The US versus Chavez: was it worth?
It has been almost ten years of continuous anti US rhetoric from Chavez. And in a few weeks San Felipe will be inaugurating its new Burger King, right across the McDonald that has been running for about 5 years. Thus this corner of deep Venezuela will look a little bit more like any US anonymous suburbia.
I took this picture just as a family was getting out of a "buseta", a rickety old truck converted in some form of bus, a picture which I took accidentally before the above shot (click pics to enlarge). As you will see there is absolutely nothing glamorous about the mode of transport that this family took to go to McDonald. They are what US/European clichés love to call the "downtrodden dark skinned masses whose better fate has been brought courtesy of chavismo". And yet? where are they going to have their Saturday fun meal? At McDonald.
That is right, it is true, they have more money than before and can afford more stuff. Including the ideological symbol of the hated empire: McDonald (and surely Burger King in a future week end outing). I wonder if thsi family belongs to some "mision", if they are public workers, if they attended electoral rally to support chavismo. Maybe they did, maybe they did not, but they end up at McDonald anyway.
Because make no mistake, the odds that their new acquired relative wealth are coming from some private sector activity is very low. The industrial park of San Felipe has still an abandoned look, half the land is still unbuilt or abandoned with some ruins in the middle. Since 1999 there has been only three new "business": a new experimental university (UNEY), a central MERCAL distribution area and the latest one, a cooking gas bottling facility from PDVSA. In the same period at least 6 private business have closed down. Elsewhere in the area the only thing that has grown is the commercial district. But you would be very hard pressed to find new and shinny production facility in the area...
Thus this picture is actually two symbols. First, the failure of chavismo to distract folks from consuming US products and US lifestyle, no matter what is their social background (pictures of chavistas visiting the US and shopping abound all through the Internet). The US invasion is already here, it fills up malls showrooms and the bellies of those who visit. And second the economic failure in spite of recent high growth rates. We import all, even our food, export less and less, and things get worse as the price of oil keeps increasing.
Meanwhile the little joint I used to patronize in my earlier days at San Felipe, Cachapas Coa, is near dead. It used to have some of the best cachapas in Venezuela (as read in the guides of Valentina Quintero). The owners are (were?) chavistas and they tried to keep cost down, to remain close to the people. Service suffered, the already rustic "decoration" could not keep up, people showed less and less and the quality of cachapas started to fall. Now, I rarely go and when I go for lunch I am one of the very few customers even though the cachapas are almost as good as they were before (when you go at jojoto season, that is). But McDonald always as a crow for lunch, with a simple Mac at four times a delicious, natural, Venezuelan Cachapa...
Qu'elle était belle ma revolution!