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Life meets pavement

Tents, bare mats, improvised shelters, tattered refrigerators, and used-up kitchen utensils cover the sidewalk of this stretch of Avenida Lecuna, in downtown Caracas. Several government-subsidized buildings on both sides of the street are adorned with propaganda. Women, men, and kids stand by, looking at each other and at the cars driving on this busy street. They sit on…

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Ramón J. Velásquez (1916-2014)

Ramón J. Velásquez, eminence grise of Acción Democrática, has died in Caracas at the age of 97. It’s unfortunate that Velásquez will be remembered by most for his short, ill-starred stint as accidental president following the resignation of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992-1993 or, alternatively – in the wake of the publication of Francisco Suniaga’s enormously…

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What leaving Venezuela means to Jews

In February 1939, two ships approached the shores of Venezuela after a long, desperate voyage. The Konisgtein and the Caribia’s captains had already asked for asylum in many other ports, now they pleaded with the authorities to allow the entry of its 251 passengers. But it was 1939, and the ship’s human cargo was considered radioactive. Why? Because most of the passengers were…

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Local girl does good

Garbiñe Muguruza is a young Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player that has been tagged as a future top prospect for a few years now. Born in Caracas to a Venezuelan mother and a Basque father, Garbiñe left Venezuela in 1999 when she was six years old (coincidentally, the first year of the Chávez era). In Spain she developed…

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Moto-Taxis and their Discontents

Road rage between motorcycles, pedestrians, and vehicles is an everyday sight in Caracas. The asphalt is a hard-fought battle ground. In recent times, radicalism and mediocre policy-making have exacerbated our differences. There is no social pact on how we should conduct ourselves, particularly on the streets. Rather than an harmonic choreography, coexistence between pedestrians, drivers and…

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Few groceries, fewer former leaders

Typically, when discussing a particular country’s fortunes, Investment banks, NGOs, Multilateral Development Institutions, and society as a whole expect some of its former heads of state to speak out about the country’s challenges. Their wisdom is often used as a barometer, their opinion on how they might address problems is sought after when an electoral…

Oreos

In the land of silicone socialism

I’m with my cousin Elena. We’re in a Maracaibo supermarket. Half an hour earlier they had announced the arrival of cooking oil – two bottles per person – and the line at the cashiers had collapsed the place. The cooking oil was gone. We’re stuck in the middle of a crowd, right in front of a shelf…

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Chavismo under the orientalist lens

(This is a guest post by Venezuelan anthropologist Pedro Manrique. We haven’t done one of these in a long time, and I kind of dug it. I hope you do too) Chavismo under the Orientalist Lens, by Pedro Manrique Exactly twenty-two years after Chávez said por ahora, a student in San Cristóbal became the victim of an…