Alright, September of 2019 is thankfully over, another monthly spin of the cycle in whatever is left of this country. Since I had to dedicate most of my time to certain real life nuances and I focused most of my writing time to my novel project’s lore and to other upcoming publications, I have decided to condense some of my planned Venezuelan-related drafts into a pseudo vent post—which is exactly what you’re about to read right now.
In my personal opinion, how can I best describe the past weeks in Venezuela? It’s difficult to answer that question without sounding repetitive, because I’m afraid that the answer continues to be the same, in spite of what twists and turns may have occurred.
At the risk of dabbling too much into melancholy, I’d have to say that the country itself has become entrapped in a picturesque portrait, one that conveys a looping tale of stagnation and withering entropy in each of its strokes. Days and nights come and go only because the laws of the universe dictate it so, the weather has been as varied as it gets, with some rainy days, sunny days, chill days, and so forth. The birds sing the morning, and the usual sound of gunfire in the distance can still be heard every now and then at nights.
Time, that invisible but most valuable resource, keeps ticking, slipping through the country’s hands as everything else continues to erode. Nothing seems to move forward, everyone feels exhausted, worn out, and weary—or at least I am. People have long since adapted to the outrageous circumstances that come with living in Venezuela, carrying out with what’s left of their once normal lives, waiting for the end of it all, whatever that may end up being.
This dreadful stagnation spills all over your livelihood, on a personal level, the passage of time certainly makes me feel uneasy—as if the sheer amount of constraints that I have in my personal life right now weren’t enough. I’ve dedicated most of 2019 to a very narrow list of precise objectives, escaping (within an international legal framework) alongside my brother is what’s on top of that list.
It’s worth mentioning that in certain countries, the rejection rate for Venezuelan visa applicants is high, very high, I’m talking about ~80% according to hearsay—so I need to do things right for both my brother and myself, but I’m afraid that I’m down to my last hand, which is stuck at a bureaucratic step at the moment that escapes my hands.
It’s a gambit for sure, but it’s the only cards left in my hand right now that would allow me to take my brother with me.
The ongoing disaster of public utilities
Apparently, wanting to take a shower every day, not having to base your entire daily routine around a one hour ration of water, and not suffer through endless blackouts is asking too much for this socialist regime. Caracas, the pampered capital, continues to be guarded from the full force of the trauma at the expense of the rest of the country, but even the mirage of normalcy that they’ve shrouded the capital with has begun to wear off.
I’ve now lived through more than five years of continuous water shortage issues, which have gotten severely worse over the past weeks. We’re now down to ~40 hours of water per week, down from our now accustomed ~96. From the looks of it, we might even have less than 24 hours this week, it’s been a whole week since we last received running water and this building’s tanks ran dry days ago. I could really use a shower right now.
According to a recent report, water cannot be distributed every day to Caracas because the pipes and pumps are in such an utter state of disrepair that 25.9 million liters of water are lost every hour, operating them at full power would simply cause them to break down faster.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the endless streams of unanswered complains on Twitter about water shortages (some of which have been more severe than the one I’m currently facing) then click here.
How long until Hidrocapital goes “muh mentions”? Place your bets.
Setting aside the concept of Supply and Demand for a moment, you can pay anywhere between $50 and $150 (or more) to have a tank truck refill your tank(s), this is an amount that not everyone can afford.
Blackouts have gotten worse all across the country, I’ve heard tales from family members living in other states, where some sectors have gone up to six continuous days without power throughout September. In the case of Caracas, blackouts have become more common; there was one around this area this past Thursday, this street somehow lucked out and wasn’t hit by it.
I was pretty much unable to use my stuff on Friday due to flickering power and brownouts, so much for productivity.
My friend, hyperinflation
At this point I don’t even know what’s the inflation rate at, it’s all become so absurd that doesn’t even matter anymore. While five zeroes were axed off our currency over a year ago, prices are now similar to what they used to be back in the last trimester of 2017, with some steep price increases in some items that took place in a short span of days, for example, this brand of bread:
100,000 Bolivares (more than two months’ worth of minimum wage) are easily burned in a bit of cheese, ham, and loaf of sandwich bread, just like in 2017—except that you should add five zeroes (or eight) to that amount; heck, even a regular toothpaste goes for almost an entire month’s worth of minimum wage.
The Bodegón bubble, a booming trend that went wild this year, might give you an impression that things have improved. These, often re-purposed commercial establishments, specialize in selling importing goods at rather absurd prices; but just because there’s a few imported items being injected to the market doesn’t mean that the economy has improved, or that Venezuelans’ purchasing power has recovered, after all, the minimum wage is still less than $2 per month. Some of the most well-known ones are allegedly owned by high ranking members of the government—we don’t talk about that.
As with every type of business, there’s some more successful than others. The items that you can find in almost every of these stores may be normal or even of subpar quality in their respective countries of origin, but they’re passed as luxury items here—even more when some of these establishments only accept foreign currency as payment.
Lack of foresight and Venezuelans investing in what at a first glance seems like a viable solution for their growing financial problems go hand to hand. The Bodegón fad has been absurdly overdone to the point of over-saturation. In addition to that, not every customer can or is willing to spend that much on those products, which is why you’re now starting to see 2×1 promotions and other incentives destined to move the stalled inventories.
Discounts and offers aren’t limited to imported items, some places that once had severe supply issues now find themselves with stocks of items that they can’t sell because of how expensive they’ve become, cue my surprise when I walked to a kiosk that no longer sells newspapers or magazines, but groceries instead, and I saw cooking oil at a discount.
Every month you have to readjust your brain’s monetary scale. Two years ago I used to make jokes about “100,000 being the new 10,000”, I suppose I could dust those off for October of 2019.
And then get ready once more for “1,000,000 is the new 100,000”.
A Deal with the Devil, Part XXV
Once again, in a move that shocked absolutely no one in the country, a group of washed out “opposition” individuals have become part of another of the regime’s elaborate and Machiavellian PR schemes. Another deal of the devil scenario for that these disreputable individuals do in hopes of attaining a modicum of political power; the regime seeks to mask its authoritarian facade with the pretense of a new round of make-believe dialogues between them and these opposition figures, hoping to wash out some of its tarnished reputation—never mind the fact that with all they’ve said and done, it’s beyond irreparable now.
At the same time, the regime has carried out one of their tried and tested tactics: smear Juan Guaido’s interim presidency and exploit his lack of results, as well as some mishaps from certain figures.
Guaido, who regrettably (but not surprisingly) has failed to produce effective results, has had his initial momentum severely diminished. I’ve never posed myself as an expert (quite the opposite even) but I said it earlier this year: the regime will simply stall and buy time until Guaido’s momentum waned and the opposition stumbles upon itself once more. After 20 years they’ve become exceedingly good at the perverse game of Venezuelan politics and they’re willing to do anything and everything to stay in power.
As such, the same status quo continues, with no apparent end in sight.
The soul-crushing Venezuelan reality
Sure, those with the finances to invest are doing it in an ill-fated fad, and the politicians are doing the same old nauseating tactics so long as they get some crumbs of power; despite all that the truth is that the country as a whole continues to limp towards oblivion, and one can easily get so hopeless and disenfranchised with everything to the point that you unwillingly become another player in the “every man for himself” reality of Venezuela.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a beautiful country that’s worth saving, its just that it is very hard to stay optimistic anymore, especially after these past eight months of 2019 that have been plagued with all sorts of woes. If you want to survive through this wondrous socialist utopia you need to get deeply immersed in your daily routine and cycles, often becoming desensitized to the tragedies that you see or hear every time you walk through the streets.
Sooner or later you get a soul crushing reminder of how bad things are for the majority of the country here, which is exactly what happened to me a couple days ago.
I went to my local church to request the inclusion of my mother’s name on next Monday’s mass, for it will soon be eighteen months since she passed away. An unforeseen problem with my mom’s car delayed me until I received help and jumpstarted it.
When I was leaving the church I was approached by a desperate woman and her infant child, a face I will now never forget. She approached me, full in tears, asking not for money, but for something to eat so she could feed her malnourished child.
No nearby ATM had paper cash, and even if I had been able to successfully withdraw some, it wouldn’t had been enough to buy anything meaningful, so what I did was walk to a nearby store and get some things for her.
I may be an rash at times, extremely introvert, and utterly inept when it comes to social interactions, riddled with a lack of self-worth and other personal issues that I’m trying my best to get rid of, but one thing is for sure: I’m not an indolent person.
The entire encounter just tore me apart, I hope that things go better for her. Had the problems with my mother’s car hadn’t happened, then perhaps I wouldn’t had crossed paths with her—one of those “right place at the right time” occurrences.
I walked back to the car, still parked in front of the church, and took a deep breath, thanking God because despite all the trials and tribulations in my life right now, at least we have a roof and a warm meal every day.
I’d like to avail myself of this opportunity to thank you all, Patrons and non-patrons alive, because it is thanks to you guys that I’m able to put food on the table for my brother and myself.
God bless you all.
In short, business as usual in Venezuela, it continues to be a repeat of the same tale, the very same cycle that worsens with every turn, and no solutions seem to materialize from the worn out regime and opposition. Meanwhile, you can’t help but get trapped in your daily survival loop, the shortcomings and ever worsening decay of it all is what dictate your daily actions.
I hope that October is more manageable, because with all the stuff that occurred during September I am now severely behind schedule when it comes to my upcoming novel, Sword of the Nation, for which I apologize and beg of you to please stay tuned.
Gotta to stick to the routine, wrangle it better, and continue working towards escaping in tandem.
It’s Do or Die now.