My risk assessment company was contacted in 1995 to come to Caracas and work on a variety of security risk projects for
3 of the major Venezuelan companies — PDVSA (Petroleum de Venezuela, south America), and the two gas utilities, Maravan and Lagovan.
Never had been to south America, and I was worried about security so I remember buying special security devices to take with me and then one Sunday I flew down to Miami and caught the plane for Caracas!
The first thing I noticed was that I was out by the pool, and there were men with machine guns on the roof of the Caracas Intercontinental Hotel! Later, room service delivered 7 large books, as big as encyclopedias – they were a History of Venezuela, a History of the Venezuelan Oil Industry and a few more. I guess I was supposed to read them all by Monday.
That was the beginning of a long relationship with the people at PDVSA, many of whom became friends for life. So I saw the downward spiral up close and personal. First, the crime started to increase. Places I had felt safe before, like the public square where the old men played chess at night. Then one of the women I knew was pistol-whipped at her beach house.
Slowly, Chavez replaced the business people on the corporate Boards, and the staff, of these cash-cow companies with uneducated people with no business experience. In a real world replay of Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED, these people didn’t care about maintenance, infrastructure, or security, they were the looters who wanted a total redistribution of wealth, without realizing the companies had to actually PRODUCE something to keep that cash flowing.
Within five years, as I continued to go down to Caracas, everyone I knew had left and many moved to other companies. One married and moved to Spain, several went into other petroleum operations in the US. An entire industry had been ruined by Chavez and his lack of understanding, or care, of the one income-producing business in Venezuela.
The currency was so devalued that I still have a six inch stack of Bolivars, the paper currency that was worth less than a few pennies apiece.
So it really is possible for one person to totally ruin a country’s economy and main industry, putting his ego and his desire for fame and power to ruin an entire country.
Fate has intervened to give Venezuela another chance – I hope they run with it.