil and good management can go together . Since I worked for more than 10 year in calculating the economic growth in both countries since the nineteen century the Venezuelan economy has always been richer that Colombia,the performance of colombian economy has been much better in the last 30 years.The Venezuelan economy is for sure more volatile.when it comes to oil I have a American friend working in Colombia he always asked when Venezuela will go back to normality to invest there. If tomorrow Venezuela will open their oil sector seriously and providing confidence all investment that is flowing to Colombia will shift to Venezuela the next day . I don’t say this but colombian friends in the industry .colombian are very aware of this .

        For economic data
        There you will find interesting links Penn World table, I also recommend GNI atlas method of WB.

        • There is a dark sinister side to the Colombian ethos which Venezuela has never had and that is the ease and indifference with which it resorts to the use of violence and the practice of cruelty for even the flimsiest of reasons . Venezuela has been free from that scourge for many years except for the delinquent youth of the big city barrios where killing people or tormenting them is a source of pride and peer respect . Political violence is in Venezuela the exception although Chavistas tend to think its a big deal, and make a show of their passionate bellicosity but fortunately it rarely takes the form it takes in Colombia . BTW in measuring productivity is Venezuelas oil income factored in to determine the per capita figure because that would distort the result no end . Venezuelas oil income currently occupies some 120- 140 K people ( used to occupy 35 k people before Chavez) but if you only factor in the GDP produced by the non oil sector the result would be very different .

          • In the link I send you , the data can be calculated for both countries without oil since also Colombia is an exporting oil country not only Venezuela.more than 50% of Colombia exports are oil and at leat 7 % of GDP In fact using GNI atlas method in my opinion a better measure even that GDP ppp Venezuelan per capita is twice as higher than Colombia.

  18. My opinion is that there is always a price to pay. Colombia paid with a nearly civil war that went on for years and left who knows how many people dead.

    We Venezuelans have been too pampered with the oil rainfall that has prevented any longlasting confrontation between classes.

    The other difference, Quico, is our ancestors. Venezuela’s elite was not a serious one. After all, we were just a Capitanía General, nothing important. Colombia’s elites were more serious. It makes a difference in the long term.

    Read, or re-read “En la Casa del Pez que escupe el agua” and you’ll understand what I am talking about.

  19. Politics in Venezuela has never been the preserve of a priviledged social class of wealthy land owners .If you look at the most emblematic of our Presidents Paez , Monagas, Guzman Blanco , Crespo , Gomez , Betancourt , CAP , none of them were of high social origin , rather the opposite . If they became rich it was after they reached power not before !!

    Venezuela before the coming of oil was a very poor country , The way to wealth was through high Government Office, not the other way arround . and high government office until the middle of the XX century was the prize of having been a succesful caudillo or warlord. Public Finances were the way to wealth and whatever passed for a higher class thrived by surrounding the ruling caudillo with praises , banquests and accolades and by marrryng their daughters to them .

    Even those who considered themselves of high class werent particularly rich . Remember an TV interview of Uslar Pietri ,who embodied for many the aristocratic intellectual ethos and how he explained that although his family was considered ‘high born’ same as many other high born people they lived very modest lives and really lacked any wealth . Some of my relatives were personal friends of people with titles going back to colonial times and for the most part they lived very modest lives. .

    In this sense the coming of the Petrostate did not change the traditional way in which Venezuelans linked to Power, clientelism was rampant long before the 1st oil well was drilled in Venezuela , Caudillos practiced clientelism using govt funds and resources to expand their power base and many traditional fortunes owe their origin to this clientelar practice .

    This system of rotating caudillos, each using govt funds to create a clientelar basis of support made for a lot of social mobility, more than in other latin american countries .

    When oil came to Venezuela the wealth thus generated created a commercial and middle class which did not exist before , Public education was enormouslyu expanded and government promoted businesses and jobs allowed an educated class to develop with no sense of forming part of an aristocratic or ruling class. Most middle class people today owe their status to enlightened govt programs but beccause their humble origins are not that distant they dont have the class consciousness that otherwise they might have acquired , Equalitarism is a cult in Venezuela and nothing is more abhorrent than someone who takes on airs..

    As mentioned before Venezuela did have a high born class in colonial times but our war of independence was very bloody and they were wiped out as a class . The country became ruined so no great permanent wealth could accumulate in the hands of a particular family. There was constant civil war and military uprisings and many tropical diseases which made the expansion of cultivated land and the accumulation of wealth even more difficult .

    Despite all of the above the legend exists that venezuela was the haven of a wealthy class of oligarchs who exploited the wretched masses for their benefit. !!.

    • As I said: there has been undoubtedly a lot of mobility. This is the only thing that distinguishes Venezuela from the most traditional feudal style. But that’s about it: less than 2 centuries of in a process of political mobility based on who is really the one who will make the Venezuela that the mythical Bolivar wanted.

      No other country in the world has as many administrative areas called after some military caudillo. Out of the 335 municipalities, a THIRD of them has the name of a military caudillo.

      But as feudal society, we follow caudillos, not ideas. And as Herrera Luque said: we want to level society…from us upwards, we don’t want those under us to level with us.

      • All Latin American countries use clientelistics politics a friend of mine professor Parada in barranquilla explain to me that votes is Colombia is mostly sold. In that coastal town out of 130.000 only 30.000 are opinion votes the rest the politicians will buy for 50000 pesos each.In Meta and oil rich area motorcycles were given to voters,Again venezuelan have a naive tendency to idealized and being arrechos, we have to be rational when making contrast with other realities.Is not enough to express what we think with arrechera.we need arguments data we have to read and observe.In that sense I do agree Colombians are superior they are not as impulsive like Venezuelans and they with foreigner don’t speak about the realities of their country, unless to stablished a strong academic not friendly relation.

        • I really would to hear opinions about this study of the revista Semana.What do you think about education and civilization in Colombia.

      • Kepler, if your definition of feudalism is a system where people expect and want caudillos to rule , venezuela is definitely a feudal country . There are of course other definitions of feudalism , probably too many. You are also right in saying that Venezuela’s system of land registry is really dysfunctional which allows the govt to falsely claim that it owns all the land because its difficult for individuals to have absolutely clean land titles , This is a source of many abuses by the govt and its bosses. Most political movements in Lat Am are long on Caudillos and short on Programs ( I prefer programs because Ideologies can be interpreted and applied so many ways that they lack precision) . In this regard have you heard of Alejandro Katz criticism of Kirchernismo and Peronismo , well worth the read !! many ideas could also apply to Chavismo in Venezuela . He can be found in La Nacion’s internet articles. and UTube .

        • Of course caudillismo is all over Latin America Núñez in colombia, by the way he is the real inventor of bolivarianism not the Venezuelans .Chavez , Peron…
          If you are interesting in Colombia history

          Where you able to take a look the link proyecto victimas de Semana

          • Mario,
            I don’t think caudillismo has a trade mark. We had common roots: feudal Spain. In Venezuela Simón Bolívar was already a caudillo, the biggest one. There were others before him and I am sure there were others in the rest of Spanish America.

          • Caudillismo is different from bolivarianism , the first real caudillo in Venezuela was Boves, but also Hitler in Germany ,Mussolini in Italy, so you may find caudillos , Duce .. In many places , being the highest concentration in America Latina. Even Uribe has all the ingredients of a Caudillo

          • I leave it with this.
            There is no such a thing as Bolivarianism. The guy was a conflictive, utterly inconsistent caudillo and there was nothing, absolutely nothing original in his thoughts. He was a conservative, utterly racist bloke, often a coward, who just used the ethnic question when there was no other option but continued to be a racist.
            He could only prosper because he had key people as the now hated Páez (another caudillo who later promoted the cult for Bolívar when coffee prices plummeted), because he got rivals murdered and last but not least because he got enough money to finance the mobilization of over 6000 highly trained European mercenaries.
            Liberator he was not. Liberators were hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans and those mercenaries I mentioned, plus not few Spaniards. The Independence movement was basically a civil war.

            I hope the day will come when South Americans stop having a moronic cult for all these milicos.

            This is all, it’s OT.

  20. If you hate bolivar ,that’s your problem , I really don’t care about him since he is minor personality in history, you Venezuelan should visit is mass a psychiatric I think you all have a Chavez inside each of you , that your problem.

    • Well, it seems Colombians can be as offensive as Venezuelans, at least this one.
      By the way: whether you like it or not, Colombians and Venezuelans are more similar than you think. And remember the Colombian film about the actor who considered himself Bolívar.

      I don’t hate the guy, just point out at some simple historical facts. You were talking about “Bolivarianism”. I tried to explain there isn’t such a thing. It’s empty air. And that it’s pointless to claim copy rights for the caudillismo idea.

      Military caudillos have been overly destructive for Spanish America, whether they are a Bolívar or a Santander or any of the others.

      • You have to learn that you don’t own the true , that a problem with Colombians and Venezuelan , they don’t have the capacity to have a dialectical discussion without trying to impose their view. In Venezuela many people don’t want to be confuse with Colombians because they consider those people with malas mañas I have heard Venezuelan saying Los colombianos cuando no lo hacen a la entrada lo hacen a la salida.Bogotanos behind the facade of politeness hate Venezuelans consider venezolanos flojos and want everything regalado. But in favor of Venezuelan I think Colombians feel inferior because 3 million on them went to Venezuela to look for the basic food. Venezuelan bring money and professions to Bogota,many have European last names and acces to European fact I known a high ranking officer in a colombian bank that went to Venezuela with a falsify certificado de nacimiento,to get a Venezuelan passport because he was tired of being refuse the visa to travel.You Venezuelan can get to 134 countries including Europe colombian 50 countries in Africa and the Americas.Even the chavistas are well consider in Europe, when I came to this country my friends told if I was crazy they known better that Venezuelan that in live here what going own behind the prosperidad , many of them belong to humanitarian ong , some even worked as volunteer in town in Antioquia razed to the ground by army then guerrilla etc.So I think you are very different from colombian , still that only my opinion.many people in Europe not only Italy or Spain have family in Venezuela that makes a difference, a friend in England told once tha the best South American were Venezuelans , he say they were easy going and cosmopolitans.on the other side is unfair to stigmatize Colombians many are fighting hard to modernize thei country to have and open country. in conclusion things are complex.i really don’t care about bolivarianism that circus

      • Kepler I believe it was you who some months back recommended a biography of Bolivar by a french soldier of fortune, Doucudray Holstein, published in 1825 who was witness to much of what transpired during the war of independence in both Colombia and Venezuela and who had a very unfavourable view of Bolivar in particular and of Caraquins (Caraquenos) in general and a rather favourable of opinion of the character of the granadins from bogota. Back them I found a faccisimile of the book in internet and read quite a bit of it , setting down specifically how he described the character of both granadins and caraquins . If the topic interests you I suggest you re read the book , Youll find many comments which are interesting and memorable . Even though he author loathed the Caraquins and admired the Granadins , his description of the latter is in a strange way flattering !! You have to filter it a bit but his description of both people matches those of other visitors to our lands. Bolivar wrote: Venezuela will always be a barrack, New Granada a University and Ecuador a Convent. Look at how two centuries later things have turned out I also have found a comparative description written by General Morillo , the head of the Spanish Expeditionary Army sent to reconquer both New Granada and Terra Firme ( Venezuela ) for the Spanish Crown. in a letter to his superiors in Madrid . Out of deference to our friend Mario I will not quote it but if you want to see it look for page 132 of Pino Iturrieta’s La Independencia a Palos. The topic lends itself to endless discussion !!

        • I think magic realism is the best invention in literature .A country in war for 50 years is a university and a country with a long peace is a barrack , all cliches, what i am surprise is that nobody even make a comment on proyecto violencia de semana. Any way there is abundant bibliography on Bolivar I will recommend you Madariaga two volumes that’s even better than Holstein. I think overusing the past to understand the present is a mistake, of course history is important but after a while it goes to the realm of academics to study human phenomena. Can you imagine the French fighting with Italians for Cesar invasion of Gallia or a candidate in France using the Gallic wars as political propaganda against Roman Empire. Chavismo is just that using a distorted past to legitimate the present, that is folkloristic. Book written now days in Venezuela are characteristic of his time , a time of heavy politization and Pino Iturrieto is a boring one by the way, but you should read what he wrote 25 year ago. Please Colombians or venezuelan be auto critic, I would to like to hear a good sociological explanation for this, can someone explain to me this terrible violence tha the Colombian Semana magazine even compares with nazism.Why this kind of violence…. Are we going to discuss the Gallic war forever. I have been looking if there a colombian friend or a Venezuelan who understand this conduct advance an hypothesis for this violence…and their consequences. We return to Bolivar ….

          • I’d say that’s an outdated subjective report written by an untrustworthy government full of its own criminals. And funny that they even make big news about apprehending these thugs when half the time someone in the Venezuelan government has been protecting them!

          • Mario, it’s not because you don’t read it here that we haven’t discussed the issue of crime in Venezuela. In fact: there has been a lot of discussion about that through countless posts here and in other blogs. Look for them. There is a search function.

          • As sometimes happens Mario you misread my message , I was not supporting Bolivars description of the three countries , but pointng out how paradoxically different the future turned out to be which is kind of your point . Im also not very excited about Pino Iturrieta’s rather ornate writing style but the reference is to Gneral Morillos letter and how it sort of dovetails with Holsteins descriptions in an attempt to understand what makes different people tick which is a sort of old habit of mine, Earlier you suggested I idealized Colombians then you suggest that Im part of that group that finds joy in disparaging Colombians in order to self celebrate Venezuelan ethos which is not my point at all ( I find all that silly) . You appear to project some cliches into what other people write which is perfectly normal but incorrect in this case . I find history fascinating because of what it reveals about people and why they do the things that they do . Im not interested in finding heroes or demonizing them , thats childish and alas Im a long way from my childhood..

            I had a look at the violence thing , I guess your message is that we should not have too rosy a picture of colombian society and its achievement because there is a dark side to Colombian recent history . 2 things I found in looking at the violence thing , one I was deeply pained by what I saw , I feel an abhorrence to the kind of violence which Colombia has suffered at the hands of FARC , the Paramilitary Movements, The Drug Traffickers and its Professional Criminal Classes and of course some loose cannon among the Military . Second I became curious to understand why Colombia had become such savagely violent place , I know what has made Venezuela into a much more violent place than before and an inkling of what made Guatemala and Salvador ( and now Honduras ) into such violent societies. but the factors behind Colombia’s entreneched culture of brutal violence eludes me .

            There is the violence of those who have had their native humanity crushed from them by the ravages of deep poverty , who have become brutalized by harsh poverty and can only find a kind of faux aberrant form of dignity in the brutalization of their fellows . Opposing that is one of the cliches that abound in our culture , the sentimentalization of poverty a la Cantinflas, a la Tolstoy , maybe following the lachrimose religious cult of the purity of the poor or the marxist vindication of a pseudo heroic justiciary vengefulness . But then you find the brutal violence of the very rich with their mercenary private armies , ( Guatemala , Salvador, Colombia ?).. Im not sure of the answer but its something that Im still trying to understand .

            We ordinary Venezuelans were once a very violent people and stopped being that after a long century of civil wars and uprisings . It happened during Gnral Gomez long regime , but am not yet sure of the causes. Now we have seen a resurgence of violence but concentrated in the urban marginalized youth of some of the poorest barrios.

            Finally despite the dark side of Colombian life , there is much now that inspires us to envy the achievements which it shows to the world , a thriving zone of social life where civic rights and values are followed and respected and a general economic promise of prosperity as we Venezuelans feel is being lost to us by the policies of a delinquent regime !!
            . ,

        • I am very aware of that book, Billy. That’s why I recommended it to you. In fact, I think I put here a link to it. But I also take things with a grain of salt and here we are talking about things such as caudillismo and political dynamics and once you see the big picture, you realise we are closer than we think we are.

          Sure, there are differences also rooted from back in the past. We were among the last to get a university and a printing press. Venezuela, as mentioned earlier, was a Capitanía, like Central America, while Colombia was a Vice-royalty.

          Mario keeps mentioning here the European migration to Venezuela in the XX century. Of course that was important…and it was triggered by the oil-related boom.
          But even Humboldt perceived over 200 years Venezuelans tended to be more “cosmopolitan”, obsessed with music and politics “like those in Havana” (take the lead).

          The fact Venezuela’s centre was located very much on the Coast whereas its Andean region occupies a much less area than for Colombia plays a role in the “essence” of Venezuela.
          Oil sped up the differentiation.
          And yet again: I think the feudal mentality, the mentality of the Conquistador, the level of violence (from 10 murders per 100 000 inhabitants things start to look the same) are common things that still shape a lot of our dynamics in spite of the differences.

          Remember also there are more than one Venezuela and more than one Colombia. Venezuela’s centre is in the Caribbean. The one of Colombia is in the Andes.

          A Caraqueno will have more in common in certain areas with someone from Cartagena than from Bogota. Colombians are also aware of those differences Andes-Coast.

          • According to Holstein Costenos are wanna be caraquenos ( without the mental wherewithal of the latter ) while Granadins have more in common with our Venezuelan Gochos. A Colombian author once suggested that there had been a mistake in the making of both countries , That Coastal Venezuela and the Colombian Costa should have formed one country , while the Gochos and the Colombian Cachacos should have formed another. Holstein also pointed out how Caraquenos made fun of the more stolid grandins the same way today people from central Venezuela make fun of the stolidness of the Gochos . I sense that Gochos and Cachacos are more stolid , staid , disciplined , orderly than the talkative , bantering , quick witted Central Venezuelans and Costenos but that there is a kind of quiet sagacity in the former that evens things out . Look at Gnral Gomez , how he finished off all the provincial caudillos, created a modern army, , made venezuela into well run orderly hacienda and really made no attempts to become a boasting loud mouth bragging caudillo, who theatrically took centre stage in all public ocassions , instead he retired to his Maracay hacienda to lead a bucolic life , acted paternalistic and with iron hand to keep the country settled and quiet , organized for the 1st time the coutrys finances on a modern basis. He was a typical gocho but he didnt lack cunning which kept him in power for 27 years. Gomez was a Cachaco much more than he was a Caraqueno.!!

          • Very little , he had a lot of flaws , education was really the child of the democratic govts of Betancourt ; Leoni, Caldera ., CAP .

          • When it comes to people character for sure Colombians keep many colonial traits, but between 1950-2012 more than 5 million immigrants came to Venezuela from all over the World add sons, daughters etc and 40% of Venezuelan has nothing to do with colonial times

  21. There is a dramatic difference between Colombians and Venezuelans.

    Look at this:
    This is the information about the public libraries in the Medellín area.
    It is little compared to anything we see in Europe, but it is enormous and promising compared to anything we see in Venezuela.

    My city, Valencia, with over 1.3 million people, has only ONE public library, which hasn’t improved since I first visited it as a child over 30 years ago. That library is as big as the public library of a town with 40000 inhabitants in Andalusia.

  22. Mario,

    ” you Venezuelan should visit is mass a psychiatric I think you all have a Chavez inside each of you , that your problem.”

    This is of course not true,and probably said in the heat of irritation, however there are many in the opposition who are arrogantly projecting every day just like mini -wannabe- caudillos, and are tolerated by others who are more humble because in Venezuela caudillos are tolerated, and they see themselves as somehow above Chavez, when they are not.We often witness an extreme form of arrogance in the form of narcissism among oppos as well, and a definite lack of self -reflective consciousness.

    You see , the opposition and Chavismo are not quite as divided as some would like to think.There are some Chavistas who are not caudillo wannabes, and then there are opposition followers who are.

    I think it would be more enlightening if people could synthesize and discuss some of the interesting ideas in the above mentioned books, rather than recommending the books themselves.Synthesis is good for getting to the bottom ( or essence) of ideas.

  23. As an american that stands 6’4″ tall with dark blonde hair and blue eyes, I knew that I would stand out in a crowd in Bucaramanga Colombia. I was in Bucaramanga Colombia in February 2017, and I found the city to be gorgeous and the people genuinely friendly. I was mesmerized and delighted with the city, the food, the people and the sites. The people were genuinely friendly to me. When I spoke Spanish, a lot of the people opened their eyes wide open and was surprised that a Gringo spoke Spanish. The more I spoke Spanish, the more the people wanted to practice their English, or they just wanted to speak with me in general. When the time came for me to leave and go back to the United States, I was disappointed, because I really fell in love with this city.


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