There's a purpose to the order in which I check blogs: Miguel is, until last weekend, in Caracas, my town; Daniel is in Yaracuy, still in Venezuela; Francisco? Yesterday Maastricht, today Montreal, tomorrow who knows? Almost certainly not in Caracas, but with both eyes on it. Alas this morning, there's official confirmation of something I knew for quite sometime: Miguel Octavio, esteemed fellow blogger, has moved out of Venezuela. Another great mind, another extremely valuable individual, that takes his business someplace else, for the detriment of Venezuela.
In the last 12 years, that is since the dictator Chavez came to power, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have left a country that had traditionally been a recipient of people running away from thuggish rulers. Argentinians, Chileans, Colombians, and before that, Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese, in the hundreds of thousands, arrived in Venezuela, for it was the land of grace, the land of opportunity. No more. Today, only crooks, criminals, terrorists, fundamentalist fanatics, drug traffickers, and propagandists thrive in the country. No one else. It is impossible to earn a decent living, to live life minding your own, disconnected to the political turmoil of the deranged revolution. Sooner or later, you're victimised, you're touched, regardless. Could be your business, your property, your retirement funds, your car, all material possessions that can be recovered, one way or another. But, and this is the most intolerable thing, it could be your opinions, your ideas, your desire to live free from whimsical and illegal impositions, that can land you into trouble.
In his farewell salvo, Miguel cites "Crime and the absence of the rule of law" as the main reasons for his departure. To people that have never experienced the frustration of having been victimised by a State that systematically encroaches fundamental liberties, the second reason could seem meaningless, the stuff of snobs. But let me tell you, crime is the lesser of the two. Crime, one can deal with, personally. One has, at the very least, the capacity to try and work a way out of it, either by confronting assaulting parties, shooting back, driving or running away, or whatever solution comes to mind.
But how about getting a visit from utterly corrupt officials, telling you, with a straight face, that what's yours is no longer yours? How about the omnipotent president of the country, coming on TV, and saying, that following the letter of the law will land you in jail? How about the general in command of the armed forces, who happens to be an associate of terrorists organisations, saying unmoved that your vote is not valid? And worse of all, how about realising that there's absolutely no instance for redress in the land? No courts, no enforcement authorities? That, or the absolute absence of rule of law, is what makes living in Venezuela an inviable proposition. Is not the crime, the inflation, or the lack of opportunities. Rather, is the certainty that there's nowhere to go, to get redress, no instance to bring criminals to justice, no hope of getting a fair hearing or trial whatsoever.
That's what makes Venezuela an unliveable place.
And I disagree with both Miguel and Daniel that our work is done. It isn't. There's very many 'Venezuela pundits' alright, there's many analysts/journalists/academics, etc., that think that reading the news for three months, a couple of books and a paper, makes them 'experts'. The literature about Venezuela's political situation being published is almost entirely produced by such characters, individuals that, with all due respect, don't get it. While I will agree that there's a lot of noise, and that many have realised that Chavez is not the saviour of the downtrodden, very few in the international community really understand what's going on in the ground. Nearly all refer to Chavez simplistically, as this cartoonish and incapable of harm buffoon, that's squandering the country's wealth with his harebrained populist socialist revolution. No one's talking about tonnes of drugs that enter the international markets thanks to Chavez connivance with FARC. No one wants to talk about his protection of internationally wanted terrorists. Not even Colombia, which has suffered an internal conflict with narco terrorists guerrillas that has had a tremendous human cost, wants to call Chavez number.
Therefore, Miguel's reporting from the ground, independent, unPC, factual, will be sorely missed.