Venezuela is fixed!

This statement, synthesized from undiluted sarcasm and irony, has become a very widespread self-deprecating joke for all of the country’s ongoing disasters, outrageous occurrences, and peculiar changes that have been going on — regardless of whether you’re long gone from this country or are still living here.

Yet, despite it being a quasi meme statement, narratives are in fact being built around this sentiment to try and pass the faux illusion that Venezuela is indeed fixed and rid of all of the problems that plague it from more than a decade of collapse.

Gone are the days of fingerprint scanners, ID checks for your weekly toilet paper rations, and long bread lines. In this new phase of Venezuela’s history, the Nutella freely flows through newly built stores filled with U.S. imported goods, which can be found almost in every corner of every street. Delivery apps can bring you everything from food, liquor, to even medicine with just a few taps of your smartphone, and prices are no longer expressed in the absurdity that is the Venezuela Bolivar

In fact, the country is so “fixed” that the 6+ million (and counting) Venezuelans that have left the country (roughly 20% of all Venezuelan population) should just pack their things return to the Fatherland, because the opportunities are boundless, there’s dollars to be made, and you can find nutella everywhere.

That is, of course, if you go by what certain Instagram and Tik Tok “Influencers” have been saying.

Beyond this flimsy but tangible facade of the country’s “improvement,” the sarcasm, and the irony lies the plain truth: Venezuela is far from being fixed, quite the opposite.

Yeah, there have been certain improvements with regards to, let’s call them, economic liberties, and sure, it definitely feels good to not have to fight my way for a pack of toilet paper like back in the day — at the end of the day, after all is said and done, this “normality” that we find ourselves enveloped into is nothing but an illusion that may or may not last, and one that does very little to mask the worst shortcomings of our country and its crumbling infrastructure.

For years, the country was deprived of normalcy, and now that the Socialist Party has resorted to untighten the grip of economic regulations that asphyxiated us for so long for the sake of its own continued existence then some have been able to partake in minor aspects of what a ‘normal’ life entails here and there — to be able to find things (provided you can afford them), to import stuff with more ease, and, most importantly, to have access to foreign currency, which up until a few years ago it was outright illegal to even hold in the first place.

These are some of the strands of the newfound blanket of normality that some have been able to cover themselves with in varied degrees — a blanket that is not large enough to cover all of the country, and one that, no matter how hard you stretch it, does not fix the country’s political, societal, and economical problems in the long run. our times?

There’s certainly peace in our current times, but this is not a peace born out of freedom, triumph or prosperity, but rather, one born of resignation and stagnation.

Many have come to the same realization, that getting rid of the regime — and the collaborationist opposition that kept selling protesters over and over — is looking harder and harder with each passing day. They’re both facets of the same problem, and they need one another for their continued existence.

So without the means to bring change to our political crisis, and no opposition leaders that are worth following, people have simply resorted to carry on with their lives, surviving through their own version of the Venezuelan Kobayashi Maru to the best of their ability using whatever means they have at their disposal.

“You carry on with your life, we’ll make it a bit easier for you, but we’ll keep ruling, ok?” I suppose that this is, more or less, the tacit pact that has been forcefully signed upon by both the ruling political caste and the citizens. If you don’t like it, then the door is right there, nevermind all of the obstacles that exist to actually be able to migrate in a normal way, starting with getting a passport, apostilles, and ultimately, a visa.

It is also a misbegotten “peace” that has bloomed through 18 months of COVID-19 ‘radical’ and ‘flexible’ lockdown weeks, and greatly exacerbated by some of our newfound problems that remind us that, deep down, the country is far from being fixed, such as the steep gasoline shortages that have crippled transportation for many around the country.

Venezuela is also ‘better’ these days in the sense that we’re not currently going through yet another cycle of intense nationwide protests and brutal police and national guard repression — that does not mean that protests no longer take place in this country. 566 protests were registered during the month of August 2021 alone, that’s an average of 19 per day.

As I said, the regime and the opposition need one another, and thus there is no desire to actually find a solution to this ongoing political crisis. They’re currently holding yet another round of negotiations, another pantomime that won’t really yield much results.

The regime demands access to the funds and assets seized during the 2019 political crisis, citing and crying about the sanctions — obviously negating to mention the fact that those assets are but a fraction of the billions and billions of money that simply ‘vanished’ during the oil bonanza — which we can’t talk about.

Cynical as this may sound, it doesn’t matter who controls those assets, at the end of the day the people will never see a dime out of it — so this particular topic of contention between both the regime and opposition is just them fighting over who gets to suck those funds dry.

While they keep playing their games of charade with one another, we are also being led like cattle again to participate in yet another sham elections, this time to choose governors and mayors.

Figureheads that once fled the country are now desperately returning to this “fixed” Venezuela as part of this blatantly obvious coexistence pact to try and see what governor or mayoral seat they get to occupy.

Are they gonna improve the lives of their respective areas? Lol, no.

This is just to see who gets to gouge what budget. Venezuelan politicians that hold a public office are like wizards, as he who knows how to read and conjure from the book of Venezuela’s convoluted budget classifiers will have the power to seep money out of the public treasury and get away with it.

They know you know, they know you know they have no shame, but what are you gonna do about it? Now go and vote for the same faces so that they can occupy the same seats, I’m sure this time things will be different.

In the end, politics are, and will always be, good business. It’s sickening, nauseating, and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to deal with these two halves of the same problem no more — you gotta carry on with your life, you gotta keep surviving through this “fixed” stagnant Venezuela in any way you can, stay off the inevitability collapse and keep fighting for you and your loved ones.

Build your own peace, a real one for you and those you care for, not this false one.

The bubble of Venezuela+

Beyond the political stagnation and civilian resignation, this is the real core of this “fixed’ Venezuela and the unironic and non sarcastic part of the narrative. They say money can’t buy you happiness, but in the context of this Neo Venezuela, it buys you small tidbits of normality.

For as long as I can remember, and, thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution, in much more concise and profoundly since 2003 onwards, there has always been a clear divide in how you experience and deal with Venezuela’s bullshit: with either foreign currency or with Bolivars.

Today, it is no longer an open secret hidden in plain sight, but rather, your only hopes of actually making it through each month. It doesn’t really have an official name, and I honestly don’t care about giving it one, but for the sake of this somewhat lengthy post, let’s call these two experiences Venezuela (you mostly have Bolivars), and Venezuela+ (you mostly have foreign currency).

It’s how things have worked, work, and will continue to work here, and I’m not here to argue for or against it, it is what it is. As demonized as they’ve been in times past by the socialist party, the American greenbacks (and Euros, for that matter), are what determine what degrees of “normal” life you get to partake in here — and they’re more starved of it than ever before, to the point that they’ve forsaken some of the ideological precepts that they’ve been selling to the country and to the world for the past two decades.

Who could have possibly guessed that making it so that it is no longer illegal to hold, trade, and carry out transactions with foreign currency would actually improve things? I’m shocked and appalled! Especially after years and years of a fierce currency control regulation that not only asphyxiated the country, but helped bring its demise through the regime’s corruption and embezzlement.

Up until two or three years ago it was outright inconceivable to whip out a ten dollar banknote in broad daylight to pay for something in a supermarket, or to use a Zelle account (borrowed or otherwise) to pay for a hamburger — today that is just as normal and real as my nearsightedness.

If you are part of “Venezuela” then you’re out of luck, more so if you work at a public office and get paid a miserable slave-like wage that will barely get you a kilogram of chicken or two, if at all. That’s where the socialist regime’s meager money stipends and low quality CLAP food boxes come in, your survival depends on their breadcrumbs.

Now, on the other hand, if you’re part of “Venezuela+” then you can have everything you desire — or at least as far as you can afford.

Whether it’s through private companies wages, remittances, or freelance work, the U.S. dollar is your gateway to respite after years of so many economic troubles. Yeah, even I have partaken in a slice of this Venezuela+ here and there through one of their delivery apps to get a few pizzas here and there and to get my thyroid meds delivered right into my doorstep.

Be that as it may, that’s as far as I can partake of Venezuela+, as my already limited budget is allocated on food, utilities, and giving treats to my brother, otherwise I wouldn’t be complaining about my internet connectivity problems right now.

Most of the normality that some profess these days is imported directly from the United States and sold through “Bodegones,” that are full or pre-packaged normality. I only have to walk 2 blocks away from my house to be able to find the latest video game consoles on sale for over a thousand USD, and overpriced Boomer Juice™ (Monster Zero Ultra) for more than $3 a can that I’m still yet to try out because I ain’t paying that much for it.

You can even find the most specific things these days, like gluten-free Oreo cookies that, I suppose, taste better when you’re going through the millionth blackout in your life, or right before water gets cut — I don’t know, I don’t buy or consume these things. Some of these are legitimate entrepreneurship ventures, while some of these stores are blatantly obvious laundering fronts, such is the reality of Venezuela+.

Venezuela+ has it all, consistent internet access, water cisterns, power generators, fuel, if you can pay for it, you got it. You can completely eradicate and excise every Venezuelan shortcoming out of your life (other than the shitty politicians and the socialist regime, of course) by the sheer force of the “bad empire’s” currency. Note that the Chinese Yuan, the “good empire’s” currency, is not the one keeping it all together down here.

Thanks to the fierce currency controls implemented in 2003 (and easened in 2018 after all the damage was done) the embezzlement of money through the exchange systems was all the rage in the 2000s. In the 2010s the big dream of many was aspiring to get a commission out of a nice and juicy multi-million dollar exchange stemming from a faux investment (despite having all the ‘legal’ paperwork). In the 2020s things are more straightforward: blatantly obvious money laundering.

Ferrari and other luxury vehicles roam the disrepaired streets of Venezuela as if it was nothing. Casinos, once deemed as dens of gamblign and prostitution by the Supreme and Eternal Commander of the Revolution, are returning to the country because the country is “fixed,” my friends.

Ultimately, no one can judge you for wanting to have a modicum of normalcy and indulge in something, whatever makes you happy, really. If you can consistently be part of Venezuela+ then more power to you, but just because you can be part of Venezuela+ doesn’t mean that Venezuela is faring any better.

The truth that lies beneath the facade

A tourist or someone observing the situation from afar sees all of this and yes, they will reach the conclusion that Venezuela is fixed, on a superficial level, that is. Once the sugar rush of the Nutella you just bought subsides then you best start coming back to your senses and see things for what they truly are.

The matter of inflation hasn’t been fixed, it has simply been amortized by the ‘Capitalistic’ U.S. Dollars that up until a few years ago were straight up illegal to hold and trade with. Not a day goes by when I’m not grateful to God, because without the support that I get and what foreign money I end up making doing some stuff here and there is the only reason I’m able to provide food for my brother, I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

Masked as it may be, the inflation is there, and now that it’s done having its way with our undead Bolivar currency, it’s starting to drown foreign one as well, little by little. Every month I notice how I have to spend more foreign currency just to get the same amount of food, to the point that I’ve begun to reduce on certain things and swapping them with others so as to not increase my monthly expenses, as a reduction in monthly income has made my budget tighter these days.

Public utilities are just as bad as ever before. Water, power, cooking gas, gasoline, these are things that the majority do not have a consistent access to, and don’t get me started on internet connectivity, which has rapidly grown to become as big of a headache for me as running water. It took me days of tinkering and trial and error just to have a stable connection that’d allowed me to publish this post in the first place.

The country’s entire infrastructure is in such a bad state, that bursting pipes are a common occurrence these days. I have no idea just how many gallons of water were wasted on yesterday’s incident alone, and as I type this, I am going through yet another cycle of water rationing:

Power blackouts have begun to infect Caracas more frequently these days. Just last week alone, a power surge and blackout damaged our water dispenser. These electrical surges are what damaged my brother’s air conditioner according to the technician that repaired it using used spare parts because new ones are quite expensive.

So not only does one struggle to make do each month here, you’re always one power brownout away from losing your appliances — and I’ve already lost a few that I still haven’t been able to afford replacements for (RIP my microwave and toaster oven).

Private sector wages are dramatically much better than public sector ones, yes, but in many cases are still largely insufficient for a normal life. I’ve seen cases of jobs offering 10-20USD per month because in this “fixed’ country, cheap Venezuelan labor is ripe for the taking by, say, foreign companies seeking cheap telemarketing for their sales.

Yeah, you can indulge yourself in all manners of imported sweets and candies, which won’t do anything against the ever growing problem of education in Venezuela. I don’t need to go that far to bear witness to it, as the elementary school that my brother used to go to has been shut down and replaced by one of these stores that sell U.S. imported goods.

There were two main reasons as to why it shutdown. First because there’s not enough children in the area anymore, as most of the people have long since fled and those that remain are mostly elderly, or loners like me that can’t even begin to undertake the monetary investments of a relationship or raising a family at the moment. Secondly, because plain and simple, it did not survive through all these months of COVID-19 lockdown.

If you’re part of Venezuela then you will have a hard time getting your children new uniforms, books, and materials for this upcoming school year, that’s only something Venezuela+ can comfortably do.

To be fair, this is not a new problem, it’s simply a continuation of the unsolved matters of this nation. I could go on and on about the crumbling infrastructure of our schools, the absurdly low wages that teachers earn, and much more. Universities aren’t faring any better either, and share most of these problems as well some of their own, such as the regime intervening in them and imposing their own authorities — or pro-regime authorities using private university facilities to mine bitcoins.

As for Healthcare access — yeah, good luck with that too. God forbid you have a serious medical condition that needs urgent lifesaving treatment, because the Nutella ain’t gonna save you should that ever come to happen, my friend. The Pain and Palliative Care unit that my mother used to head remains shut down to this day. All that she worked for during the course of sixteen years is gone.

But, those that profess Venezuela’s newfound improvements care little for these things, after all, you either bend your life around these shortcomings, or simply brute force them through Venezuela+ should you be fortunate to have the capacity to do so. Nevermind the fact that we’re still without a solution to our political crisis, and that the regime of the socialist party continues unabated, so long as you can order food via delivery apps and can pay obscene amounts of money for a slice of “modern” internet then all’s good in the country, right?

Stagnation & Status Quo

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is a peace born from resignation and stagnation. Those that have access to foreign cash will continue to live on, regardless of their own struggles and with varied degrees of success.

This country is a Kobayashi Maru, and there’s no final win scenario in all of this.

The breach between Venezuela and Venezuela+ will continue to widen, and we’ll continue to be led towards a Cuban-esque path of having a pristine country for tourists and foreigners, and a miserable existence for the majority of its citizens.

And that’s the hard truth, we’ll all continue to be make do and carry on with our lives, surviving through our own solutions until we’re no longer able to. After years of struggling and dealing with the worst aspects of the collapse of the once celebrated Socialist Venezuela, we all need respite, and we’ll get what bits and pieces of normality we can get and afford — so long as you don’t fall into the preposterous presumption that the country is “fixed.”

The “fixed” Venezuela is nothing but a stagnant mirage. If this stagnant present, blatantly obvious money laundering fronts, foreign currency devouring inflation, and a continued worsening of our public utilities is all that our politicians have to offer for our future — if this is the vision of a ‘fixed’ Venezuela that the powers that be are offering to us, then I want none of it.

These band-aid improvements to the country, while very welcomed and needed, are only superficial in nature, and it is my responsibility as both big brother and pseudo parent to my brother to ensure that he gets the best possible future, no matter what it takes.

I have to be stronger if I’m to build something good for him away from this political stagnation and complacency, because no amount of Nesquik and pizzas in the present will provide him with the foundational structures for a future of his own should I no longer be able to take care of him.

That’s the fight that I still have to fight, what I have to build for him.

Until the next one,


1 Comment

The entropic routine | ckaleb[dot]com · September 27, 2021 at 9:02 am

[…] some bad), the rest remains as usual despite the mirages and illusions that the newfound “normality” presents us with. Two years later, Venezuela is just as before, and by extension, my life is […]

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