Thursday, 28 March 2013

Thoughts on Venezuela + Los Llanos Photos

1) Chavez – He was one spanner short of a toolkit, but the majority of Venezuelans really did like this modern day Napoleon. He died a few days before we entered the country and there really was a sense of grief for the first week or so. It will be interesting to see what happens politically as his chosen successor is a left wing former bus driver and trade union leader. Think John Prescott, but with a moustache.

2) Chaos – And I thought the rest of South America was chaotic and disorganised! Venezuela seems to revel in it’s wild west reputation, with corrupt official, crumbling infrastructure and some of the worst driving outside of India.

3) Exchange Rate Controls – Official exchange rate to the dollar; 4.3 : 1, actual exchange rate to the dollar 20 : 1. Any school boy economist could tell you that exchange rate controls will never work for a country such as Venezuela. Because of the favourable black market rate the country proved surprisingly cheap, which was nice considering how expensive Brazil and Argentina were.

4) Where American Cars Go to Die – Because petrol is so stupidly cheap (less than 1p a litre), everyone has a huge V8, with old, battered American cars everywhere. Some of the cars had to be seen and heard to be believed! Needless to say there is no such thing as an MoT in Venezuela. Air pollution is also a big problem in the big cities because of all of the old engines and zero controls. Made me want to get a big V8 when I get home!

5) Oil & Gas – Definitely a double edged sword. The country potentially has huge wealth due to very significant oil and gas reserves, but because of this the rest of the economy has been left to stagnate. There is very little agriculture, manufacturing and no foreign investment outside of China. Venezuela only needs to look at Brazil & Colombia to see how far it is being left behind economically.

6) Great Fun – I had a great time in Venezuela, partly because it is off the tourist map, had a real edge to it at times and was completely different to Brazil and Argentina. Definitely worth a visit if you want to get off the beaten track.         

Below are some of my favourite wildlife photos from Los Llanos now that the internet is running a bit faster.


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