Meeting Bolichico Rodríguez

If you’re a Venezuelan living abroad, you’ve fantasized about the day you meet a "bolichico" in a social setting. Here’s a useful primer to plan for your own encounter.

Original art by Mario Dávila @modográfico


I’ve been haunted by something that happened last Saturday. I went to a birthday party for one of my dearest Venezuelan friends, a gathering of arepa-expats in a posh Madrid barrio.

There’s a round of handshakes, warm hugs and kisses; and it hasn’t been 15 minutes when the host, a good friend of mine and transparent as they come, comes up to me and says:

“Hey, listen. I don’t want you to be upset, I really don’t want you to leave, but Bolichico Rodríguez is coming over.”

I wasn’t happy about the surprise. The fair warning is appreciated, but was soon drowned in confusion. You know, “Should I leave? But I just got here. And why should I leave? I’m not the thief!”

A good half-hour goes by, I have a beer in my hand and the bolichico in question walks in. You know the guy: graduated from a famous private school in Santa Paula, nicely dressed and a swagger that you just want to punch out of his face. By his early thirties, this guy was worth more than some of the Kardashian sisters.

I’m disgusted. I switch my poison from beer to scotch, and try to avoid eye-contact with this guy. It didn’t last long.

“Pedro”, says my host, kind of troubled, “meet Bolichico Rodríguez and Mericiana Pérez”.

“Oil” Bolichico states and sips from his glass. “It’s oil related.”

He extends his hand, I imagine the same way it goes out before deals are brokered and fortunes built on the hunger of children.

“Hey”, I shake his paw. “Nice to meet you”.

I turned around. Tried to focus on the food, on my friends. I pour myself a second scotch to flush away this knot in my throat.

I notice a family member is quite pissed and leaving the party. He can’t stand the idea of being in the same place with Bolichico Rodríguez who, oblivious to the effect of his presence, makes ridiculous small talk with a Spaniard guest.

“Yep, we’re moving to Madrid,” he says.

“Oh” the person said, “are you guys looking for a job?”

The notion makes me giggle, but also really sad.

“Nope, I have a company in Venezuela. We’re opening a branch here.”

“What is it about?”

“Oil” Bolichico states and sips from his glass. “It’s oil related.”

Rage has me chugging yet another scotch. A fire down my throat equal to that in my veins. I made sure to bring the Spanish fellow up-to-date about who his conversation partner was.

Now, I know for a fact that Bolichico avoids public places frequented by Venezuelans in fear of escraches. Conundrums of life; you have a lot of money but you may not hold your head up high. Is it worth it, I wonder, not being able to go anywhere you please? There’s also his companion, who I assume is his significant other. Does she notice this situation? Does she care? Is love really that blind? I’m sure going to teach my soon-to-be-born daughter that no lifestyle is worth losing your dignity and peace of mind.


Thinking back on the Venezuelans present, their faces and actions, I can tell most were rather uncomfortable. But the truth is plenty of Instagram stories and Facebook pictures show many compatriotas treating these bolichicos as if they were honest businessmen. They party with them, travel with them, even marry them.

Conundrums of life; you have a lot of money but you may not hold your head up high.   

Differences aside, I can’t help but think of how the Colombian upper-class disowned drug lords, but did business with them and drank their champagne behind closed doors. Is this how’s it’s going to be in the future: are we going to normalize bolichicos and other 5ta República criminals into society? Someone once said that we will need bolichico money to rebuild the country, which in turn will make them even richer. It’s disgusting, but not unlikely.

Once the situation changes and the truth about corruption comes out, we may have to sacrifice justice in the name of peace, wondering if such an arrangement can really last. I, for one, am still pondering my actions. My father taught me to be political (choose your friends wisely, but shake hands with everyone) and my faith tells me to “love my neighbor as myself.” But my cédula thrown somewhere in a drawer disagrees and I really doubt I’m alone in that. One of the reasons to leave Venezuela was to avoid getting salpicado por toda esta mierda.

The next day, I could do nothing but revisit the party. Sure, I wasn’t going to ruin it by going crazy on this dude, but should I have left in protest too? Should I have said something? I did voice my discontent to my host, but perhaps a comment in front of Mr. Rodríguez  would have been proper. Morals are a funny thing: I worry about being a jerk to a motherfucking thief.

Too heavy thoughts for a hungover Sunday morning.

Pedro Zapata

Pedro is a public affairs and policy consultant based in Madrid. A self-hating millennial, he likes all things politics and hopes that Betancourt reincarnates and rules Venezuela once more.