Arriving in Caracas
Arriving in Venezuela was very different. My flight landed in the early hours of the morning, the temperature in Caracas is much higher than in the other places I had visited, I was unable to change money, and the airport has no proper taxi service.
Any social conversation – even conversations in the lift, about the weather – end up swinging towards politics. Everybody I spoke to was very involved in the parliamentary elections (held on September 26).
Mountains on the horizon
Caracas is a city of around 4 million people. As it is located in a valley, you can see the mountains on the horizon from anywhere. It is very relaxing, in contrast with the bustling city.
When I arrived at the hotel I was staying at in Caracas, there was a big notice on the door saying “Closed – Pay your taxes!” As this was an international hotel chain, the sign made quite an impression on me. Afterwards, people explained that this is what happens when companies attract the attention of the government: A highly complex tax code provides room for “inspections”, which invariably find issues that have been “breached” and which justify fines.
Venezuela is one of the most active countries on Twitter (when I wrote this note, it had the largest number of people connected, talking about power outages in Caracas neighborhoods). Nelson Bocaranda is one of the most experienced and active journalists in Venezuela and his Twitter account reflect this (he has over 220,000 followers). Anybody who wants to know what is going on in Venezuela should follow him.
A major concern in Venezuela is the lack of professional opportunities for youngsters who are beginning their careers. Apparently, talented people have been moving to other countries in search of better jobs. In the last 10 years, an estimated 20,000 doctors have left the country – most of them have moved to Spain.
More on the Latin American tour next week!