chavez1Parallel to the fascinating economic landscape of Venezuela are physical beauty, friendly people, and delicious food. However, State Department travel warnings about the prevalence of kidnappings and violent crime gave us second thoughts prior to our departure.

Even though our itinerary concentrated mostly on remote, untraveled areas of the Andes and avoided Caracas, reactions from my wife’s colleagues—particularly those from Latin America—not only gave us pause but precipitated a phone call to our tour operator about the trip’s safety. She assured us that she had seen no problems in twenty years of running trips and that we were in good hands with our experienced guide and our veteran driver. The risks seemed minimal.

Despite being two gringos who definitely did not blend, at no time did we ever feel unsafe or threatened. Here are a few of the things I observed.

It was difficult to escape Hugo Chavez. His image was everywhere, from ubiquitous billboards to a mobile food truck distributing subsidized arepas in Merida, as shown in the first few pictures below.

Chavez remained a bad memory for one host.

Our stay at one lodge coincided with my reading about Tascon’s list from Rory Carroll’s, Commandante, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. This list was of those who signed a Chavez recall petition in 2004. Retribution eventually followed, a nightmare for millions of voters. Indeed, the lodge owner –whose son lost his job as a petroleum engineer – was physically repulsed and frightened by the book. He motioned an imaginary tattoo across his forearm and said “fascism” of Chavez’s government in reference to the list.

Physical beauty erases Chavez.

One bike ride took us to altitudes over 13,000 feet on the highest paved road in Venezuela’s Parque Nacional Sierra de La Culata. We also took other rides past school children, through pastures of cattle and goats, by steep fields of potatoes and onions plowed by oxen, and to a coffee plantation where a dog by the name of Bruno resides as pictured below.

We were often the only guests at small lodges far off the beaten track.

Hopefully, business will pick-up for our gracious hosts, but the plunge in oil prices may have been taking a toll on spending psychology. Only twice did we not have milk for our morning coffee due to essential product shortages caused by centrally planned prices. One brief blackout of less than an hour occurred, but it was cut short by the lodge’s generator.

An easy day of wildlife viewing was welcome.

Horseback riding in the grasslands and canoeing down a river allowed us to see two species of monkey, many species of birds including the beautiful scarlet ibis, and many other animals. Kayaking down serious rapids marked our last day of activity.

The final picture is of a backward wrist watch.

It captures where Venezuela seems headed with ill-conceived, heavy-handed centrally planned prices. One hopes the government will adjust its path for the benefit of the people we met and the nation as a whole. .

bienvenidos

PDVSA

PDVAL

Venezuela

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Venezuela 436

Venezuela 450

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1-Venezuela 657-001

1.7

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Links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and do not imply an affiliation, endorsement, approval, verification or monitoring by Granite Hill Capital Management, LLC of any information contained therein. The terms, conditions and privacy policy of linked third-party sites may differ from those of this website.

This blog entry is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment, financial, or tax advice. Investment decisions should be based on your personal financial situation. Statements of future expectations, estimates or projections, and other forward-looking statements are based on available information believed to be reliable, but the accuracy of such information cannot be guaranteed. These statements are based on assumptions that may involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that any stated results will be replicated. Indexes are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.

Links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and do not imply an affiliation, endorsement, approval, verification or monitoring by Granite Hill Capital Management, LLC of any information contained therein. The terms, conditions and privacy policy of linked third-party sites may differ from those of this website.