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Going on Vacation to Venezuela? What Could Go Wrong?

Venezuela was once a beautiful but generally laid-back and therefore often relaxing tourist destination. My wife and I spent well over a year there off and on between 1996 and 2001. We enjoyed it so much that we thought of settling there permanently, probably up in the Andes not far from the university city of Merida.

Although much of Venezuela’s beauty remains, many things are different. What follows will, I hope, be seen as an attempt at satire comprised of a mix of disgust, love, despair, and hope. Disgust and despair may have overwhelmed love and hope.

The Venezuelan minister of tourism, Alejandro Fleming, is pushing Venezuela as an ideal vacation destination and he is right. Not only does scenic beauty abound, vacationing there would be instructive in many ways.

Fleming said the Ministry wants to give the industry a socialist twist, a claim that is not entirely new because it was the announced policy of his predecessor, Pedro “Fritz” Morejon, who has since and deservedly disappeared from the radar screen.

The State, the Minister reaffirmed, is running 11 hotels nationally and in June the Venetur chain of hotels, as they are known, will offer package tours after prices have been re-assessed and updated.

The prices will be re-assessed and updated as soon as a new financial system is fully in place.

The new system aims to eliminate the wheeling and dealing of the national financial oligarchy in international alliance that include parallel dollars, irregularities in exchanges houses and money laundering, Chávez explained from Miraflores Palace to Venezolana de Television, where the Council of Ministers is meeting. …

We are revising the technical aspects of what will be announced shortly, he pointed out.

The government moves expeditiously and competently in such matters, so it’s not too early to make plans for a summer vacation.

For the many health conscious tourists, Venezuela can’t be beat; indeed, one could drop ten pounds or more due to the massive food shortages obviously caused by capitalist greed, food hoarding, incompetence of a few petty officials, speculation, and the bourgeois nature of some union members. President Chávez is as furious about the recent discovery of sixty thousand tons of rotting food stored in containers at the port of Puerto Cabello as President Obama is at the recent oil well disaster; like President Obama, he is on top of the situation.

“Debacles like this cannot be forgiven,” Chavez said during a televised speech. “Justice must come into play with a well-sharpened sword.”

“I’ve been informed that they detained one of those who must face up, the one responsible for bringing that food and having forgotten it there,” he added without elaborating.

Chavez’s comments came shortly after the Attorney General’s Office announced the arrest of Luis Enrique Pulido, the former president of Venezuela’s state-run food production and distribution company.

Coffee, a vile capitalist witches’ brew if ever there was one, was produced not long ago in great quantity and quality; it is now gone, which is clearly a reason for joy among those interested in healthy living. Although malaria was up 85% during the first quarter of 2010 compared with the first quarter of 2009, and dengue fever was up 138% percent, this was due to the drought last year; Venezuelan mosquitoes, unlike all others, thrive where it is dry and can’t survive in wet conditions.

In any event, the high level of medical care means this is not a cause for concern; it’s just great: prompt, efficient and compassionate. Violent crime may upset some (only in urban and rural areas), but it promotes running and other forms of worthwhile exercise. With a bit of luck, it can be even more exhilarating than other extreme but more expensive sports such as bungee jumping; Winston Churchill once said, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as being shot at without effect.” And for those who enjoy vicarious military excitement, there is lots to be seen. On March 13, it was announced that:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez formally took delivery … of the first four K-8W airplanes out of 18 purchased in China for military training purposes, which, however, came armed with machine guns, air-to-ground missiles, bombs and rockets. …

Venezuela’s purchases of military equipment from China follow its orders from Russia of 24 Sukoi-30 fighters, some 50 helicopters and 100,000 AK-103 automatic rifles in 2006 for some $3 million, according to Russian sources.

President Chávez will probably invite tourists to play with them since he enjoys doing so and is well known for sharing his simple pleasures with others.

Eco-tourism is very popular, and environmentalists will quickly find inspiration in the decline of Venezuela’s oil industry as well as discover new ways to conserve water and electricity, the supplies of which a thoughtful and ever compassionate government has wisely limited by allowing the infrastructure to deteriorate naturally in environmentally sound ways. President Chávez correctly “explained to us that we needed to take only three minutes showers, that we had no need for hot water and that he was creating a new ministry for electricity.”

Singing in the shower is out, but el Presidente is always thinking of innovative ways to help: earlier, he promised “to fly personally with Cuban scientists to ‘zap’ clouds and make them rain.” This alone would be a sufficient reason to visit Venezuela; where else can an immensely popular although very shy president be seen doing such things?

The steps being taken are wise and farsighted, and the funds which a more repressive government might have spent to maintain its own domestic infrastructure have instead been used to help other less progressive countries deal with their internal problems while advancing Bolivarian socialism at home. Chávez, bless him, is even trying to help Mexico revive as a tourist destination by funding and otherwise supporting the Ejercito Popular Revolucionario (EPR), a peace-loving bunch of guys whose aim is to destabilize the Mexican government and bring to Mexico the many Bolivarian joys now plentiful in Venezuela.

For the moment, however, Venezuela remains by far a better tourist destination than Mexico where, although possibly in its death throes, capitalism is not yet dead as el Presidente Chávez proudly proclaims it is in Venezuela. “We are going to bury Venezuelan capitalism,” Chavez said, adding that his administration would “take from the bourgeoisie control of the money which belongs to all Venezuelans.”

Entertainment is plentiful, but not the crass capitalist stuff so disgustingly common elsewhere. According to the Huffington Post, el Presidente Chávez has decreed its replacement with good socialist soap operas to inculcate proper values rather than capitalist avarice and vice.

El Presidente Chávez personally provides six hours or so of his own wisdom during Alo Presidente, which is broadcast throughout the entire country on Sundays (all other programming is preempted). He sometimes sings and recites poetry for all to enjoy. Not content with this great personal sacrifice, he also graces the airwaves with words of wisdom at odd hours of the day and night whenever he feels a need to do so. Even though Oliver Stone has encouraged him to be less self-sacrificing in these ways, he wisely ignores this well-meant advice. Despite the self-effacing nature for which he is widely revered, el Presidente Chávez has become Number 1 on the Venezuelan Twitter charts (formerly a tool of terror) and has

launched a blog, a webpage and totes a BlackBerry to keep his followers up to date and informed on his daily activities. The Bolivarian Revolution has quickly gained its footing in the Internet battleground.

There is never a dull moment in Venezuela, with peaceful demonstrations presented by the happy proletariat and a few spoil-sport opposition jerks for tourists and others to watch daily; but don’t get involved or even too close, as that could be unpleasant.

For great fun and enlightenment, Venezuela should be at the top of everyone’s vacation list. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so now is the time to go.