Good news -- We made it to Venezuela! So far, today (Thurs) is our first day on our way to Caracas. The flights all went more or less well, and Franco picked us up & all worked out great. We´ve stayed at his mother in law´s apt in Naiguatá (between Pedro de Molder and Juan Diaz) and it was quite nice.
Venezuela -- incredible. The poverty is abundant and everywhere and it´s like nothing we have in USA (except perhaps New Orleans after the floods). However, the people´s pro-and anti- Chavez feelings are very strong.
Chavez apparently wants an economy based on solidarity, a ´new form´of economics with a strong socialist leaning. In this incredibly poor country (!!!!), the people now have free health care, everyone can eat bc of govt supported supermarkets (merkal and another chain), the govt is helping people buy the land they live on, and the govt is funding hundreds of business cooperatives (cooperativas) startups. The nationalism and pride here is great, and hopefully in the long run it will help this country fill in the gaps of poverty. They are in the midst of the Bolivarian Revolution which has been called the Beautiful Revolution b-c there has been no bloodshed (it was a victory by elections).
Personally, I call it evolution rather than revolution ... the evolution of consciousness which realizes the value of human life, that fundamental rights of all life are paramount, worth far more than products, profit, and money.
It´s really impressive b-c the poverty is so extreme. I´m snapping up photos, and hope to have a lot of material for uploading soon. Internet is down in Naguitá right now, but we´re in a shop in La Paz paying $2.5 Bolivares (about $1) per hour. Clif has been surprised in part bc the dollar has dropped so much and food is more expensive, so food prices here are the same as the USA. The most common food here is the Arepa, which looks like a pita filled with a wide range of meat and vegetables. My first today was avocado, ham, and cheese. Yummm...
On the plane, a Venezuelan woman told me that average middle class income ´was hurt´ bc of Chavez and that the middle class is suffering here. She was anti-Chavista. She couldn´t really say how they suffered (except that in the USA you could make more in a week than they make here in a month), but she didn´t like Chavez personally either.
I haven´t seen any middle class yet, but we´re staying in pretty fancy digs by the side of the ocean. Hope to have more balanced views during the trip.
Also have had a few interesting discussions w/locals who see USA as an empirial power trying to exploit all S.America. While I have not disagreed w/this sentiment, I have argued that not all N.Americans want this exploitation, and that corporations are not within the average person´s sphere of control. I don´t know if people think i´m unusual, or if they think maybe there really are N.Americans in opposition to global domination.
The ocean here is to the North. Bizarre!