Is Venezuela Turning into an Island?



HAVANA TIMES — I wonder whether, in a few months, Venezuelans will feel as though they live on an island. If I’m able to travel to Cuba any time in the future – and I do hope it’s soon – I’ll have to think twice about it, go over the decision to travel months in advance (and, more than think, put together a whole lot of money).

I won’t use the money to buy pretty things for my family, or any of the other thousand things people need over there. I’ll need all the money I save just to buy the plane ticket.

When I arrived in Venezuela, my ticket – one of the most expensive at the time – cost me less than 4 thousand Bolivars. At the time, the dollar was valued at 6 and 8 Bolivars (I am referring to informal exchange mechanisms; the State maintained the exchange rate at 4 or 5 Bolivars the dollar).

My girlfriend and I (my apologies for throwing my girlfriend into the mix, but it is because of her that I came to this country) had some difficulties putting together the money for the ticket, but it only took us two months to do it.

Now, exactly two years after my arrival, if I want to buy a ticket to travel to Cuba, I have to do it several months in advance (in June or July, for instance) – not to get a cheaper ticket, but to get one at all.

vueloConviasa, the Venezuelan State airline company, offers very “affordable” fares for flights to Havana: over 12 thousand Bolivars, three times what it was two years ago, that is. This is about a thousand dollars, under the prices set by SICAD (another entity that sells hard currencies).

Let us suppose I am not interested in traveling to Cuba (as could be the case with any Venezuelan). If we wanted to travel to Spain, the ticket – which we would need to buy now for traveling in July or September – costs between 45 and 54 thousand Bolivars.

And that’s if you fly with Conviasa, the airline company supposed to be the cheapest, the government company.

Some people might concur with the official account, that the raspacupos* (those who milk dollar cards) people who buy tickets they don’t use or who travel only in order to use their dollar credit cards in any country, are to blame for the rise in prices, or have forced Venezuela’s “good” government to take these measures.

I, who hadn’t been born when my country’s chaotic laws came into effect and assumed those laws were normal for many years, think that this nonsense surrounding plane fares and the other difficulties faced by anyone who wants to travel is just the tip of the iceberg.

barcosI feel it is just the beginning, a sign announcing an imminent period of darkness, in which traveling outside Venezuela could become as agonizing and near-impossible a process as it is for a Cuban to travel outside of Cuba.

On January 16, during a speech before Venezuela’s National Assembly, President Maduro said: “We’re going to keep the dollar exchange rate in Venezuela at 6.30 Bolivars throughout the year and for a long time afterwards.”

In less than a week, events were already contradicting the president’s prophetic words.

The President of Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA and Vice-President of government finances, Rafael Ramirez announced that, for travelers, credit cards, family remittances and airline companies, the dollar would be valued using the SICAD exchange rate. This means that, in order to travel, I will have to obtain my hard currency through this government entity which, for the time being, keeps the dollar valued at 11 Bolivars (and this figure is likely to go up).

“We have to decide whether we want to give the unscrupulous these dollars or if we import medications with them, whether we give the dollars to people who travel or buy food with them,” the PDVSA president stated.

When a country begins to place food and medication in the balance, against the right to travel…I start to get goose bumps.
(*) Raspacupos: When a Venezuelan wants dollars for traveling the governmental currency exchange office called CADIVI doesn’t give them cash… they set a US dollar max (cupo) on a debit card…. There are those who sell their cupo here in Venezuela to a person who then takes the card abroad and makes a fictitious purchase and receives the “change” in USD… the traveler brings the US dollars back to Venezuela to change on the black market. So in this case cupo means quota or max USD on the card… and raspa means swiping the card.



Caridad: If I had the chance to choose what my next life would be like, I’d like to be water. If I had the chance to eliminate a worst aspect of the world I would erase fear. Of all the human feelings I most like I prefer friendship. I was born in the year of the first Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, the day that Gay Pride is celebrated around the world. I no longer live on the east side of Havana; I’m trying to make a go of it in Caracas, and I continue to defend my right to do what I want and not what society expects of me.

8 thoughts on “Is Venezuela Turning into an Island?

  • California is not bankrupt …yet. But it is heading that direction. The Californian cities Stockton, Vellajo & San Bernardino declared bankruptcy in 2013. Out of control public spending, a corrupt political marriage of politicians & powerful unions, and business crushing environmental regulations are driving the economy under.

    So Wayne, if your comment was intended as a swipe against free enterprise, you missed by a mile: socialism (in the peculiar American form) is to blame in California, as is in Detroit & Chicago (also facing bankruptcy).

  • What planet do you live in. California, although suffering from economic difficulty, can be considered the 12 largest economy in the world. The poorest citizen in Californian would not deign to live in the rat traps found in Havana. And the Cuban economy? ….well let’s put it this way, the Cuban peso is worthless on the world stage. Venezuela? The Bolivar is plunging so fast it’s giving the world currency markets vertigo and people are dying to get their hands on a U.S. dollars.

  • And California IS …….BANKRUPT….speak to that Moses

  • The thing that I find most people outside the country do not understand is that this is the government telling you how you can spend your own money. When they say, “put money on a credit card”. It’s like a prepaid card, except they also limit the amount of your money that you can put on it.

  • I feel for you mi amigo. Just looked at tickets back to Venezuela as I too fell for a beautiful Venezuelan :). $5300US for a round trip ticket to Caracas-stan. So what we did was fly to Bogota ($800USSteerage/$1200US first class!) and caught a local airline hop to Caracas for $530US. It was pretty funny, on the local airline, their price was $530 from Bogota to Caracas and back. That plane originated in Lima, where the fare was $430 to Caracas via Bogota round trip. It’s just a screwed up part of the world! 🙂

  • There is a salsa dinner club in San Francisco that my wife and I enjoy once in a while. We met a Venezuelan couple there who have shared incredible stories about how even middle-class Venezuelans are concocting schemes to secret dollars out of Venezuela in anticipation of an economic collapse. This particular Venezuelan couple regularly receives small amounts of money from a small group of friends in Venezuela to deposit in an account they set up for them for safekeeping. Think about this: people are so worried about their economy that they prefer the risk of sending money to this couple over leaving it in a Venezuelan bank. By the way, the sense that I have is that Venezuelans like Cubans in general but do not like the influence certain Cubans appear to have within the Maduro regime. Once that distinction begins to blur, the Venezuelan people may indeed blame ALL Cubans for the inevitable economic apocalypse.

  • The Venezuelan government admits to an inflation rate of 56%, although in reality it’s higher than that. Maduro blames “parasitical capitalism” for the problem, when in fact the inflation is the direct and predictable outcome of the insane economic policies he & his predecessor pursued.

    Yordanka, if you ever do manage to scrape together enough money to buy a plane ticket out of there, you might want to consider a different destination. When the Venezuelan economy collapses, (and that is a question of when, not if) it might not be a nice place for Cubans to be hanging about. The effects of the coming Venezuelan economic crisis will be felt in Cuba, which had depended not only on the cheap oil Maduro sends, but also the money Cuban medical staff earn. Venezuela won’t be able to keep up that kind of charity for long, when their own people start rioting for bread.

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