From High School Bully to Five-Star Cadivero

Which of your high school classmates is going to be the one who ended up making it big on the Cadivi circuit? The bully, obvs.

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A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon this guy, who used to live a block away from my house, in the lower-middle class neighbourhood of San Bernardino. A tall, prematurely balding guy who seemed way too old to be in our class (which was true, since he’d failed cuarto año), he was the stereotypical high school bully: making fun of the nerds and getting into fights almost daily was his game. The guy had no book smarts, but he had great street smarts: he boasted of a seemingly endless supply of panas in Ministries, Banks, Registers, and any conceivable part of the national government.

After going over the good old times from our Senior Year in high school; he tells me he just got married, and that he’s been in the process of moving to Colombia since last year. Things seemed to go well for them. His old-lady was working at a hospital there, easily leaving to shame her former Bolivar-denominated salary, and basically living way better than the regular Venezuelan nowadays.

He was going back-and-forth between the two countries. “I have to travel a lot because of the family business,” he said. His family import and install kitchen tops, I find out. Since he also had Paisa citizenship, and judging by the crisis in consumer spending in Venezuela, I asked him why he just didn’t close shop and move to Colombia. His answer was chilling:

“Para sacar toda la plata que pueda del país, mano.”

Ugh.

Doing my best to camouflage my contempt, I keep listening; it seemed like he wanted to talk to somebody about all of this. He goes on and on about some of his biggest hits: a few years back, he spent over a month in Miami with an ex-girlfriend, with his, hers, and five other credit cards filled hasta las metras with Cadivi dollars. A second story was about a vuelta that involved some of his shady connections from back in the day, netting him enough dollars to buy an apartment in a high-end Caracas neighborhood.

When he finds out that I work as a trader, he casually begins to tell me about one of his panas who’s also into trading: “I don’t know his name or what he looks like. I just know him from a Blackberry PIN chatroom. It’s a group of several anonymous types, every one taking care of a wheel on the machine; and trust me, things always just happen with these guys”.

I’m speechless. “We were very active in 2011, during the great SITME rosca.”

“In our prime, we managed to grab 20k a day!

At that point I was in disbelief. I asked him what had happened with that group, the Blackberry chat room. “Nah, we had to close shop. It was getting pretty dangerous.”

He tells me he was kidnapped and had to pay a bigtime ransom to walk. His kidnappers, he told me, were CICPC guys who found out about his little chat group and knew how much he was pillaging. I then remembered that he has mourned at least three guys in the past year.

“Que bandera es la vida, mano”, he lamented on his Facebook wall last November, about a guy I assume was one of his colleagues of the underworld.

I walk off, pissed off. He’s really just another bolichico, in the terms of Doña Petra Vs The Machine. “I’m my own boss, wake up late every day, and do whatever I want to, always.”

What really rankles is that he’s a very vocal escuálido on social media: the kind of guy whose Facebook is just wall-to-wall Maduradas and other El Cafetal-style pap, but his life is a carousel of ill-gotten petrostate goodies. An even starker contrast was evident with his and my other classmates’ lifestyles: most of us are still working in underpaid jobs, slugging it out for a quince y último living with our parents, with no real prospects in the country; and dreaming of emigrating (or rather escaping) from the country.

Not him. My high school buddy embraced the chaos of the Maduro Administration and dared to stay in the country playing not to survive, but to win. In the end, out of all my classmates, he’s the one who has the strongest reasons to stay here. Greed anchors in a way love can’t.

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Russian-Venezuelan. A Santiaguino who left his heart in Caracas, Daniel is currently rehabbing from his addiction to High Beta and is pursuing a masters' degree in economics at Universidad Católica de Chile. Views are his own.

26 COMMENTS

  1. I hate the type of character you had the displeasure of dealing with, not because of what he did, but for his hypocrisy.

    You yourself being an economist know how black markets form and their causes.

    People are motivated by self-interest and greed. There were no consequences for his actions and much to gain. Morality aside, the choice is obvious for someone with this opportunity. This is a symptom of bad monetary policies.

    Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. The game is messed up.

    • “Don’t hate the player. Hate the game”. Yeah, I’d usually say this too, but I find it *very* difficult to empathize with a guy that said “Para sacar toda la plata que pueda del país, mano.” Kudos for hearing those words and not losing it, man.

      • I don’t blame him for doing what he did though. He lacks tact.

        This isn’t a direct cause of what happened and there would have been people lining up for the opportunity. It’s like blaming people who took out subprime loans for houses they couldn’t afford in 2006. These are consequences of the system failing.

        Everyone who could was taking out money out of the country. Everyone knew the country was going to shit. Capital flight is unstoppable at that point.

        Take the Sitme example:

        You need to take money out of the country and instead of paying a black market rate. You make bank solicitations everyday and slowly get all your money out at a more preferencial rate.

        You got all your money out through your company and you have friends who need to get their money out. You have supply for a service and you start meeting that demand. You charge your friends a percentage of the money once it hits offshore.

        Can someone tell me the “moral” way to get money out of Venezuela?

        You either sit down and wait for all your money to become worthless or you get it out. Other people need to get money out and a service is provided. That’s it.

        The moral high ground of some of these articles is ridiculous.

        That’s different then straight up stealing money like many of these generals and government officials have done.

        Note: I left Venezuela before 2003. I still can’t fault people who worked in the black market.

  2. And that, in a nutshell, is why I left.

    The game is messed up, and the winners are those willing and able to play that game. I don’t play that game, and thus cannot compete.

    I also didn’t want my children to have to learn to play that game to survive.

  3. I used to despise that kind of people, but not anymore, think about it what are the options working like a slave for what?? 20000 bs 30000 bs a month in a country where a bicycle cost 230000 bs good luck staying decent, your friend he is adapting and he is wining and de the rest well we need to adapt or leave. Sorry for the bad english

      • Please, do not high preaching. Thanksfully I’ve lived abroad for 10 years and never had to use that system. But, given the situation over there, it is a jungle. Sorry but that’s a story that’s happened everywhere: USSR, Cuba, Mexico, etc. It’s the system

      • How can you judge someone of that? It’s eat or be eaten. This guy can feed his family, make sure they live well and can provide his children with a better future meanwhile most of the country is in poverty.

        Damnation for your soul? Hate to break to you, but no one is going to be damned for circumventing capital flight laws nor should they be.

  4. It is what i said, most of us (i would like to think) were risen with a set of values inprinted that right now are nothing but a burden.

    Sleazy guys like the one depicted here are better suited to thrive in the Venezuela that Chávez left.

  5. This reminds me of Amanda’s article.

    Morality is subjective. It’s just like what happens with the so called “bachaqueros”, and do we blame them? Well, I know I don’t, tho a lot of people, even antichavistas, do. They are the result of the result of the screwed system.

    “I am I and my circumstance” Ortega y Gasset.

    • I agre on the fact that morality is subjective, yet I think that what this guy is doing is a net negative for the society anyways.

      Think in macro terms: What happens if you got a society of Cadiveros, each one producing less value that they take out? Eventually, the flow of petrodollars runs dry, and you end up with an empty carcass of a country. Sound familiar?

      Think of the Tragedy of the Commons, in this case the common goods being subsidized dollars:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

      • Yes, you are right, then again think about this: in a FFA scenario (and Venezuela has been Sparta for some time now) most behaviors will be net negative.

        I want to stress again the example I used before: bachaqueros, as they are they taking more value than they putting in (yet a service to bring goods to people who can afford to pay more for those goods).

        My point is, morally speaking, it is quite difficult for me to judge them. What do I judge and despise on those people (like the portraited in this history)? The way they use their connections to obtain privileges and favors a regular Joe can’t get, THAT I condemn and despise, everything else was at hand for anyone trying to protect their money and future from inflation.

  6. Also, each dollar all that people took out of Venezuela is probably one less dollar to Diosdado’s abroad accounts, and that’s fine with me. Again the problem IS the system, some of you are shooting the messengers of chaos.

    • So there’s a thin, but still visible, line between plain robbery and using the few tools the nomenklatura has left to el pueblo to survive. If the government is forcing to save (I should laugh here) money in a currency under a three digits inflation, how inmoral is it to take your money out to a hard currency?

      When you rob a battery, you’re causing a direct damage to it’s legitimate owner. When you buy cheap dollars who are you hurting? the government? fuck the government; the state? Fuck the state; your fellow citizens? If you say yes then you should blame bachaqueros for buying goods at subsidized prices and reselling them at higher prices, those damn especuladores, golpistas, lacayos del imperios and their economic war. You may kill the messenger but, are they to blame? Really?

      • These are not victimless crimes, c’mon, the guy in that story is not a poor victim of hard circumstances (or even if he was, it wouldn’t matter), he IS a thief. That’s a loophole (if i’m generous enogh to assume it was not like that by design) and he took advantage of it.

        The worst part is that if that guy tells his friends he found out about that system and didn’t do it, you bet your ass he’ll be called a pussy and a pendejo, and everybody would be thinking of what they would have spend that sweet free money if they found out before that poor bolsa.

        Add that to his own “ay si, y tu no le hubieses echado bola marico?” and you have the cause, symptom and actual disease…

  7. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a “chaburro in disguise”

    The same kind of sludge that always claim that they are “apolitical, but…” followed by a machinegun round of all kinds of insults.

    Those are the smarter chaviztas, people who UNDERSTOOD WHAT CHAVIZMO WAS ACTUALLY ABOUT, and that is: STEAL AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

  8. the real problem is that people like that guy can disclose their crimes with so confidence because nobody le echa paja, the people like me are sick of these guys, but are more sick of this “sistema de panas o viejos panas” were nobody or no page disclose at least his name and put them under scrutiny.

    I hate these guys more than the chavistas, they express negatively about the country, the government but are part of problem, are the real cancer that caused this crisis, but they are the “emprendedor” , travel to los roques, have condos, etc.

    ” yo trabajo en Finanzas” , ” yo trabajo” , ” me adapté al sistema”

    NO ME JODAN.

  9. This is just the end point of the old Venezuelan system; Revolution, my ass, this is exactly as it was when I was a kid, only now the dial is at 11.

    As a friend of mine put it (shorlty after we both left Venezuela), “You have to understand, we are wrong. We think corruption is a flaw or a problem in the system; in here, corruption is the system”

    Its a bit similar to explanations I have heard about why, even in democratic times, the traditional system of “caciquismo” still works. Because people still use it. Because they know it works. The idea that it is a deviation from the system of democracy and having rights doesnt enter their heads; the system has always been “get somebody powerful and swear yourself to them and they will grant you a favor, to be paid later”. Can you blame them? It works, they know it works, they know how to handle it, the routes and the protocols. The other thing is a newflanged invention, this is the tried and true one with generations of trust.

    Corruption is the same. Corruption works. Corruption is the system. The other thing, that realm of procedures and accounting and laws and all that, is just window dressing over it. And as long as that is the real system, everybody not playing it is a fool.

    Even if by playing it, the country, as a whole, becomes worse than a fool.

  10. The guy from the story is easy to hate, but he also comes in other flavours: your pana from that beach trip, your college mate, the neighbour, maybe yourself…

    The sad part is that they made all of us accomplices to the looting, and when (if) they face trial we will all be seing them on tv thinking “well, that looks kinda like what i did back in ’09”.

    Don’t get me wrong even if i never had a credit card, I bought some really cheap airline tickets, so i’ve got blood in my hands as well.

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