Generation Cadivi

Kids in Venezuela these days can barely imagine life outside the Cadivi box.


I got a text at 1 a.m. the other morning. Who texts at this time of night? Of course, it’s my 21 year old cousin from Venezuela, just to see how am I doing. The fatalist I am texts freaks out, rushing off a text:


Everyone’s fine.

My little cous just doesn’t really get time zones, and doesn’t stop to think what time it is in England before he texts. He doesn’t really get that getting from Maiquetía to London takes longer than a Caracas-Miami flight.

>> Hi nana (some joke about me being an old fart), just checking to see if you could help me out. I’m sorry that I need to ask you this question… but I need 750,000 VEF to buy a ticket to Madrid

I do the math quickly in my head. It’s about £750… almost a London living wage.

>> What are you doing in Madrid?

>>I’m gonna raspar el cupo. If you lend me the money I’ll pay you when I get the euros. I’m planning to use that money to move to Chile.

Boom. There it was, my ‘little’ cousin from Guárico, who hasn’t been to Margarita yet, planning his first trip abroad to commit the most common criminal offence among Venezuelan travellers, just to be able to start a new life in another country he knows nothing about.  

>> Ok I’ll give you part of what you need. Have you done your math?

>> What do you mean exactly by math?

>>Well, you will get around 2,000 dollars… which will be definitely less than 2,000 Euros… Minus the fee you will pay the raspa cupo and the money you will owe me which will be around 600 Euros. Also, factor in the money you will spend in Madrid.

This was all news to him. I felt terrible for him: he was lost. He didn’t know what to do, how to do it, or where to go, but somehow he met the right people along the chain of raspa cupos and miraculously had some bits and pieces of his plan figured out.

State-run bank credit card? Sorted. Conviasa ticket? Sorted. Raspa cupo in Madrid? Sorted. People to host him in Madrid? Sorted.

>> So nana, tell me how will you send me the money. How will you get it to Venezuela? Can you send me the cash with someone?

>> No, I normally use an online page to transfer money to my mom, so I will do the same.

>> Oh great. Will that be SIMADI or Cencoex rate? (both foreign terms to me!)

>> That will be the erm… lechugas website rate.

>> How is that even possible? Will you be doing your own carpetas for your bank? How much will they give you?

Oh-em-gee. How do you start responding to that? How do I explain to him that a long time ago in Venezuela you would simply pop by the bank, get some dollars and jump on your preferred flight to ANY country in the world?

We were on the phone for nearly two hours. Explaining No-Cadivi world to my kid cousin turned out to be harder than explaining currency controls to my Brit friends.

It left me thinking that perhaps, the most cruel thing about the Generation Cadivi is that they don’t know how to be a normal consumer, or even a normal traveler on a tight budget. It’s the generation of one carpeta tamaño oficio, one cupo and one unreliable credit card.

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  1. Yo siceramente encuentro dificil de creer estas cosas… pero tiene sentido. Si no han visto mas nada en sus vidas han de suponer que en todas partes es igual. Va a ser un shock cuando se den cuenta de la realidad y de lo “State free” que es la vida en los paises normales

  2. Well written Ana! Free market theory is hard to teach to those living now in Venezuela. Beyond the “lechugas” wasted in thnose habits, is losing the value or work and ethics.

  3. Just the fact that people needed to spend money, burn fuel polluting the environment just to get some $ makes me absolutely mad.
    It would have been better to give the ticket money to a Venezuelan charity group and take the $.
    Chavismo has been the poster child of incompetence, corruption and inefficiency.

  4. Illegal street vendor mentality, one of the reasons venezuelan people can’t do a living from their work.


    Mentalidad de buhonero, una de las razones por las que los venezolanos no pueden vivir de su trabajo.

  5. Subsidies for the middle class, same as gasoline. And then they complain that the poor are parasites because of the misiones.
    El rancho en la cabeza no discrimina clases sociales.

    • “Subsidies for the middle class, same as gasoline. And then they complain that the poor are parasites because of the misiones.”

      It’s more accurate to call it “monopoly”, since there wasn’t (nor today there is) any other legal way to aquire currency.

  6. Awesome piece.

    You remembered me an interview to Pyongyang University of Science and Technology’s dean. He tells that elite students in North Korea have a real hard time understanding simply supply-demand lessons because they have no understanding whatsoever of what a price is.

    • Probably one day we will have to explain them how to travel: book a ticket, exchange money, plan in advance, save money, and whatnot.

  7. Three of the difficult things that come with being married to a Venezuelan and living in a normal, developed country.

    1. Trying to understand the financial gymnastics involved with Cadivi, dollars, etc. that my wife and her family are discussing.
    2. Trying to briefly explain to non-Venezuelans what the hell my wife and her family are talking about or why multiple people have bank accounts registered to our address.
    3. Trying to explain to some of our younger Venezuelan relatives how banking works in a normal country.

    I swear, it’s like a different language.


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