Nicholas Casey’s chronicle of his first month in Venezuela as a New York Times correspondent is pretty intense. 

The road from the Andes spilled into Los Llanos, Venezuela’s agricultural heartland. Rodolfo Palencia, a rancher, spent an afternoon on his hammock, singing us songs he wrote about his state of Barinas, the most fertile part of his country, according to the lyrics.

But the ballads describe another time. Mr. Palencia took us to a field of sugar cane that was 10 feet high, and dead. The nearby sugar mill, built by the government in the early 2000s, could not process the cane this year, he said.

Fields where beans grew were fallow; there had been shortages of fertilizer this year, too. As far as the eye could see, we were surrounded by tall weeds.

And the milk. There is none there either, especially not at La Batalla, an operation that once produced 126,000 liters between three factories annually a decade ago.

It was nationalized, and its factory in La Sabaneta is now an empty outpost. The only employee is a watchman who opened the gate. The gauges on the pumps were unreadable. The cooling system had rusted open. There were bats here.

“Total loss,” began Alirio Alvarado, looking up from an agricultural pond where he once farmed a fish called cachama. Two thousand ponds are in this area, and farmers say they are mostly empty now.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Very sad, especially the part about Merida. I sed to travel there at least once a year, while it was affordable… last time I was there was 10 years ago, Beautiful landscape and even better people …

  2. I didn’t even know that the cable car to Merida was broken. I’ve been away from Venezuela too long. When did this happen?

  3. And the worst part is that the governor of merida spent I don’t know how many millions in “repairs”.
    AND right now are spending lots more in the ferias del sol.

    I am going there next month for the first time in eight years. Sometimes I pray for the airline to cancel the flights so I have an excuse. Some other times I remember that we have to go to see the family that can’t come to canada, then I just think “dios nos agarre confesados”

  4. These vignettes add up to a reasonably accurate picture of the state Venezuela is in right now, a state which is likely to deteriorate even further, faster. Cassey appears to have a talent for explaining the situation in the country to a foreign audience. Hopefully, being in the NYT will provide some exposure which will help in the coming months

  5. Clearly there are two forms of journalism the ‘facts and interpretation’ journalism ( sometimes illustrated by some examples from real life to underscore a point) and the ‘live experience’ journalism which makes you, as a reader , feel in your own hide what it feels like to be part of what is being reported , Definitely Casey practices the latter kind of journalism , one with a lot of punch and in your face reporting . Both give the same messages , but one addresses your mind more than it addresses yout gut . Caseys is definitely a gut retching journalism …….of the kind which once read you cant forget. He isnt just reporting the news he is witnessing it live and personal ……!!

    • Bueno, don’t sell him short. We know he can do the latter kind – but I’m told he’s pretty good at the former kind too.

    • There are stories in the international press about the infinite ways in which Venezuelan lives are crappier and crappier every day. I get the feeling that they hold little interest for the general public, especially now that Chavez is no longer here for comic relief. Its been all stagnation and rot, sin Chavez. So god bless the NY Times and a couple of good reporters there for carrying on the thankless task of that chronicle.

      This story is all of that, but it feels a little different. Different in scope, different in intent. To me this reads like a backgrounder to an event that is going to happen. Mr. Casey is showing us the terrain on which that event will take place.

      I am told that news outlets often prepare obituaries well in advance, in anticipation of the death. Mr. Casey’s story feels a little like the obit that was written in anticipation of the death. It also feels like a story that needs to get out now, because there will soon be no time for this team to do it. There will soon be no time for Mr. Casey to lay out to readers in detail why things that are going to happen, happened.

      • Abjectly depressing. To give a little context/comparison: my parents were in Santo Domingo/Ciudad Trujillo during the Second World War-little local production of anything except sugar cane, some limited imports. They had 6 domestic help at $10 each/mo. , and a Hershey bar cost $0.05. The Venezuelan minimum wage today is about $10/mo., and that same Hershey bar costs about $1.00….

      • So god bless the NY Times and a couple of good reporters there for carrying on the thankless task of that chronicle….To me this reads like a backgrounder to an event that is going to happen. Mr. Casey is showing us the terrain on which that event will take place.

        Interesting optics, Canuckles. I think Nicholas Casey’s in-depth report has less to do with the NYT receiving blessings from god and more to do with its newest venture: The New York Times just launched its edition in Spanish: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2016/02/8590398/new-york-times-launches-spanish-language-digital-edition, “ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico later this week.” Hmmm, maybe the god bless angle fits after all 😉

      • I agree with the others on this. Your observation is spot on.

        It is sad though that most of the journalists were willing to drink the KoolAid for so long, reporting on Chavez’s antics, but not digging deeper to expose the roots of the current crisis. The few that tried were ignored or belittled.

  6. Another news that equally shocked me today was the one about extremely shady companies that have been supporting Chavismo on behalf of the Brazilian government for ages suspending all operations in Venezuela (no date to return) due to lack of payment: Odebrecht and Gol (the airliner).

    What makes me think that the Chavistas must be diverting the best part of medicine, food and hard currency still available in the country to the military in order to dissuade them from carrying out a coup d’état. Chavismo seems to have entered autophagy mode by now, the whole body’s started to destroy itself to feed and preserve the vital organs, the issue here being that if you analyze Odebrecht’s in Venezuela in the last decade, you certainly wouldn’t call it a minor player. But priorities are priorities: in their minds to let the men with tanks angry is just unthinkable.

  7. BTW

    This article has been making the rounds. It was one of the most viewed online articles yesterday for NY Times. I have had multiple friends/associates here in the US who normally don’t pay much attention to Venezuela reach out or comment to me in regards to them seeing the article and on the state of Venezuela.

    The more exposure the better, and whatever remains of the “Chavez myth” will die (except for diehard ideologues)

  8. I get the NYT every day and read this yesterday evening. I read whatever the NYT publishes about Venezuela, but this one in particular made me feel very sad. We moved to the US in 1982 and I haven’t been in Venezuela since about 2002. On that trip a friend and I went to Merida for a weekend over Semana Santa, the first time I’d been there since I was little. We took a jeep up to a posada and took a mule guide and the cable car back down, so the detail about the cable car being broken felt particularly poignant. The portrait that was painted made me think, for some reason, of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

    • They got new cabins but the whole system is not working. And they have been working on it for ages, I think they spend more money in the publicity than in the system itself

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