June 25, 2007

Now more than ever

Katy says: It seems like the thing everyone wants to know about is the new Vargas Viaduct. Well, it's fine, a perfectly normal, ordinary piece of engineering that simply replaces something that was there before.

I know chavistas are going to think that I'm being stingy on my praise, but to be honest, I don't see the big deal. Yes, it's a big improvement from the infamous "trocha", and yes, it appears to be well made - not up to the standards these non-engineer eyes observe in the first world, but well made nonetheless.

I guess the thing I have to admire the most is that they finished it on time. I was very skeptical that this was going to be the case, but it seems like the Copa America put some needed extra pressure on the chavistas. Now if only Conmebol could pressure the government to lower inflation, or the crime rate, or improving education, or building more housing, or respecting democracy, or ...

But as with all things chavista, there was a thing or two that reminded me that, even at their best, they are still just not right. The first is that chavistas decided the division of the viaduct (the concrete mounds that divide the inbound lanes from the outbound ones) was the ideal place for a succession of billboards advertising Venezuela's tourism. So instead of admiring the bridge or - gasp - paying attention to the car in front of them, drivers' vision is drawn to the nice pictures of Angel Falls, the Llanos or, erm, the Morros in San Juan (my reaction was the same) passing them in succession to their left.

I guess we should be thankful that the ads were non-political, much in the same way one should be thanful for not being killed in one of Caracas' frequent home-jackings. But still - don't chavistas know that you shouldn't place ads in places where they will distract the driver's vision?

The bridge has obviously made traffic to and from Vargas flow more fluidly, which is not something I can say of the rest of this inhuman, insane city that looms so large in our nostalgia. Still, there was no need for the billboard announcing the entrance to the new viaduct: "Vargas, now closer than ever!" No, Hugo, now closer than a year and a half ago, when your negligence caused this mess in the first place. Go lie some place else.

The driver took the Cota Mil to get me to where I'm staying, which landed us in an insane traffic jam, commonplace these days every hour of every day. As I thought about Chavez, about the poverty you still see on the streets and about the crazy economy, I saw a ficus plant, a meter and a half tall, growing from the cracks of the Altamira viaduct in the Cota Mil. Some day, trees will grow from the new Viaduct as well. That plant reminded me that I was home.