To Helmut, my dear stepfather (1945-2018)
If 2017 felt like a never ending story for Venezuelans, how was 2018? To say it was challenging would be the greatest of understatements. If I could describe 2018 in a sentence, I’d say it was a year of loss: personal losses, civic losses, financial losses. A lot was lost, to me and to the whole country.
But not everything is lost yet: we’re still here, more than 16 years later. And I’ve been part of this for almost seven of them. Caracas Chronicles has become a place of gathering for many voices, subjects, questions, emotions. As I did last year, I made a personal selection of the best we had to offer. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Let’s go!
Inflation is like money cancer, and hyperinflation is money metastasis. The AN’s report estimating inflation for December at 85% ratifies that we’ve now crossed Phillip Cagan’s threshold. But forget about that; raw hyperinflation means much more that prices increasing every day. As the bolívar’s value plummets, people start using other exchange methods. Read more.
- A Chavista New Year’s Eve in the Post-Pernil Era, Mabel Sarmiento. 2018 begins with a lavish New Year party in Caracas by the chavista mayor, while broken promises and continued grievances are the biggest concern of their hard-core supporters.
- A Breakthrough in Huntington Country, Juan Carlos Gabaldón. A small town in Western Zulia has lived all these years under the shadow of Huntington’s Disease, but also has been key in the research done to understand the disease.
- Hanging Out at the Bus Stop, Carlos Hernández. Moving around Guayana is an odyssey for those who depend on public transportation. Carlos Hernández gives us a first-hand account of the infamous “perreras”.
- At the Centro Portugués, it’s Portus vs. Portugal’s Foreign Minister, César Crespo. The Portuguese Foreign Minister visits Venezuela, but its public meeting with members of the community shows the huge disconnection between Lisbon and their nationals living here.
- Venezuelan Banks Stare into the Abyss, Pedro Rosas. The local bank sector is scared: they’re struggling and the chance of a major crisis is quite high. But they’re not alone: Those betting on Venezuelan bonds already had quite a rough year too.
- Venezuela’s Black Mirror Moment: #DeathTo Óscar Pérez, Nina Rancel. On January 15, rebel police officer Oscar Pérez and his associates were killed in a massive military operation. As evidence appears of what was actually an extrajudicial killing, CC reflects on how we saw his actions.
- Maracucho Taxi Drivers Pioneer Dolarization Pa’Resolver, Rafael Labrador. The issue of dollarization is starting to show not only in formal economic discussions: a cab ride in Maracaibo gives us a hint of how it slowly starts to become normal with time.
- De Mérida Pa’Montevideo, Astrid Cantor. Some are still fighting the good fight against the government in the human rights area, and one local NGO from Merida went all the way to Uruguay to present the other side of the story.
- The 23 de Enero Myth Turns 60, José González Vargas. 23 de Enero, 1958: A historic date for Venezuela. But as the 60th anniversary of the collapse of the last known military dictatorship in the country goes under the public radar, we take a tour of what happened back then, and what came right after such important event.
- Corruption and Inefficiency by the IVSS Kills Venezuelans, Daniel Andrade. An inside look at the disastrous condition of the hospitals under the IVSS, (Venezuelan Social Security Institute), as basic healthcare for many depends on them.
The industry is still reeling from the military takeover of PDVSA. The purchasing power of wages has collapsed. Here, in Anaco, the large PDVSA Gas facility has been been hit hard by it all. Read more.
- Oil-Black Future: What if Oil Output Keeps Dropping?, José Toro Hardy. The shortest month of the year begins with a difficult dilemma: what happens if oil production keeps going down?
- The Prisons We Slowly Build for Ourselves, Javier Liendo. For plenty of Venezuelans, issues like that are hard to grasp, as they literally have built prisons in their own homes in order to keep themselves safe.
- 17 Years On, Linda Loaiza Seeks Justice Long Denied, Luisa Kislinger. 17 years ago, Linda Loaiza was subjected to a series of unspeakable abuses. Since then, she has struggled to find justice. Finally, the Inter-American Human Rights Court heard her case.
- Workplace Absenteeism Takes Over PDVSA Gas Anaco, Johan González. The internal mess within PDVSA is one of the reasons of its own collapse. Some of its workers prefer to simply stop going to work altogether.
- Hawking Balloons in Lima: Venezuela’s Most Promising Youth Persevere Abroad, T. René Rodríguez Kirkpatrick. The massive Venezuelan emigration is reaching record number across the region: We take a look at the hard data and the personal experiences, as we go down to Peru where many are trying to slowly get back on their feet and make a living…
- Iris Varela Stars in the Gocho Version of ‘Goodbye, Lenin!’, Giancarlo Fiorella …But the government prefers not only to ignore the situation, but lie blatantly about it.
- The Trail of Failures In Zapatero’s Wake, Marcel Gascón. The dialogue in Santo Domingo failed and part of that blame is on the government’s “intermediary”, former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
- The April 22 Election Is Designed to Consolidate a Dictatorship, Raúl Sánchez Uribarri. As a result, the illegitimate ANC has called for a snap presidential election early in the year and we can be sure that its intention isn’t to solve the crisis but to consolidate Nicolás Maduro’s hold on power.
- Ideological Blindness of UN Expert Is a Triumph for the Venezuelan State Propaganda, Juan Carlos Gabaldón. Alfred De Zayas denies humanitarian crisis after meetings with 16 ministers and top government officials. He obviously didn’t visit any hospitals or take the subway.
- A Tale of Two Maracaibos: Venezuelans Flee in Unprecedented Numbers, Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian. The numbers keep mounting: Venezuela’s migrant crisis is on a massive scale, and growing. With three million already gone, how many more people can we afford to lose?
- He Held No Grudges: The Death that Stopped Millenial Twitter in its Tracks, Daniela Tabata Bottini. The death of a USB college student, well known in the Venezuelan Twittersphere, makes us pay attention to how we cope online with the crisis and with death itself.
- No Use Crying Over Spilled Malk: It’s Not Milk, Astrid Cantor WARNING: please do not drink the so-called milk of the CLAP program.
Special Mention: Is the Petro the Outcome of a Blood Pact With Evil Voodoo Spirits?, C.H. Charles
During its first two decades, the Metro worked fine. The system didn’t lose money and was seen as the most modern in Latin America. This year, everything changed. Read more.
- What to Do About Venezuela’s Rigged Presidential Election?, J. I. Hernández. So, the government is going ahead with the snap presidential election. What do we do?
- The Nicaraguan Strategy, Alejandro Machado & César Crespo. It’s a little creepy how the Venezuelan government follows instructions from the authoritarian rulebook, copied and replicated in Latin America many times. The thing is, this time, the strategy isn’t Cuban, but Nicaraguan.
- Letting Go of my Venezuelan Transition Ideal, Francisco Toro. The pace of events is making Quico consider that if there’s some sort of transition on the horizon, it won’t be the way many of us (including him) wish for.
- Is Our Fate the Same as Cuba’s?, Andrés Miguel Rondón. Andrés is a little bit more pessimistic, thinking about the possibility that maybe… we’ll end up just like Cuba after all.
- Everybody Wants a Piece of CITGO, Daniel Urdaneta. PDVSA bondholders, U.S. energy firms, the Russians, Crystallex, and now a Swiss commodities trader… everybody wants dibs on CITGO, the most valuable Venezuelan asset abroad.
- Metro de Caracas Reflects the Venezuelan Crisis Like a Mirror, Mabel Sarmiento. The Caracas Metro serves as a mirror of the problems the nation suffers.
- Women’s Rights in Venezuela: a Hypocritical Mirage Called “Feminist Revolution”, Luisa Kislinger. On International Women’s Day, we examine chavismo calling themselves feminists. It’s like when they call themselves humanitarians: an outright lie.
- Meet the Go-To Person in Bucaramanga for Venezuelan Immigrants in Need, Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian. For those leaving the country and arriving in Bucaramanga, Colombia, they need all the help possible: We meet one person who’s doing lots of work for them, the one called “la Consul”.
- What Dollarization Supporters Deliberately Neglect to Mention, Pedro Rosas. Some people are promoting dollarization as the true panacea for our economy’s ills. But their arguments are lacking a number of important details, as Pedro gives us some serious insight.
- Political Prisoner Gilber Caro Resists From Jail, Manuel Llorens. National Assembly deputy Gilber Caro was unlawfully arrested and charged with “treason” by a military court. Since then, his imprisonment conditions have been harsh and at some point, he was kidnapped for a while. Sadly, his case is not much different from other political prisoners’ stories.
- Venezuelans in Need of Blood Transfusion Must Scavenge the Black Market, Astrid Cantor. Blood transfusions are a matter of life and death, but with the health crisis affecting Venezuela, it was quite unavoidable that a black market that profits from this vital procedure was born.
- Bring Your Own Popcorn: Watching Movies Amidst Venezuelan Hyperinflation, José González Vargas. People want any kind of escape from their everyday woes, so going to the movies is one obvious option, but hyperinflation can make you reconsider buying popcorn or even going at all.
Special Mention: The Left in the Americas and the Problem with Losing the Moral High Ground on Venezuela, José Ramón Morales Arilla
The journey’s just begun, dear readers. So please, hold on for Part II, coming soon.