Jose Luis Ramirez, 28, lives in San Felipe, Yaracuy, Venezuela. Every week he tells about his life in Venezuela, in this exclusive Chile Today column. Today no. 4, about the problems in public transport.
Not too long ago, Venezuelan people could go anywhere here in Venezuela with no problem. If you needed downtown or to another state, you did it. You could either take a bus or pay for a taxi to take you to your destination. I remember my family and I used to go to any state every weekend just to buy stuff or to have fun. The cost of transportation was cheap. For example, last year the transport cost was only 1.000 $Bsf , which was about $USD 1 Cent. Today it’s around $Bsf 20.000. Besides, the amount of buses and taxis was overwhelming. Sometimes it was annoying, the amount of cab drivers trying to persuade you to travel with them. “Direct to Lara,” “Come on travel with us to Caracas,” “We still have seats, come on!”
´We are living in a country where having a car is not a comfort anymore´
Everything is different now. The deep crisis has impact transportation in Venezuela. There are less buses and taxis every day. The lack of spare parts has prevented most of the drivers from working. Nowadays, around 80% of public transportation units are not working due to scarcity of spare parts. That’s why so many people have their vehicles parked at their homes, or have sold them because having a car represents an exaggerated spending of money. That is because if the car needs any spare part, the cost would be so high that it would be almost impossible to get it. On the other side, the money earned from the sale can be used to by food, medicines or other supplies.
This is the country we are living in; a country where having a car is not a comfort anymore. Another problem that emerges when trying to move across the country, is cash. Imagine that you are living in a country in which any ATM just gives you 10.000 Bsf, and the cost of one trip downtown is about 15.000 Bsf. Is that logic? Well, it is the truth. What about the students who have to pay the complete transport cost, and in recent years they only had to pay a 15 or 30% of the rate? What about the old people who didn’t pay more than a 10% of the cost, and now have to pay the full cost? If they are lucky enough to get on a bus.
´We are going back to the times when people just had horses and wagons´
A new modality of transportation is rising because of the crisis. Some people who have trucks used to transport food or even animals have adjusted them to serve as public transportation units. By covering the back part with black canvas, the trucks now transport people as normal buses used to do, but they are not. People call them “ruta chivo,” which in English means something like ‘transport for goats.’ It is humiliating, isn’t it? “We are going back to the times when people just had horses and wagons” said an old woman when I was passing near a bus stop in my neighborhood. People shouldn’t be treated like animals. I prefer to walk rather than use that kind of method. But I think of people who maybe don’t have the energy to walk.
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Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.