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In Venezuela Today...
Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2002

Dear Editor:

Today, Sunday, December 15, 2002, I began my walk around the barrio at 8:00 am.

Stores were already beginning to open. By 10:30 am, about 75% were open, as usual for a Sunday.

Yesterday, mid-afternoon I went to buy inter-city bus tickets at one of the "Executive" bus line in Caracas (large air-conditioned buses with toilet and TV). I was with my friend from the barrio who drove me to the terminal in his beat up Jeep.

We entered the terminal together (beautifull place), waited in line and asked to reserve and buy tickets for early this coming week. The response was to this effect, "... well, you know, we are operating on a day-to-day basis due to El Paro.... we are not sure about our schedules for that day, we will only make the schedule for that day on that day itself ... sorry, we suggest you come early that day and take you chances..." I laughed, responding that it is no problem, I will begin walking instead. They laughed.

As we left the parking lot in his banged up Jeep, past the Mercedez Benz and the new Jeep Cherokee, I said to my friend, "... I bet you that if we had arrived in a Mercedez or with diamond rings on our fingers or if I spoke English and told them I was Canadian, we would have had a confirmed ticket in hand without any ifs or buts ... so let's come back tomorrow, I will dress in suit and tie and drop me off a half block away so they won't see your car, and let me go in alone ... you will see ... ha !".

We arrived at his house about half an hour's later and I decided to call another executive bus company by phone to reserve and purchase using my Gold credit card. I began with, "...hello, I would like to reserve tickets and pay you by phone with my credit card....". The girl attending to me said, ", problem, we can reserve your tickets by phone ... guaranteed departure on that date..." Next, she suggested that better yet, I could go to their offices in person, confirm and pay at once. Upon her giving me directions to the terminal, I realized that it was the same place we were at half an hour ago!

I told that I was just there about half an hour before. Her response, (after consulting fellow employees) was, "... oh, I am so sorry, I have just been informed that the schedules were done just after you left our offices earlier on..."

Later today, I will go there, dressed sharply, speaking intentionally broken Spanish with a Canadian passport.

I WILL have my tickets in hand.

Why did this happen?

Here is my analysis:

Since we did not look like people that were in support of "el paro", they (supporting el paro) had to give the inpression that because of "el paro" there was no way of assuring service. (I noticed that it is rather easy to know if one supports "el paro." One either has a Venezuelan flag attached to the car or hat or clothes, or asks with enthusiasm, upon meeting someone,"...are you going to la marcha?")

The high class people in line before us were able to buy confirmed tickets for a day after our planned trip date.

In other words, if I own a credit card, I must be in favor of "el paro" (Chavistas don't own credit cards, in their minds).

Therefore, if I have to travel, I will get a ticket because I understand the circumstance and by purchasing a ticket I am helping them stay in business during "el paro". Buddies in protest.

On to another subject.

Many people in the barrio here are anti-Chavez, verbally supporting "el paro" and "las marchas," but most of these tell me that even being anti-Chavistas they don't trust ANY of the other current "opposition" either.

Most of the storeowners I have been speaking with aren't either for or against. For them it is business as usual. One put it in these terms ... "I have five children, I want a better life for them, I dont want them to go throught what I have had to go through, I want them to go to school, become something better than I, live better ... no government has ever helped me(us) ... I own my home and my business only by the sweat of 40 years."

I spoke with some anti-Chavistas an told them about what we hear in the media in Canada (don't go to Venezuela, civil war, high risk of being attacked, robbed, kidnapped, no food left on shelves, civil riots, Circulos Bolivarianos running rampant throughout the streets murdering people, etc.) They were appalled. I was saddened. This is what all this "impatience" with Chavez is doing to your beautiful country, I told them.

In a few days, I will be far from Caracas, still in Venezuela.

I wonder what it will be like there?


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