Why I Won't Be Going to Venezuela Anytime Soon

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.


arcticbull August 11, 2012 at 01:02 am

sigh I guess I'm out too :( I've got Belize, Honduras, Peru, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Croatia, Vietnam and Myanmar to name a select few :P Some of them thanks to you! Hell, they barely let me into the US anymore (which is why I have a Nexus card -- to avoid the long talks with the border guards).

@arcticbull: LOL on the US part. Sad that it has become so hard to re-enter the USA. Glad you have Nexus. I would certainly advise you to wait--I trust there will be a time in the future for Venezuela.

sanjay August 11, 2012 at 02:32 pm

Hrmm... I'm headed there in 2 weeks. I've got burma, lebanon, and iran in my passport. Shit.

LOL on "thik passport" Hopefully you are right, and we all can visit beautiful Angels Falls in the future.

Philipp August 12, 2012 at 11:06 am

Los Roques is very high on my list, but the hassle of dealing with the particularities of "currency conversion" and sucurity issues have been the reason I am postponing it.

Nic August 12, 2012 at 02:56 pm

Some of you are not understanding, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya is where the US have "intervene", hence the "mercenary" nomination. Having Lebanon, Iran and others may not have any adverse reaction.

@Nic: I see your point, but I think it's more than that. The CIA is busy in counties like Lebanon, Cuba, and Iran and you have to admit, it is quite rare for an American to have a stamp from either of those countries. I think they would draw suspicion nearly as much as Iraq and Afghanistan.

nk August 12, 2012 at 05:48 pm

What about north korea??

@nk: I have no DPRK stamp!

Santastico August 13, 2012 at 10:29 am

Avoid Bolivia as well. Another crazy president that hates Americans. Check this out: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andersonantunes/2012/08/01/bolivia-set-to-banish-coca-cola-to-mark-mayan-end-of-capitalism/

sanjay August 13, 2012 at 01:33 pm

Well wish me luck

@sanjay: Are you going for work or pleasure?

@Santastico: I despise Evo Morales as well--another crackpot. And I hate that US Citizens are charged a $145 reciprocity fee when no other nations are (it's not like the U.S. is the only country that makes it hard for Bolivians to visit).

I will say I had a nice trip to Bolivia last fall--I never got around to writing the trip report. I'm in no rush to go back, but I never felt unsafe. I can say I was happy to step over into Argentina after a rough week of bus travel, but Ms. Kirschiner's belligerent stance RE: Falkands has me shaking my head.

Ismael March 6, 2013 at 09:17 am

So, when are you heading to Venezuela? :)

I was just discussing that at the dinner table last night! Soon, I hope.

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