My readers know that I am up for an adventure. I've been to some messy parts of the world and am bolder than most in choosing a travel destination. But there are some places that even I will not go, at least for now. Three to be exact.
The first is Somalia. Mogadishu seems to be calming down, finally, but my understanding is that outside of the city remains a war zone with copious amounts of bloodshed. I'll wait. Second, I will avoid Afghanistan for now. One year ago, I would have gone, but the security situation is deteriorating there as allied forces draw back and it seems like I read about suicide bombings there almost every day. It does not help that western tourists have been specifically targeted for execution.
The third country, and point of this post, is Venezuela. Venezuela is run by a crackpot democratically elected dictator named Hugo Chavez who tragically seems to have survived his recent bout with cancer. He is locked in a tough re-election battle with Henrique Capriles Radonski and frequently employees anti-US rhetoric and Bolivarian populism to rally the nation's poor behind him. Sadly, the number of poor people in Venezuela continues to grow as Chavez's disastrous economic policies have ushered in hyperinflation and supply shortages to the oil rich nation. Meanwhile, the Chavez government has clamped down on press freedoms and made every effort to silence and discredit the opposition.
But a corrupt government and contemptible dictator were not enough to keep me out of Cuba, so why not Venezuela? Stories like this:
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez said Venezuelan authorities have detained a U.S. citizen and are interrogating him, suspecting he could be a "mercenary" plotting to destabilize the country if the opposition loses the upcoming presidential election...
Chavez said the Hispanic man was detained Aug. 4 while crossing into Venezuela from Colombia. He said the man was carrying a U.S. passport with entrance and exit stamps from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya...
So the President gets on national TV to announce that an American has been arrested merely because he has Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya stamps in his passport?
My own passport is so thick that it usually draws a chuckle from border agents. I have stamps from Cuba, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. I also have stamps from every country bordering Venezuela in South America. I honestly believe I would be in big trouble had it been me, even if I am just a white guy who speaks only a few words of Spanish.
The story just struck a nerve with me. Despite the beauty of some parts of Venezuela (like Angel Falls), my visit to that nation can wait. Hopefully Chavez will be thrown out of office on 07 October 2012. Until that happens, I am not setting foot in Venezuela.