Amoebic dysentery & journey back home

Today I am sick and at home: since yesterday evening diarrhea, which became worse and worse today. We have delivered in the morning still together the rental car, everything ok, the half-full tank has played no role at all, because here a whole tank of gasoline costs only 1 euro. At noon I went home alone with an official and expensive but safe cab and rested, drank chamomile tea to calm the stomach pains. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow, because traveling with diarrhea is not nice. Although here most toilets are really very clean. But there are some that are dirty and have no water. Soap there is also in the clean almost never, so I have accustomed to carry around their own small soap with me, as well as a lot of Kleenextuecher, because toilet paper there is also not everywhere and the paper you throw by the way not in the toilet, but in a next to the same standing container, so that the former is not clogged …


High fever tonight, cramps and diarrhea like water every 20 minutes. This morning to the doctor, then to the lab. Result: amoebic dysentery. Great. Antonio is on his way to the pharmacy to get rid of them before they break through the intestinal wall… Interesting: the very strong, systematic antibiotics against amoebic dysentery cost just 1 Euro, while the “normal” antibiotics, which are given to prevent secondary infections, are very expensive, one package 80 Euro!

We took out travel insurance with Hans Merkur before we left. As every time, since 20 years. This time new: an annual insurance for all trips this year. Costs 49 Euro. per person. Since I would like to fly back earlier to have myself checked and treated at the Tropical Institute in Tuebingen, I asked the travel agency whether the insurance would cover this. This has now intervened and phoned me. By the way, it is not Hanse Merkur itself, but ROLAND Assistance GmbH, probably the outsourcer for the processing. The doctor from Germany spoke on the phone with the doctor here. The cure that is given to me is right and good. However, according to IATA contracts, only healthy patients are allowed to fly, and the airline can refuse to transport sick patients at any time. The insurance company has to inform the airline that I am sick and when I will be healthy again. If this is not the case by Monday, I have to stay here longer and fly later. These costs will be covered by the insurance.

Today we moved to a hotel for the hopefully last three days. To the “Casa Infinito” in the district of Alta Florida. The reason: since yesterday evening there was neither water nor gas in our friend’s apartment, not even today, maintenance work is being done. Tonight we were very frightened, because there was a gas explosion very close by, which was so loud that we both woke up from it.

In the meantime I feel better, my bowels have calmed down and so have I. My mood is also better. My mood is also a little better, I still want to go home as soon as possible, but here in this Posada for the first time in 3 weeks, a shower that immediately offers warm, no, even hot water AND in addition a high water pressure; the bed linen is bright white and ironed (!), everything is clean, we have a fantastic view over the huge city and on the mountain Avila and it is relatively quiet. There is a beautiful veranda overgrown with bougainvillea and a terrace for sunbathing. The posada is owned by an Italian who has an antiquities shop in La Hatilla – can you see the European hand again? We have also found a female-family atmosphere here, which is good for me. There are 6 women here: 3 guests: the future beauty queen of Venezuela, who has just had her nose operated on and therefore has a terribly disfigured face, which she wants to hide from the outside world, her mother and another unknown beauty, the cook or boss, a second cook and her daughter. The atmosphere in the kitchen, where we women stay (I wanted a coffee after sleep) is warm and cordial and it does me good. There is gossip and sharing, for example, the war of roses of the younger cook with her ex-husband (quarrel about the child). I feel comfortable and safe here and I am confident to finally get on the plane home on Monday. I have never looked forward to home as much as this time!

Journey home

We are sitting at the gate. In a few hours we are leaving. What I do not know yet: we are separated directly before boarding by the military police into a women’s queue and a men’s queue. Directly at the plane, we women are superficially examined by military police officers, seems to be more a show than a serious security check. Nevertheless, my nerves are on edge, because I am separated from Antonio and afraid that he will be held up. Boarding the Lufthansa plane, I feel relieved and safe on the one hand, but on the other hand I am very worried about Antonio. I ask the steward not to take off until my husband, whom I briefly describe to him, is on board and tell him our seats. He sees my fear and promises me. After a quarter of an hour he comes to me to check whether Antonio is there in the meantime. By then I am already having a nervous breakdown and crying. I tell him that I will get off again if Antonio is not among the passengers. After another infinitely long minute, Antonio comes to me beaming and tells me that a steward had spoken to him, that his wife was already waiting eagerly for him – what was going on? Well, my nerves were probably very thin after the experience with the (un)security forces (see entry police pirates), weakened by my illness. Now I am looking forward to water and soap in the public toilets. Streets without potholes and masses of crushed and decapitated dogs. Legal security. Fresh air. Fearless going out. And: Laugenweggle with butter
I will miss: The nice people. The pleasant climate. The fascinating nature. The unprejudicedness and curiosity of the people. The hospitality and cordiality. The black beans.

Racism and discrimination

Once again the cab challenge: Antonio wants to take the metro to his family and I want to take a cab home alone. Antonio accompanies me to a cab company that belongs to a shopping center and hands me over to the cab driver; they joke about safety. I get in, we start talking and when the driver finds out that I am German he asks: Is it true that there are many racists in Germany? Unfortunately, I have to confirm that. Not on the part of the government or politics, nor by any means the legislation. But let’s be honest: there are unfortunately far too many people with prejudices in Germany, there exists a latent racism and it does not matter at all, which skin color, which nationality, which body circumference and in recent time above all unfortunately after only 60 years already again, which religion one has. We still discriminate, perhaps subconsciously, but it is different here. I have never seen a country where it does not matter as much as it does here whether you are fat or thin, tall or short, black or white, Christian or Muslim. Maybe it is because this country has a weakly developed culture of its own and there is no clear idea of “the Venezuelan”. One is treated completely “indiscriminately”, which has a lot of good, it makes the coexistence easier, more open, more solute. In fact, all encounters here so far have always been free and pleasant, people are warm, hospitable, nice, open and curious about “the other”. Even the cab driver mentioned above let himself be convinced that although there is much more prejudice and racism in Germany compared to Venezuela, it is not as bad as it was always portrayed in the movies he had mentioned and from which he had drawn his knowledge. He just had a lot of questions and wanted to learn about Germany. But unfortunately, the “indiscriminate” also applies to the attacks. These do not spare anyone: black or white, poor or rich, young or old, tourist or native: all become victims. In the meantime, we have witnessed live how the son of a (different) cab driver was robbed by the police. And everyone (!) to whom we have told this, was also already a victim of these “official interventions” in their money purse.

El Chavista

Our host and his girlfriend are “Chavistas”, supporters of Chavez. Not from the beginning. But since the “Paro Petrolero”. That was in 2002, when the opponents of Chavez had carried out a strike in the oil industry. Many companies went bankrupt at that time, he and his girlfriend were laid off. His siblings also became unemployed. The only source of income at that time was the pension for all, introduced by Chavez. So he, his 3 brothers and his mother could survive. He is still grateful to Chavez for that. Since then he has been working in the IT department of the parliament.

It is not true that everyone who works in the public sector is a Chavez supporter. More than 60% of the employees of the parliament are Chavez opponents. He then criticized the one-sided information policy of the opposition press and television, which is largely in the hands of the opposition. Of course there is still a lot to do, and Chavez also makes mistakes, but he at least admits to them, informs about them and then corrects them. In general, he is the first president “to touch”, who informs the population. With “Halo Presidente”, the 5-hour broadcast every Sunday, in which Hugo Chavez usually speaks personally, he informs in detail about his activities and the results.

It occurs to me that I have often been positively surprised at how often precise figures are given in articles and publications, but also on signs. It does not say: 30,000 apartments will be built, but 31,177 apartments.

What he likes about Chavez is that he has put an end to real estate fraud. If you wanted to buy or build an apartment in Caracas, you had to pay a lot of money. Nothing happened. With this money then others but not the own dwelling were started, in order to show these to new potential customers, so that these also buy. After two years of waiting, the price was increased. Allegedly because of Inlation, increase in price of the building materials etc. With it Chavez made conclusion. He simply confiscated the building materials and partially expropriated the builders. Now they can’t afford to do anything so mean anymore.

The daily routine of our friend starts at half past five in the morning, he leaves the house at half past six to take the metro to work. He has to change trains twice, it’s more than an hour’s ride. In the evening, like most Caraceños, he is back home at six. Eat, watch TV, go to bed. On weekends he goes to the mountains or to the nearby sea. Out of the stinking and noisy juggernaut.

The homosexuals

At least two of the employees of the posada where we spent the night are obviously gay. I dare to approach one of them and ask him about the situation of homosexuals in Venezuela.
In 2003 there had been a law proposal for the equality of homosexuals. This failed, now there should be another one, says my interview partner, who nevertheless first outed himself as a Chavez opponent, after a few minutes then also as a gay. Homosexuals in Venezuela are discriminated against mainly by society, not so much by the law. One is cut and mobbed by colleagues, but not necessarily dismissed.
For example, there is a professor at the Universidad Central De Venezuela (UCV) who came back 10 years ago as a woman after a stay in Spain and continues to teach despite this and also enforces this legally, because he is a lawyer. Today his name is Tamara Adrian.
Then he tells us that trannies are often harassed by the police, sometimes even raped. Venezuela is a macho country, society does not tolerate homos. I remind him of the government campaign, which includes ads in the newspaper: “Homosexuality is not a disease, but homophobia is”. He confirms that the government is making efforts to educate people and that officially there is no discrimination, but that this has not yet reached the culture of society.

Police Pirates

We were robbed by pirates on Sunday, June 3, around 3:30 p.m., more precisely by the Guardia Nacional!

And it went like this: We are driving on the highway from Barinas to Barquisimeto. Just before the border between Estado Portugesa and Lara, we pass one of the usual police checkpoints and are waved out, right behind another small car. Here is the photo of the small car and the billboard right next to the police building.

They first want to see the ID of Antonio and me. Then Antonio has to get out and show the driver’s license and the vehicle documents. Then he is to come into the house. I stay in the car. When it takes too long, I lock the car and also go to the cottage. Finally, I have to take the opportunity. Antonio comes towards me and whispers: they want between 500 and 1000 Bolivares. Why? I ask: the health certificate would be missing. I ask if I can go to the bathroom and I can. I hear them laughing from the bathroom next door, as if they were playing a prank. Antonio meanwhile has gone to the car to count how much cash we have left.

When I get out, I show them my (photocopy) of the International Vaccination Certificate from a distance. I have a health card, I claim. No, I need an International. This is one of the United Nations, I insist. But the older, fat, bolder one waves and says that they have already spoken to my husband and that I should not interfere. I insist and say that now I am here and I want to understand what we have done. Suddenly the vaccination card is no longer important, but we have violated another law: We do not have the right to drive in Venezuela, we need a Venezuelan permit. It is more obvious that they have a reason. I say that I don’t understand, after all they would have rented us a car in Caracas. In Caracas there are laws, here they are different! says the older one, snaps at the younger one, asking him to show me the law in the traffic regulations and then goes outside to Antonio. The young man rattles and rattles and, of course, can’t find a paragraph that even comes close to his accusations. Then he changes his tactics, distracts from the paragraph and says: we have to go back there and take money out of the machine and pay 1000 Bolivares (200) and we will get a paper that gives us a free pass to drive in Venezuela from now on. I am pissed and say, ok, let’s go. I quickly take our papers. On the way out he argues, yes, it is his job to accompany us, but it will take a long time and cost us a lot of money, because we would have to pay a cab. Antonio, the fat one, the younger one and I are meanwhile outside at the car. Antonio shows that we only have 345 Bs (the truth) and insists that he was born in Venezuela and that they should please be merciful. The “good” then says to the “bad”: come, let’s be generous today…

We print all our cash, quickly get into the car, close the doors, but before we drive, I take a picture from the inside through the back window. They can’t see that, because all the windows are covered with blackout foil.

Maybe we would have managed to get them to let us go like this. Maybe. But maybe they would have called their “friends” a few kilometers away and they would have robbed us completely. In this respect it turned out well. Unfortunately, everyone we told about it, advised us not to press charges. Although or just because the impunity is one of the biggest human rights violations and problems.

The sociologist

We meet with Nelson Freitez in Barquisimeto. He is part of the 350-strong Cecosesola cooperative. Cecosesola (Central Cooperativa de Servicios Sociales Lara) was founded in 1967 as an umbrella cooperative of several rural cooperatives from the state of Lara and some neighborhood groups from the big city of Barquisimeto. Today, Cecosesola includes 85 grassroots cooperatives and associations. In total, Cecosesola has more than 2,000 members who receive a weekly advance on the profits they generate together. There is also a German branch of this cooperative and they are currently “touring” Germany, until June 6.

We ask Nelson about the society in Venezuela. He goes on to say that Venezuela has been a “profit society” since the 1930s, by which he means that the country’s income does not come from its own performance and production, but from oil wealth. The perception of the population is: we are very rich, but this wealth is distributed unfairly. The redistibution policy of the government(s) never met the consumption expectations of Venezuelans and since the 1980s there have been repeated protests. A first climax of these protests took place in 1989, in the so-called “Caracazo”, a kind of popular uprising that resulted in mass riots and many deaths.

But this protest never turned into a civil movement or a strong union. It gurgles and bubbles a lot, there is a lot of movement and unrest, but little articulation of it. Hugo Chavez represents this movement and gives it a form. The form he has chosen is confrontation, conflict, exaggeration, bipolarism. He stimulates the perception of class differences. And he goes to the area of the “billion dollar dance”.
Hugo Chavez distributes the oil income among the poor, obtaining the support of millions of people who live in the simplest conditions, in barrios like Petare. And he has changed the political system: he has centralized power more firmly in the hands of a military-civilian elite and bent the last federal model. As Nelson puts it, “the party and the government have occupied the state,” not formally, but de facto.
Since Hugo Chavez came to power 13 years ago, many cooperatives and “misiones” have been created and existing ones, like his, encouraged. These grassroots organizations are articulating for the first time issues that were previously brought forward in an unstructured way in the form of protests; but the frustration returns when these hit the “glass ceiling” of the aforementioned elite.

He describes the (political) culture of Venezuelan society as follows: one would like to see one’s own rights preserved and respected, but is not willing to abide by rules oneself. People are always optimistic, but not very self-critical and hardly capable of learning. Public debate has no tradition and ethics are lacking. The reason lies in the contradiction between what is produced and what is received. How does one live without working? A great pike is the one who gets rich quickly with as little effort as possible. It will take another 20-30 years for this to change, and maybe it never will, because Venezuelans have the “megalomania gene” in them.

For this reason, he does not believe that much will change after the October elections, even in the event that Chavez loses, because in the end it is a weak state with weak institutions. Every president – and here Chavez is no different from his predecessors – distributes the income of the oil to “his citizens”. In Chavez’s case, these are the previously disregarded, the poor.

We ask him if violence and crime have increased in percentage or only in absolute terms (the population has almost doubled since our visit in 1995). Violence has increased in every way: statistically (absolute and percentage), as well as in intensity: today you meet your neighbor with a firearm. In 1980 there were 18 deaths per 1000 inhabitants, today there are 48 deaths per thousand inhabitants. After Honduras and Guatemala, this places Venezuela third in the world. Guns have increased in value within society, many people own a gun. (By the way, there is a gun census project going on: the government is trying to find out who owns a gun, including its own police and security forces). The dignity that Chavez is trying to give to the poor in the barrios through his projects, many of the previously disregarded are trying to get with guns. The coolest is the one who has the most powerful motorcycle, the most expensive watch, the newest Blackberry, the most beautiful wife and the most dangerous weapon.

Finally, we ask him how he sees the danger of a civil war, should Chavez lose the elections? Fortunately, the majority of citizens are against violence and do not see a civil war as a solution to the problems. Nevertheless, as political scientists we know that every civil war is preceded by verbal aggression, and this, as well as bipolarization, has increased under Chavez. Thus, at Christmas, there is often a kind of truce in the families and people talk about other things…

El Guerrillero

We met him at night in early June in Barquisimeto: Pablo Hernadez is certainly the most controversial person of our trip. He is highly interesting, quick, perceptive and very clear in his statements. On the day of our meeting he had just finished a book, after the publication of which he should probably emigrate to Italy, he jokes. Financed by the human rights organization Provea and the EU, it is also about corruption of the authorities in Lara. Published in mid-August, it is called “Impunidad y Poder: Historia de las violaciones a lo DDHH en Lara (2000-2011).” It can be downloaded for free. An entire chapter is also dedicated to Victor Martinez, see my post “El Revolucionario.”

Pablo talks fast, he has facts and figures in his head, he enumerates the profits from de oil. The oil determines everything here. Life, politics. but not only here, worldwide, according to Pablo. There is a magic triangle in which the banks from the USA are also involved: Veneuzela sells oil to USA. Russia sells oil to China. But of the 400 million barrels, only 110 million arrive. Where has the rest gone? On the international markets. Venezuelan oil company PDVSA sells oil for only US $1 million, but takes in US $200 million – so where does the other 199 come from? Cuba, Russia, China, all tax havens. Everything is a numbers game, he tells us, and he calculates so quickly that it makes me dizzy. It’s clear that he’s known in Venezuela as an expert on the subject of oil and writes on the subject again and again, for example here.

Oil, drugs and big finance capital rule the world and also Venezuela. Pablo suspects everything here, including Chavez, may be directed by the US. He quotes a US American colonel who in 1992 had already claimed that Chavez was a spy, an agent of the USA. I get dizzy again.

We change the subject: the state as a provider. The biggest employer in Venezuela is the state, there are 2.5 million civil servants in Venezuela. (Remember: the total population is a little under 30 million). Of these, 140,000 are police, the military on top of that, the rest work in administration, health and education. 100,000 work in the oil industry. The “Estado Benefactor”, the provider state, is nothing new. Already under Perez Jimenez, from 1959 to 1975, the population was spoiled with free health and education systems. Petroleum parasites” had taken root everywhere, according to the motto “don’t give me anything, but take me to where there is something”. Parasites – especially the middle class in Venezuela, according to Pablo. But it is precisely the left that exploits the state in Venezuela like nowhere else, he said.

However, there are also individuals and smaller groupings of authentic leftists. Environmentalists, urbanists, who believe that it is possible to create a peaceful transformation of society. Pablo also believes that Chavez has changed the system as a whole and this is irreversible. Even a Capriles would not be able to turn back the wheel should he win the elections in October. Chavez’s greatest achievement, according to Pablo, is to have mobilized the excluded. If Chavez loses the elections, there will be a “transitional government,” Pablo predicts, and then a situation will develop like in Bolivia or Ecuador: misery, unemployment. Then the Chavistas come back after 4 years as heroes and saviors.

A growing problem is impunity. The security authorities in particular are very corrupt. It has been proven that 20% of the police commit crimes, that is 28,000. Since they always have 3-4 accomplices, one can assume that about 80,000 police are criminals! (We had just made the experience ourselves, see entry “police pirates”).

Why this has increased? Because Chavez controls the judiciary and the legeslative: the judiciary and the parliament. An example: in November 1995, there were two military gangs in the state of Lara and Bolivar that were caught with 3000 (!) kg of cocaine. However, they have never been arrested. Chavez lets the criminal military and police do what they want, because that way he has them in hand and can control them.
And so we are back to the subject of his book, “Impunity and Power,” here is the cover. Almost 500 pages of inflammatory material…

Soccer and Rapper Battle!

Because it is so beautiful we stayed a second day in Merida. In the morning we had a very good breakfast, arepas, egg, ham, jam, bread rolls, honey from the region and cheese. In the best Posada of Venezuela, Posada Casa Sol!

Then to the laundry and the tailor. Afterwards to the market and then at one o’clock football watched in an airy restaurant with about 80 other people: Venezuela against Uruguay. When the equalizing goal was finally scored, everyone splashed the beer like crazy. It was funny and loud and wet.

In the evening we attended a rapper battle on the Plaza Sucre, 10 rappers competed against each other, the audience (about 80-1oo friends) voted loudly who is the better. Won very close before “El Criminal” the only white rapper. “El Conuto”. Organized by “Wladd Sico Lodds”, he did not reveal his real name. You can find him on Soundcloud under WLADD28. He organized the battle via Facebook. The whole thing dutifully registered with the city got approved. Each participant paid a small contribution, the winner received the total amount.
Really cool! I’ve never seen anything like this before, I only know it from the Eminem movie “8 miles”.

The Andes

We went up into the mountains on Thursday, after spending the night there in a little place called Timotes, it was cold and foggy. We got into a communion by accident. There it is custom to be pictured with mariachi, with traditional musicians. But otherwise the communion seemed like ours: a lot of excitement and stress for big and small. Here in Timotes a black saint is venerated. Which is unusual for us, and reminds me that I should also write that here all skin and hair colors and also religions are found and there is no noticeable discrimination based on race or religion.

The architecture in the Andern is completely different than on the plains. Small, flat and often dark but more easily heated houses. On Friday, June 1, we drove to the highest passable mountain in Venezuela, Pico del Aguila, 4118 meters. Condors are bred there and the air is thin. It is foggy and cold. On the way down we visited the breeding condors, a sad sight. The male is separated from the female because they do not like each other and do not breed offspring. What is also difficult, because a Condor female lays an egg only every 2 years. And they are clumsy, who knows if the sex will work out. Afterwards we passed a star observatory.

Culture for the people!

In Merida we went first in the afternoon to the Plaza Bolivar, in all cities the central square. There is always a church, the largest palace in town, usually the town hall and a statue of Simon Bolivar, sometimes on a horse, sometimes state menny dignified. In the Plaza Bolivar of Merida, a play was performed in the street in the afternoon. About fifty spectators.

Afterwards we stumbled by chance on a Centro de la Cultura during our walk. Terribly ugly from the outside, looks like a parking garage. But inside was awesome! It was still ugly, all concrete, but what excited me was the concept! When I think of the Urania in Berlin or the Gasteig in Munich, I see a lot of culture that is “consumed”: you go and watch or listen to what is offered to you. Here in Merida, it’s a place to actively create culture yourself and everyone can join in! For example, we saw break dancers practicing on the mirror-like plates, and next to them a group of hip hop dancers – they bring their music and equipment and practice there.

Further ahead a group of people was doing some kind of Asian Yoga – Feng-Shui – Ayurweda or what do I know (can you tell I don’t know anything about it?) and on another mezzanine a young woman was teaching three boys Asian martial arts with a bamboo cane. In yet another place, a meter-long scarf hung from the third to the second floor, and acrobatics were performed on it. In the basement, in the “Aisle of Poetry”, there were Litfass columns with poetry, and further back, a workshop where even the traditional Venezuelan devil masks could be made. At the end of the cellar, there was a Bolivarian radio station and free assistance from lawyers for the poor. In addition, free lessons in computer use, a cinema, a theater and concert hall, in which about 80 young people dressed in blue disappeared for a performance a few hours later. Wow! That impressed me!

When we finished the sightseeing tour in the basement, we were locked in, together with a mid-fifties woman. The janitor lets us out again and suddenly the lady is talking wildly to Antonio, a flood of curses and complaints, I can’t take notes that fast! It’s about a local politician who is supposed to show up here in 2 hours and for whom she works and she feels exploited by him and always the whole dirty work and then he is so unreliable, andsoweiterundsofort. After a few minutes the storm is over and she leaves the stunned Antonio standing there.
In the evening we want to go to a bar, but all three bars that have been recommended to us are dark, closed dandruff with super-loud music that already makes your stomach vibrate outside and there is a queue in front of the door. We have no desire for that…