Posted by: Nathan Schulzke | February 3, 2010

The Direction We Are Heading

A blog hosting tutorials for web development which I’ve been following for a while has this story (translated from Spanish):

Any self-respecting geek has certain basic needs, and Venezuelans are no exception: smartphones, laptops, permanent internet connection, access to information and, above all, the ability to purchase a lot of stuff we love although we don’t need it at all.

That’s why Venezuela’s technology case is so curious. We are one of the Countries with highest Blackberry penetration, so much so that RIM (Research In Motion: the Canadian company that developes the BlackBerry smartphone) people were forced to know we’re not an African country, we have crappy but still profitable Internet connections and we can even (in many cases) afford a cable TV.

On the other side, we are a Country under heavy control by the Government about the purchase of dollars, either to travel (in which case the Government itself tells you how many dollars you can purchase, at a given fee) and for internet shopping (the limit – the so called “quota limit” – is $400).

The control over dollars makes it impossible to buy on the Internet

These restrictions are particularly annoying to the geek, when he wants to do things than almost any other Latin American geek can do, like buying a new Tablet on eBay or on Amazon. Needless to say we can’t buy things like the iPad or – much more to my taste – the Nexus One from Apple or Google pages.

Venezuela used to be a technological Country

In the rest of Latin America, Venezuela is seen (or has been seen for many years) as a rich country, thanks to large amounts of money due to oil incomes. The unseen truth unveils high poverty levels, which increase as we get devaluations (recently we had the last one, 100%) and that our ability to acquire foreign currency and/or items brought from abroad is becoming more and more complicated.

Just to say one example, not so long ago the technology gap between U.S. and Venezuela was about a week, and this made Venezuela a highly technological Country. Now the gap can be months.

You can leave the Country only if approved by the Government

I still bitterly recall that because of these limitations I couldn’t go to Adobe Live 2009 in Lima, and before that I couldn’t go to Bogota to an Aikido seminar with two of the most important masters of the continent in this Martial Art. Things that for other people are just a matter of having or not having enough money to afford them, for us it’s a matter of having the luck our currency is authorized and not exceeding the limit imposed.

How to deal with these restrictions

If you need the new MacBook, or the Nexus One or whatever, your solution is to get the money through Paypal (which has no agreements with any bank in the Venezuela), having someone bringing them from abroad and pay them in Bolivars, then buy it on the local market with prices that can even be three times the original price in foreign markets, or get dollars in the parallel market (black market).

I do not want to enter the political issue, which is always tricky, but make it clear that being a geek in my Country, Venezuela is becoming a more and more complicated issue, usually with more disappointments than successes.

Be careful when you are choosing who you want to be at the Government.

I’m sure he would have had a lot more to say about the Government, but notice that he says political issues are always tricky.  I think dangerous would have been a better word.

The “president” of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, can be seen here, with our good old elected representative.

Obama has shown sympathy for Latin American dictators several times over his presidency thus far.  He supported the erstwhile president of Honduras when he was kicked out of the country for trying to allow himself to be appointed president for life.  He was endorsed by Castro, dictator of Cuba, during the campaign.  He apologized to other Latin American dictators for America’s “arogance” during the visit in which the above photo was taken.

Why the sympathy?  I can only assume it’s because they share a common hatred for America, and common goals.  It is interesting that a universal feature in all dictatorships is “Universal” Health Care.


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