Contingency plans

At least a couple of international news agencies have given their foreign staff in Caracas one-year open airline tickets – just in case they have get outta Dodge in a big hurry.

A number of multinational companies with operations in Venezuela (including oil companies) are updating contingency plans to pull theit expatriate staff out of the country quickly if there’s a sudden eruption of social and political conflict.

Sure, all MNC’s and foreign embassies always have contingency plans, just in case something happens.

But a leading banker, a very courageous and impeccably honest man, tells me that he fears that a major social and political eruption is just around the corner.

When the explosion happens, it will eclipse the rioting of the Caracazo of 1989 by several orders of magnitude, he adds.

“Everything is broken and collapsing, there are no institutions, the violence is getting much worse and even Chavez cannot control it,” he said.

Indeed. Daily power outages, contaminated water, crumbling roads and highways, shrinking agricultural and livestock production, homicidal criminal violence, and much more…all of it growing worse by the day.

“But my wife and I are staying put if there’s an explosion, no matter what happens. I believe we will be safer simply staying inside our home,” my banker friend added.

Good luck with those one-year open airline tickets if they’re needed in a violent national crisis that triggers the mass flight of foreigners and Venezuelans with money and visas.

I witnessed mass panic at the old Maiquetia International Airport terminal in November 1992, less than 24 hours after the second failed coup attempt that year. I watched crowds of frightened foreign tourists and visiting business executives shoving and literally climbing over the people around them at the airline ticket counters, fighting for seats on departing flights to anywhere.

Some of the panicked tourists that day in November 1992 were Gringos who had spent the previous day (during the second failed coup attempt) cowering in the hallways of the Eurobuilding and CCCT hotels while the windows of hotel rooms facing La Carlota were shot into glass shards and Bronco OV-10’s in rebel hands attacked repeatedly, firing salvos of rockets at the loyal troops defending the base. I lived in a penthouse apartment in Las Mercedes at the time, with a large terrace where I stood drinking coffee the morning of the failed coup while several Broncos in the skies above swooped down at La Carlota, firing 7.62 mm machine guns mounted on wing pods. Dozens of spent brass shells ejected from the machine guns fired by the Bronco pilots rained upon my terrace.

But that bloody failed coup in November 1992 lasted less than a day and was concentrated mainly around La Carlota, the presidential palace and other government buildings.

Now… close your eyes for a minute and imagine an eruption of social and political violence several orders of magnitude greater than the failed coup attempts of 1992; a city-wide explosion continuing for several days or even weeks, with spillover in oehr cities around the country, with potentially thousands of heavily armed “red” urban militants on the orowl and committed to preserving their revolution at any cost, targeting individuals who are known to oppose the regime and who therefore are “legitimate military objectives.”

If the “pueblo” (meaning the armed irregular groups fostered and encouraged/tolerated for over 13 years by the Bolivarian regime) does “take up arms to defend the revolution” – as Diosdado Cabello threatened barely one week ago – the Caracas-La Guaira highway could be shut down at many points by irregular groups that already hold the high ground and the strategic/tactical advantage over the highway.

How many other routes are there for traveling from Caracas to Maiquetia International Airport?

I know a couple or maybe three alternative routes – the old Caracas-La Guaira highway, the longer and steeper route that begins high up in El Junquito, or over the Avila in a four-wheel-drive SUV – but travel times are longer and they still traverse through the barrio badlands where the regime’s civilian gunmen and professional gangbangers reign.

If Maiquetia International Airport is cut off, the closest fallback airport would be Valencia International. But the Autopista Regional del Centro is a natural shooting gallery at dozens of points en route from Caracas to Valencia. Longer alternative routes to Valencia also could be interdicted easily.

Do I think there will be the kind of violence that compels the pell-mell flight of foreigners in Venezuela? I certainly hope not.

But Venezuela is collapsing, imploding, after over 13 years of the most incompetent and sorry government in Venezuela’s entire history as an independent republic. It’s difficult to “see” the full extent of the country’s collapse when one lives 24/7 in the midst of the rubble because it is a steady, incremental process. People also are reluctant to connect too many dots.

As an old friend in the media business in Caracas said very recently: “If I start to consciously connect all of the dots out there, I’ll probably panic and leave Venezuela with my family forever. But I don’t want to get to the point where I become convinced that there’s no other option except to flee Venezuela, so I’m deliberately ignoring many of the symptoms of Venezuela’s imminent collapse.”

But over 19,000 confirmed homicides nationally in 2011 compared with less than 5,000 homicides nationally in 1998 is only one – of many – indicators that confirm that Venezuela’s violent collapse is gaining momentum.

My banker friend is right. If Venezuela for any reason suffers a violent social/political eruption over the coming year, the safest option in Caracas would be to stay put, lock one’s doors and stay away from the windows.

But staying put might not be an option for many indviduals, particularly if the regime makes good on its frequent threats that if anything ever happens to President Hugo Chavez the “pueblo” will hunt down the revolution’s enemies and deal swift popular justice.

About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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8 Responses to Contingency plans

  1. syd says:

    Not so OT .. thank you CG for the post, including this:
    I stood drinking coffee the morning of the failed coup while several Broncos in the skies above swooped down at La Carlota, firing 7.62 mm machine guns mounted on wing pods. Dozens of spent brass shells ejected from the machine guns fired by the Bronco pilots rained upon my terrace.

    For years I wondered how a spent brass shell, about 4 to 5 in. long, came flying through the glass door of my father’s library, to lodge itself smack dab into the back rest of his desk chair. It happened around the final year of the Pérez Jiménez regime, c.1957.

    I wondered, too, if the shelling was on purpose, and whether my Dad was a target. But it didn’t make much sense. For although he was an ardent adeco, my Dad was no político, other than during his med school days, when he was jailed in El Calabozo, next to Rómulo Betancourt, merely for voicing an opinion, at a private party, in favour of democracy. The only (covert) operation he was actively involved in, was in the set up of the YMCA, an organization that was once viewed with suspicion.

    Now I see how the shell’s trajectory might have been a coincidence.

    Thank you.


  2. teresa says:

    Why is it that instead of contigency plans for fleeing the country, Venezuelans have contingency plans to recover the country??? 13 years of trying to ignore reality have allowed this regime to continue its destructive path.

    Caracas Gringo reply: How many Venezuelans have left their country already? How many more Venezuelans would have left by now if they had the means and opportunity to do so? How much capital has fled Venezuela over the past 13-plus years? This morning I saw an estimate of over $131 billion dollars of cumulative capital flight since Chavez assumed the presidency in 1999. Without exchange controls, would there have more (or less) capital flight over the past 13 years? But the number one question is: What contingency plans exist to recover the country? The MUD has a proposed program of government with a lot of very cool and very necessary changes. But it’s only on paper, or the Internet. In fact, it’s not clear how the MUD expects to put its paper plan into real-life practice in a Venezuela that will be far more ungovernable as of 2013 than it is today, assuming that Capriles is allowed to win the election and be sworn in as president. Don’t look for the gringos in Washington for much help on that score. The US has much larger problems at home and in faraway places the US never had any business going, like Afghanistan. Sure, there’s a large herd of aging liberal and conservative gringo “Latin Americanists” roaming the streets of Washington who are delighted to take lots of dollars from Venezuelans to facilitate Venezuelan “access” to top US officials. But don’t expect the black hats in Venezuela to pay much attention to anything that comes out of Washington nowadays. After all, my fellow gringos in DC have done nothing but devalue US credibility and authority regionally for the past 20-plus years since the Cold War officially was declared over.


  3. Mike says:

    The same methods to keep citizens in the country would be used by an invading country’s military. All it takes is to destroy a bit of Venezuela’s infrastructure, consisting of a few highways, 3 or 4 major ports and 5 – 6 airports and the country will come to a standstill. If there are no major emergency food supplies, the people would literally be starving in a few weeks.

    Such a feat could be achieved by the US in 2 – 3 days with a carrier and a sub close to Venezuela’s coastline (no, no, the US has no interest in invading Venezuela, this is just a very basic strategic thinking exercise. Unless of course Chavez makes a Noriega type mistake). And if Chavez puts his Sukhois in the air, they will have maybe Curaçao or Aruba to come back to, because their bases will be destroyed while they are flying. Happened in Gulf War 1 when Iraq’s fighters had no place to land but in Iran.

    Now, should they try to fight the US Top Guns, pray for them, unless they use Russian Pilots, but by sheer numbers, they won’t have a chance.

    BTW, thank you so much for you Blues “YouTubes”. Just great! I could listen to this stuff all day long, so keep’em coming, please. Particularly the not so famous ones, that may have not sold as many records as e.g Buddy Guy or SRV, but are as good or often better.


  4. Steve says:

    I grew up in Venezuela and it saddens me greatly to see what she is doing to herself and where this Chavez insanity leads. It saddens me even more to see the US following the same ages old and well worn path.


  5. spot on- however, Venezuela’s plight is not unique in the cluster of oil tyrannies that have and shall continue to stumble: Egypt, Lybia and now, much more bloodily, Syria. It is cringe-worthy to consider that the latter two may be the closest examples of what efforts and bludd will be seen dislodge Chavez (and his communists from the crypt).


  6. Roberto N says:

    As for contingencies and alternate airports, I would think in terms of Higuerote. It’s been a while since I last saw the runway there, but back in the day a 727 and a 737 could land there.

    Also, you could approach Maiquetia from that side of things, Chirimena, Chuspa, Todasana, Naiguata and so on.

    Perhaps it is time that neighborhoods develop their own contingency plans just in case…….


  7. ramon says:

    Do you think the opposition has a contingency plan? What are your thoughts on the armed forces? They can’t all be with the regime…..they may say they are for now…but if that kind of violence erupts will we see them stand up for what’s right?

    Caracas Gringo reply: No, the opposition doesn’t have a contingency plan, at least not as a group, like the MUD. The Army will intervene if/when it has to, but very reluctantly because the officer corps, regardless of their politics and/or opportunism, knows that the body count will be high, with a great deal of collateral damage. The officers also know that the Army will wind up being blamed for whatever bloodshed occurs. Damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. Are they not still blamed for the violent suppression of the Caracazo of 1989? And for two failed coups led by Chavez and his gangster associates in 1992? And nowadays are they not hated for supporting the regime as long as they have?


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