Dreams in Jeopardy (about the latest Bolivar' devaluation)

Our currency has been devaluated once more. The way our exchange rate works can be a bit difficult to understand to the foreigner. But in short words let me just say that during this year we had access to dollars at the rate of 2,60 Bolívares for “primary need products” and for students studying abroad; while there was another, far more expensive rate (4,3 Bolívares per dollar), for travelers and the rest of the products. Now the preferential rate has disappeared and the official dollar cost 4,3 Bolívares for everything.

Some people consider this irrelevant since the preferential 2,60 rate was hardly accessible. Some others consider this necessary since too many exchange rates obviously create an economical distortion. But necessary or not, this devaluation is another punch to our economy, which has arrived as a New Years’ eve gift.

First, we can expect all prices to rise even more since even more people will be forced to look in the black market for expensive dollars to pay for their imported goods. We are expecting most rises in the food and health market. The “black market” rate doubles the official one. But also this comes as another excuse for speculation . Opposition might say speculation is only a government’ idea but outrageous prices for not so outrageous goods are a reality in Venezuela. A pair of US’ shoes can cost almost a quarter of my salary: anywhere from 500 – 800 Bs and when you do the math, you realized they are priced with a dollar that doubles even the black market rate. I’m not an economist and I’m totally ignorant of most economic issues, so I’m probably complaining for something that should be like that; but for us common costumers it is just abusive and weird.

Second, and most important, it is true that the preferential 2,60 rate was rarely given to anyone. But it is also true that as far as I have heard, it was given to everyone studying abroad. I’m applying to scholarships and all sorts of financial aid because there is not way for me to pay for my entire graduate education at any Bolivar per dollar rate. But with my savings, I could at least pay the fees and my living expenses for a few months which always helps. From one day to another, my dream education cost’ has doubled; and my road to grad school seems farther than ever. I would have to get a scholarship that could cover virtually every expense I have expect for the plane ticket; and if you are on this page you know how hard it is for an average student.

From one side this could be the beginning of the end of preferential rates and exchange controls; I hope one day dollars can be legal and fully available for those who wants to buy them for whatever they need. Because we will always need of others outside our boarders (which is something that our nationalist Revolutionaries will never understand) and we should have the right to access everything not only the country, but the world has to offer us.

From other side, I realize now that CADIVI was not only an endless chain of paperwork and bureaucratic steps to get a limited and ridiculous amount of dollars. It should have never been created but now that it was, it represented a help for me to pay for my education. And many others who are already studying abroad and could find themselves in trouble to pay now that the exchange rate has changed.

In a country where there is no respect for the citizen and key decisions and announcement are made on midnight, on vacations without warn or consult; everything gets more difficult than what it should be. Applying to grad school is difficult already, for anyone, anywhere. But under this circumstances, is not only difficult but almost impossible, a constant heartbreaking process.

I had a dream of going to grad school next year. When you turn 26 years old you have to admit to your friends that you will never be the endless party girl, and you will rather spend your money on books than on clothes. You have to look at them and tell them what they already know: “I’m a nerd”. I loved and constantly miss my undergraduate years. Not only because of the parties, or the friends or our naïve political struggle.

I miss discussions. I miss being up at 2:00 am finishing a paper I should have done two weeks ago. I miss the place where my own criteria was respect and valued. Something different happens in a work environment when they ask you to do “what the client wants” which is rarely what you want. I don’t like to “write a quick report, this is not a thesis, don’t pay attention to every detail because we need it now…” – I like to have time to think because the liberty of thinking is the most valuable of all liberties; and the most enjoyable. I like to think on apparently useless topics. I like to answer questions by asking more questions. And I think that for a while, somewhere outside Venezuela with people all over the world; the experience will be far more rich and productive.

Once I do that, once I go to graduate school abroad, once I officially become what I am inside: an academic; I can come back here. I can give shape to the graduate program I could not find inside Venezuela and had to look for somewhere else. Or I can be hidden while waiting for things to change. Or I can be prosecuted not because I’m rebel but because my dreams and expectations do not fit with impositions. But whatever happens, I will always have those years in my mind. They can seize my properties, limit my movements or my speech; but I haven’t heard of any political system able to erase my memories, guess my thoughts or erase my education.

That is the reason for me to pursue a graduate school career instead of taking another path. This is my bet and my purpose. Which is now in jeopardy, just as everything else in a normal life inside a never normal revolution.

PS: For more info on how this change in the exchange rate works for us Venezuelans, read a brilliant entry on Caracas Chronicles: Happy new taxes, human beings!. You should also look at Daniel' version of this story, which same as me but in a different way, has touched a personal side. Do not miss it.