Tag Archives: Los Roques Archipelago

On Beards and the Venezuela that was

3/6/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Whether you loved him, hated him, or had no idea who he was, it is undeniable that Hugo Chávez changed Venezuela forever.  As the former democratically elected dictator of Venezuela is laid to rest, we can’t help but wonder, would he still be alive today had he worn a beard?

Yes, you read that correctly.  Today, at the Mint, we are reflecting on what, on the surface, appears to be a mere personal preference with regards to facial hair.  What does it matter that Chávez wore a beard or not?  For that matter, what does it matter whether or not any man chooses to wear a beard?

Pondering the natural beauty of the Northern Venezuelan Coast
Pondering the natural beauty of the Northern Venezuelan Coast

The answer lies in what the beard tells us, indirectly, about the level of stress that the man is experiencing.  Hugo Chávez, from what we understand, did not wear a beard.  Was his lack of facial hair an expression of his perpetually paranoid behavior?  Fidel Castro, who wears one of the more recognizable beards on the globe, and whom Chávez recognized as at least a political father figure, has lived a good long life despite facing political pressures and mortal dangers similar to those that Chávez faced.

Castro's Beard
Fidel Castro’s unmistakable beard, the hallmark of a confident, relaxed dictator.

It may be a stretch to say that growing a beard will lead to lower overall stress levels which, in theory, should translate into longer life spans.  However, it is not a stretch to postulate, as we do today, that the a man who wears a beard is generally experiencing lower stress levels than his smooth faced peers.

While we generally disagree with socialism and large scale government, especially one that gives dictatorial powers to one or a handful of human beings, we admire Chávez for giving lip service to justice for the poor, even if he did use his position to amass a reported $2 billion nest egg.  We also admire his anti-imperialist stance, which became his hallmark.  While the hypocrisy of railing against imperialism and then using one’s own position of authority to exercise imperial like control over a land mass is not lost on this author, Chávez filled the lives of many with joy and laughter.

If only he had worn a beard, he may still be alive to see the destruction that his socialist policies will bring.

Lighthouse on Bonaire
Lighthouse on Bonaire

Chávez’s death leaves Evo Morales as the heir apparent to Castro.  Will Evo rise to the occasion?  If he does, we recommend that he begin by growing a beard, if not literally, then figuratively, and preoccupy himself with relaxation.  Socialism requires charismatic father figures that live good long lives.

If, on the other hand, Evo desires to truly work to improve the lot of his countrymen, we offer our open letter to his Excellency, along with advice to grow a beard, as a roadmap for governance and a long and good life.  In his own words, “vivir bien.

Slave dwellings on Bonaire
Slave dwellings on Bonaire

Speaking of vivir bien, We were fortunate to visit Venezuela in 1997, about a year before Chávez took office.  We had been invited by our best friend’s adventurous parents to adventure with them on their sailboat, the Lady Jane.  You can see a few select pictures of the journey interlaced

A Pristine beach on Los Roques
A Pristine beach on Los Roques

In November of that year, they found themselves tied off at a slip in an upscale marina in Barcelona on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast.  Their previous sailboat, which had been stationed in the Bahamas, had been wrecked in a hurricane a couple of years before and in order to get their new boat insured they were required to be out of the hurricane belt during the high season.

This condition had lead them to sail for Venezuela, and they had found a miniature paradise.  They invited four of us to join them for a vacation.

Salt flats on Bonaire
Salt flats on Bonaire

The trip was unforgettable.  After a heart stopping ride from the airport in Caracas, through the jungle to Barcelona in the middle of the night, we acclimated ourselves to the refreshingly slow pace of life at the Marina.  We dedicated a bit of time to learning to scuba dive as well as the ins and outs of life as a cruiser, which involves taking short trips in a dinghy, fumigating shower facilities before use, and learning to vomit downwind when the battering of the waves against the tiny ship becomes too much.

Pristine rock formations of the Los Roques Archipelago in the Carribean
Pristine rock formations of the Los Roques Archipelago in the Carribean

One incident which remains etched in our memory is a visit to a local night club.  After partaking of a few Polars, the national beverage, we were enjoying the night with perhaps two hundred other revelers when men in fatigues, armed with AK47s began to surround the open air night club.

Polar, the national beverage of Venezuela
Polar, the national beverage of Venezuela

We froze, yet took comfort in the fact that most around us continued dancing and buying drinks as the troops approached.  What happened next was terrifying.

The soldiers separated us by sex and made us line up.  One by one, we passed through what amounted to a makeshift checkpoint.  As we stood in line, we realized that, being the wise traveler that we were, we had left our passport safely back at the Marina.  As we approached the soldiers, we offered the only piece of ID we had, our wrinkled up, sweaty visitors visa.

Sailing through Willemstad on Curacao
Sailing through Willemstad on Curacao

The soldier took it, gave it a confused stare, and returned it to us as we walked on by.

As the shock began to wear off, we realized that we had been subjected to a simple ID check.

We continued to enjoy the night, if not the rest of the trip, in a sober state.  This is how the police worked in South America.  It was something unheard of in the US circa 1997.

Rainbow Fish
Rainbow Fish

We soon sailed off to Los Roques Archipelago and a couple of other deserted isles which are every bit as beautiful in person as they are in pictures.  It wasn’t The Cove of DiCaprio fame, but in ways it resembled it.

Approaching the coast of Bonaire
Approaching the coast of Bonaire

We took port again in Bonaire, which has no fresh water, where the water tank has the words “a gallon of water is more valuable than gold” emblazoned on the sides.  We had imported Polar ourselves and watched as our friend’s Father and Captain did the duty of presenting our passports to the port authority, something that was an entirely new concept for us.

We relished island life and our new found scuba talents for a time before returning via Curacao to Caracas and then on home, thoroughly impressed and intimidated by the beauty that was Venezuela and the surrounding isles.

Shortly thereafter, Chávez became President, and from what we understand, Venezuela has not been the same since.

Yet we have been left to wonder during our sober reflections on that trip, was it Chávez, or the visitation of six weary sailors that fateful season that forever altered the fate of this happy south american country?

Weary sailors
Weary sailors

Perhaps we will never know.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for March 6, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.48
Oil Price per Barrel:  $90.46
Corn Price per Bushel:  $7.08
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  1.94%
FED Target Rate:  0.16%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,585 THE GOLD RUSH IS STILL ON!
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.9%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.0%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  14,296
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,421,800,000,000 LOTS OF DOUGH ON THE STREET!
M2 Monetary Base:  $10,412,400,000,000