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.