Thursday, November 13, 2008

Caracas, a city on wheels...

This is only my second full day back in the Bolivarian Republic, but I am amazed at my ability to forget just how bloody motorized this city is. It seems like everyone is driving, all the time, and the incredible and inevitable traffic jam forms something of a beehive in the streets, with motorcycle messengers (not to mention the 'mototaxis' -- who, for a small fee will perch you on the back of a dirt bike and give you a new appreciation to life) darting through what passes for lanes. On the freeways, informal sellers walk between the cars with food, coffee, razors and just about any other random bullshit you could imagine.
I love this city, and always will, but the idea of riding my bike here gives me tremors -- unforgiving roads, air you can see and taste, mototaxis...

Interestingly enough, opposition candidates in the east of the city (a stronghold of the upper classes and Anti-Chavistas) are actually campaigning on this, with one poster I saw yesterday declaring "you have the right to cross the street without having to hurry and without fear." These sorts of "quality of life" issues seem to be defining much of the campaign, and observers on the right and left both domestically and internationally have observed that insecurity and crime top the list of complaints all Venezuelans have against the government.

The difference, of course, lies in precisely how they plan to deal with it. A non-Caracas example can be seen in the campaign for mayor of Valencia (Venezuela's third largest city).

The opposition candidate, Miguel Cocchiola, is running on his experience as a businessperson, arguing that "Valencia needs a manager." He is arguing for increased motorized and foot police patrols to cut down on crime as well as more effective and efficient collection of garbage and recycling. Paradoxically, he also avers that his mayorship will integrate the poorer parts of the city in the south with the more affluent parishes, with the catchy if somewhat meaningless 'we don't want a Berlin wall [between the parts of our city]." How, exactly, criminalizing the south will do this, he leaves to question.

PSUVista candidate Edgardo Parra for his part, is arguing that each communal council should "promote a committee for integral security, which will build a social intelligence network in each community, and then we can create communal police forces...[that can] coordinate with the metropolitan police." Parra is, in other words, campaigning on the notion that the communities most impacted by crime should organize to solve the problems they face.

On a completely different note, given the insane rains that take up a decent part of the day this time of year, I'm going to try to start translating newspaper articles and posting them to fill my time. I'll try to also keep up the analytical posts as well as the anecdotal ones, but we'll see.

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