Fracas in Caracas

I escaped from the land of the negro gigante (that’s Spanish fyi for those of you who subscribe to BS political correctness) and arrived in a spot more my style, Caracas, Venezuela.

I’ve never been to Venezuela before, and have always wanted to check it out, so I was very happy to arrive here. Plus, Caracas is a large, cosmopolitan city which is the optimal habitat for adult Jeffs. This type of environment, combined with a daily feeding schedule consisting of leafy vegetables, fruits, meat or fish and wine or vodka and your adult Jeff will be happy and docile with a glossy sheen. Just remember to regularly place a female, preferably of latina or asian breed, in the habitat to ensure your Jeff is completely satisfied. Additionally, internet, X-boxes and physical activities such as golf, surfing or snowboarding will ensure your Jeff is healthy and lives to its full life expectancy so you can enjoy many more fun and fulfilling years with your Jeff.

Anyway, as far as Venezuela is concerned, there is lots to talk about! This region is under the auspices of a very flamboyant, outspoken and economically, incredibly ignorant man named Hugo Chavez.

He has done all sorts of really stupid things, including nearly destroying one of the only wealth-creating industries in the country, the oil business. He also seems to believe that if you take assets from productive enterprises and confiscate them and give them to unproductive enterprises, that this will result in an increase in value. He is either stupid or corrupt. Either he actually believes that or he is just saying he believes that in order to gain votes from the uneducated populous who are happy to receive something for nothing, at least in the short term. In the longer term, no one will have anything, whereas, if they just let the free market evolve, they would receive nothing in the very short term but soon the wealth of everyone in the region would rise dramatically. It’s the usual socialist/communist ponzi scheme.

One of the most interesting, noticeable acts of Hugo, is that he has pulled out a few go-to plays from the stupid-politico handbook in terms of Venezuelan money, called the Bolivar. Actually, it is now called the Strong Bolivar. He chopped 3 zero’s (the zeros had aggregated over time due to the aforementioned policies) off of the old Venezuelan Bolivar last year and created the Bolivar Forte! It is worth EXACTLY the same as the previous currency but instead of it being 10,000 Bolivars it is now 10 Bolivars for the exact same thing. Wow, what a strong Bolivar! He should chop another 20 zeros off so a can of coke costs 0.000000085 Bolivars.. that would be the Super Amazing Steroid Injected Bolivar! What a Bolivar that would be!

Anyway, lopping the zero’s off is all semantics, obviously, meant to try to fool the ignorant populace that instead of their currency depreciating by massive amounts every year it is actually getting much stronger! This actually appears to work on your average idiot… and those include economists, journalists and the like.

But beside that, the most hilarious part is that the Bolivar is losing value at even greater speeds than most people can comprehend…. So much so that in order to not have hyper-inflation (at least for the moment) Hugo has kept the exchange rate for Bolivars to USD at approximately 2:1.

Now, take notes here if you are planning on visiting Venezuela. If you go to Venezuela and do not bring US cash but only use your credit cards and ATM card you will be paying DOUBLE price for everything. That is because the Venezuelan Strong Bolivar is only worth 2:1 to the USD at the official, government exchange rate. On the street, where it matters, the going rate is 4:1. So, in actuality the Bolivar is worth half as much as the government says it is.

As with all things government, this charade will come to an end relatively soon, but in the meantime, when you go to Venezuela bring as much cash as you think you will need for your entire trip. Then, upon arrival at the airport, it will take you only a matter of seconds to be approached, “Cambio senior?�… they’ll likely start at 3:1 but you can get it at 4:1 if you haggle.

When I first looked at hotels in Caracas on the internet I was in shock. $300/night… $400/night… $600/night?!?!!? That was until I realized that they were quoting rates, converted into USD at the OFFICIAL exchange rate. NEVER pay for hotels or anything on your credit card. Do as I stated and reserve your hotel, but bring cash, convert it at 4:1 and then pay cash for your hotel. Hotels that quoted $300/night USD all of a sudden magically become $150/night.

In other words, by bringing USD cash to Venezuela, you will get everything at half the price you would have paid if you used your credit card or ATM. So, it is well worth the effort!

But just remember not to exchange more USD into Bolivars than you need. That is because NO Venezuelan bank, money exchange or institution will allow you to convert Bolivars back into dollars. If they did, at the exchange rate they quote, they’d be bankrupt instantaneously.

If you do have extra Bolivars left, your only option is to go back to the street cash converter guys and convert back… they’ll likely offer you 5:1, so they take a pretty big percentage compared to their selling rate, so don’t get stuck with too many extra Bolivars.

If the Venezuelan government were to let the Bolivar revert to its actual, real value, instantaneously any imported items in Venezuela would double in price. Imagine most of the things in your local store doubling in price overnight… do you think that might cause some stress amongst the populace? They’d likely put Hugo on a stick.

And it will have to happen, it is just a matter of when. And probably a lot sooner than most people realize. I give the Strong Bolivar 1-2 years left of existence after which it will likely completely collapse. That would, in the best of worlds, result in the imprisonment or killing of many of the top politicos, but you never know. They could create a war to take the populaces mind off the carnage and get them flag waving. This week’s comments by Hugo against Colombia seem to be a prelude to war. He stated that “any incursion by the US-backed Colombian government into Venezuela looking for FARC guerillas is an act of war.� So, all that is left now is to make up a false-flag event where Colombians are said to have trespassed on Venezuelan soil and that will be all it takes. (***NOTE: I wrote this BEFORE the news broke of Venezuela mounting troops on the Colombian border! Just as I was going to post this to my blog I saw the news! He has already started).

This will likely be the strategy of many of the countries whose currencies and economies are on the verge of collapse, including the US, UK and most of Europe. So, prepare for not great times ahead in that regard. The next 5 years will see much more famine, depression, war and volatility than we’ve seen in the last 50 years. (on a survivalist note: keep a MINIMUM of 1-2 months worth of CASH on hand (many banks will be bankrupt in the next few years… I predict Citibank to be bankrupt by close of 2008), keep some gold on hand to retain value (gold is nearly $1,000/oz now… look back to where I said you should buy gold around $450 a year or two ago!) and keep a minimum of 1-2 months worth of non-perishable food in your abode… it’s best to prepare for the worst, but the things I am talking about here may turn out to be the best case scenario… the next few years are NOT going to be fun for those not prepared).

Anyway, in terms of vibe, Caracas was pretty cool. I was really thrown off at first by how much everyone wanted to talk with me. I thought they wanted something from me or something… but it turns out, Venezuelans are very friendly and talkative… they love to just converse with others.

Caracas has the latino vibe, and also has a fair amount in common with Brazil. The general style in Caracas is quite machismo with a lot of that Italian style flair. They are very animated and engaged.

The city itself is highly cosmopolitan… I’ve actually never seen a city with so many sushi restaurants (including Vancouver!) outside of Japan… and I had one of the best meals I’ve had in months at an Italian restaurant called La Romanisima in the Las Mercedes area at the Centro mall. Oh my gawd, it was so good… the pasta and the steak were the best I’ve had in a long time. The Chilean wine was, of course, nice as well. It’s not that cheap… total cost was about $30, but that would be $60 if you didn’t convert your cash, so don’t forget to do that!

The Caracas nightlife was quite good. I never really found any nightclubs I’d call really cool, but I wouldn’t doubt if they do exist and I just didn’t find them. The city is just enormous and the amount of nightlife areas is too much to explore in only a few days. The best area I went to was the San Ignacio area. There is a big mall there, with dozens of bars all surrounding it. Inside are a few clubs… the best one I went to was called Vintage.

But, like the Brazilians, most of the people out were all out with their friends and quite compartmentalized. It was difficult to engage with others, from what I found, and so I had a fairly lonely weekend in Caracas. Although, to be fair, Caracas was much better than a place like Rio de Janiero for meeting people. Meeting Brazilian girls is not easy! I had numerous girls give me some friendly glances in Caracas, which was just not even the case in Brazil.

From what I have heard about some of the more beautiful natural areas of Venezuela, it’d probably be worth your while to go check them out too. Also, some of the islands, such as Isla Margarita are supposed to be pretty neat. I also wanted to visit Maracaibo, but didn’t because not many international flights route through there.

All in all I had a nice time in Caracas. It is definitely a cool place to visit. If it weren’t for the government the place would be great, I have no doubt.

In the meantime, I have flown back to Cartagena, Colombia for reasons as described in my last blog post. I may hang around here for a bit and then may finally check out that Santa Marta area.

But, much to my chagrin, I appear to have flown right into the epicenter of a looming battle between the American Empire Pigs and their puppet Colombian government and their ridiculous, horrible “War on Drugs� which is ruining the world versus the Ecuadorian and Venezuelan Idiot Communists. I don’t know who I’d want to lose more! Perhaps I’ll start my own Libertarian Guerilla Freedom Army and declare a jihad on the whole lot.