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A hole in one: extreme golfing in Venezuela

By Daniel Duquenal | Venezuela News and Views

04.08.05 | It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the main highway going to Caracas from the central part of the country. Not only 40% of the traffic to Caracas goes through the accident zone, but the alternative roads are in such a sorry shape, so congested already with local traffic, that the whole area is simply collapsing. Suddenly the Paracotos exchange where I drive by at least twice a month seems to be the epicenter of Venezuela. With horror people realize that the only two real alternatives, the Pan-American Highway and the small San Sebastian to San Casimiro road will add at least 2 hours to the trip, assuming that you are willing to leave home at 5 AM. No matter promises of the government to have it all arranged within two weeks, nobody really believes it and already prices of food staples and public transportation are going up, just because of the at least 4 hours added to the round trip. Indeed, the caved-in highway might have 40% of the Caracas bound traffic but it has probably 60% or more of the goods to feed a 5 million metropolitan area.

I have not written on this yet as reading the news sometimes I felt that I was hallucinating. First, the size of the hole, and its shape, revealed exquisitely that the waters had been dissolving the under-road for quite a while without the authorities doing anything about it even though local folks had reported officially the problem in 2004. But I suppose that there was a referendum to be won and road maintenance crews had to don red shirts to fill up pro Chavez rallies. Yes, the highways in Venezuela are the sole responsibility of the central government: neither governors nor mayors can send even a cleaning crew if the Ministry of transport does not approve of it; Baruta's Mayor told us today that Diosdado Cabello, former head of the ministry in charge of the highways and now governor of Miranda had the Baruta cleaning team expelled from the Prados del Este highway in Caracas. Now Diosdado is blaming the weather, the past government, whomever, but himself for having been in charge of the Venezuelan roads AND Miranda roads for at least 2 of the last 6 years.

In all fairness, chavismo is just the rightful heir of populism, having brought the art of empty promises to unexpected heights. No Venezuelan government has ever cared much about MAINTENANCE. "Mantenimiento" seems to be a word crossed of the Dictionary of the Real Academia of Spain, Venezuelan edition. Of course we heard blaming on the April coup of 2002 and the oil strike and other crap. But I do not know, but on April 2002 I did not see any lunatic crews lead by a demented Carmona Estanga enter the Road maintenance equipment park to sabotage it and destroy Venezuelan roads. And the oil prices have been quite high for long enough to have allowed AT LEAST the maintenance of the most important highway of the country!

There is no excuse there.

But still one minister talked about investigating the contractors that built the highway in 1955 under Perez Jimenez! 50 years ago! Blaming constructors commissioned to build a highway previewed for 12 000 cars 50 years ago and now weathering 70 000!!!! This for me brought ridicule to the rank of sublime! Or was it an hallucination? What next? George Bush directed the probe on the comet to make sure a chunk of it would strike some Venezuelan highway?

No, this is just yet another example of the incompetence of Chavez administration, an incompetence that even Chavez tries to deride on his Sunday comedy hours by yelling at his ministers who he has the indecency not to fire on the spot, and who do not have the dignity to resign, probably too busy cashing in at the cash register while the country literally falls apart and people like me drive everyday putting our lives more and more at risk. (Chavez military boot to his puppet ministers on Sundays: "you are incompetent!"; cartoonist Weil at his most brilliant!)

But the only concern here is to gain votes distributing small grants or substantial briberies. I have been driving that highway for the past 7 years, at least twice a month and I am an eye witness to its low but steady degradation. I have seen how the National Guard, whose responsibility it is, allowed squatters settle along the highway just as if it were some Small Town, Venezuela. Did it ever occur to them that dramatically increasing sewage waste around, and under, the talus of the highway this one might weaken? Because I never saw any National Guard directing the works to install sewage at all the multi-squatting points ("invasiones") that you can count now by the dozens between Caracas and Valencia. I have seen illegal restaurants, rest stops, vendors stalls, and what not bloom. Where was the National Guard? Selling cabbage at Mercal? How much did they cash in to allow these people to put at risk not only my life, the live of hundred of thousand of lives of drivers, but the well being of 5 million of Caracas denizens? Last time I checked the National Guard was only under the orders of Chavez. But maybe I am confusing the National Guard with the Nazional Guard whose mission is only to ensure the safety of the glorious revolution and its even more gloriouser leader.(1)

No, there is no excuse for chavismo, even if it only followed the tradition of populism in Venezuela: only pays for what might bring votes from the stupid downtrodden masses, and keep them stupid and downtrodden so you keep getting elected and re-elected.

Next Sunday we have elections, I hear from my window the bullhorn of chavista campaign in town. All the campaign, for the guys that fix my street pot holes, that pick up the garbage, that sweep the streets, that pant trees in the parks, is done and centered in the name of Chavez, with speeches resemble the apocalyptic tune of any of Chavez speech, and only referring to him. Sometimes I wonder if Chavez is going to come and sweep my street. I must be hallucinating again.

That is why this gaping hole is such a symbolic hole-in-one to describe how low we have fallen, and how deeper we can still go. And meanwhile there are dick-heads that discuss whether the shopping levels at Caracas malls is going up to 2001 levels, whether increased car sales are a good sign, whether a Mercal should open in Chacao, whether we should go vote or not. The way things are going, with no roads the malls will be empty of goods, the cars will have nowhere to go, and voting will be irrelevant. Shit! Am I the only one that thinks that way, that worries about real issues of collective safety and prosperity? Am I hallucinating whether I watch VTV or Globovision?

¡No me jodas Disodado! ¡Bótalos o cállate, Hugo!

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(1) Somepeople are not afraid to put the blame on an over militarized public adminsitration, with no flexibility, no creativity, trained to wait for orders from above. I heartily agree, my dislike for soldiers and generals increasing daily. Los Milicos!

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