“I Was Kidnapped Three Times at Gunpoint” (continued)


By George E. Cleary, Jr.

(6.30.18:) I have been in contact with so many friends in the last few months that a lot of you have not been kept up to date on the latest, always interesting news of the Cleary family.

So here goes a brief (I hope) resumé, since the last assault we were subject to on the night of January 30th (No more of those, thank God).

Sofía and I have been living in our daughter’s apartment in the town of Ejido, which is a suburb of Mérida, with fairly frequent visits to our house and farm in Jají. The house is where we can no longer live, having been assaulted there 3 times. There are now working there three or four good friends of ours, some employed, others not. We are in fairly good health, and have a car in fairly good condition. (Pardon the abundance of “fairly”s, but that’s the way things are!).

Our two sons, Carlos and Francisco, are working in Indianapolis, where they went from Miami more than three months ago. The first has been in the U.S. for more than two years now; he has a job supervising maintenance personnel at a university (Butler). The second went more than four months ago, and has a job with a landscaping company. They, who are U.S. citizens, are working on getting visas for their families, who are still living (if you can call it that) here in Venezuela. Frank has his wife and three daughters, and Carlos, his wife and a boy and a girl. Our daughter Ana, who was still working here (quit Friday), has gotten immigrant visas for her family (husband and two boys) and is due to depart for Miami in twelve days. {She did. – Ed.] Her husband has two brothers living in the U.S.

That leaves us alone here to look after the two farms, which we will not do well, and they will probably pass to the government’s hands for an insignificant sum in the medium future. We can only hope the people who get to use them, which we will probably decide, will do so in a responsible and loving fashion (which may well be).

“I changed the oil on my car yesterday. That cost 70 monthly worker’s salaries.”

Meanwhile, things continue to deteriorate here, which is painful to relate. There are small quantities of some food items available at prices few can afford. By now, a large part of the remaining population survives on remittances from overseas, from the several millions who have left.  Those who don’t have that help are in really bad shape. There is practically no medical attention available, and a great shortage of medicines and vaccines, and of course rampant disease. Just as an example, 84% of the measles cases in [North and South] America [are] now in Venezuela. Today the public health services are on strike.  Now, in the last month or two, the transportation has almost disappeared, due to the price and shortage of spare parts – most of the vehicles are paralyzed, even of the public sector. It is very, very difficult to go anywhere.

To give you an idea, I changed the oil on my car yesterday. That cost 70 monthly worker’s salaries. Batteries cost two or three times that, but there are none. A chicken costs more than a monthly wage, and there are none. Eggs are available. A day’s wages will buy two. [Venezuela’s president] Maduro is going to fix that by more controlling of the prices. Last week they intervened in most of the public markets (to control the mafias). Yesterday they announced they were going to seize 70% of the little remaining industrial production. It’s all illegal, but the courts are all ready to serve. If the judges don’t obey, their children will be menaced, etc.

The activities of the police, firemen, telephone maintenance, etc. are all greatly reduced by the desertion or abandonment of so many public servants.  Oh! And of course there is no money. The little that was has all gone to Colombia. If you don’t have a credit card, you can’t buy anything. And the payment system infrastructure collapses every little while, leaving enormous lines of people trying to pay with their cards. Which they can only do when there is electricity, which goes off frequently. Eleven states were without electricity Saturday – the company says “unfavorable atmospheric conditions.” Try cooking without gas, or washing clothes with no water.

(7.24.18) Today’s news (only in the foreign press of course) is that we have reached 1,000,000% annual inflation.

(8.5.18) We have an interview in the Embassy in Caracas next week about visas. [The visa problem] isn’t Trump. His problem, as I understand it, is with Muslims and illegal immigrants, not  tourists. Not that we should underestimate him: I haven’t seen his tweets today! But the big problem is physical – getting to Caracas, 900 km. away, with no [public] transportation. Wish me luck! The taxis have to be paid by bank transfers from intelligent phones, while one is locked in the taxi so they don’t steal the phone.

I hope this email gets out. I tried to send you one an hour ago and the Internet temporarily collapsed, but came back (I think!).

When Columbus arrived here in Paria in 1493, he wrote to Queen Isabel that he had found Paradise. Things change.

(Ed note: The August 6 New York Times, reporting on the unsuccessful drone attack on Venezuelan President Maduro, noted “…the ravaged economy… has left much of the population desperate for food, emptied the hospitals of medicine, and driven hundreds of thousands to leave the country.”)

(8.8.18) The US Embassy here has refused us visas on the grounds that our situation does not guarantee to them that we will leave the US again once we get there. They didn’t say so, but I think they feel it would be more logical for me to try to recover my citizenship.

Please comment below.

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  • Abel Alberto Mestre, "62 August 12, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I am Cuban by birth and had to leave Cuba in 1960 during Spring break that year. All of my family’s properties there were confiscated by Fidel Castro and his communist cronies who run Cuba today, still a communist country. Our properties were confiscated basically because my family was in the communications business, a prime target for the communists everywhere. In
    1973 my wife and I moved to Venezuela as Colgate Palmolive, the company I was then working for transferred us there, where we lived for forty years.. When Chavez became President of Venezuela in 1998, by popular vote, and clearly and publicly declaring that Cuba was ” a sea of happiness ” I knew that the country was doomed. Chavez quickly began taking over businesses, confiscating farms, and silencing the free press. He enjoyed the richest period in Venezuelan history because in the last ten years of his life, he died in 2013, oil prices reached $150 a barrel. Rather than investing those funds productively he squandered them to gain favors with Latin American countries so that they would support him and the Castro brothers in their well known Communist project known as ” 21st Century Socialism. ” Aside from pushing communism everywhere, Chavez, his family and his cronies stole hundreds of billions of dollars and became very active with the Castro brothers in the cocaine and drug trade in the world. Venezuela is today an extremely corrupt, Cuba dominated, narco state, and Maduro is Raul Castro’s man in Cuba. Their influence is great as today they control Nicaragua and Bolivia and also Lula and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, the Kirchners in Argentina, Correa in Ecuador and many small island states in the Caribbean. Cuba still receives ” free oil ” from Venezuela in spite of that country’s ruin. Cuba runs today in Venezuela all public notaries, all property registries, all identification documents including Venezuelan passports and identity cards ( cedulas de identidad, ) provide Maduro’s personal guard and have over 40,000 Cuban doctors and military personnel stationed there. Venezuela, had for many years direct flights to and from Teheran where passengers entered through a secret gate. The previous Venezuelan Vice President, Tarek El Aisame gave hundreds of Venezuelan passports to members of Hezbola and other terrorist organizations. It is a well known fact that Venezuela is home to many terrorists today.

    I want to close this long note by letting you know that the destruction of Venezuela, previously a very rich country, such as Cuba also was, did not occur primarily because of Maduro’s or Chavez’s ignorance or incompetence. It was programed to be that way because both of these long lasting regimes believe that if they control their inhabitants, socially, politically and economically, they can easily rule their countries for many years under their ” different ” brand of communism, but communism it is.

    P.D. As it happened to George, my wife and I were kidnapped in Venezuela in 2002 and for the last four years of our stay there, I retired in 2006, we had an armed body guard and always used an armored vehicle. Not a nice way to live.
    A. Alberto Mestre ’62

  • John Tepper Marlin August 10, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    I appreciate being given a link to this post. I was class of 1962 at Harvard and am the current class agent with Robert Denis Ambrose of George’s Portsmouth Priory (now Abbey) class of 1958. Many of our classmates will be meeting on September 28 for our 60th Reunion and we have invited his children, since George can’t get a visa to travel.

  • Ken Luke August 10, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    It’s hard to believe that George’s is non-fiction. I wish that every American, especially Yale faculty and undergrads, would read it. They might have a different view of socialism.

  • Bill Boehmler August 10, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Chris –

    I did not know Cleary, but his tragic story drives home just how fortunate those of us who live in the United States have been. I hope my grandchildren of six and eight years have the same good fortune we enjoyed.

    Not sure whether or not Cleary lacks the financial resources to return home. Is anyone organizing support?

  • Rodolfo Salas '62 August 10, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Thank you, George, for sharing the heart wrenching and horrifying recount of what you are suffering in Venezuela. I am a classmate of yours who graduated from Yale along with three of my brothers, two of whom still live in Venezuela. Your recount about life in Venezuela is one of indescribable incompetence, cruelty and inhumanity by criminals who have taken over. I wish you and your wife many blessings and pray that this nightmare will soon end.

    Rody

  • Steve Buck August 9, 2018 at 11:02 pm

    Thanks Chris. Although I was a Foreign Service Officer for 39 years, and ran a consular section in my first tour, I’m not a consular expert. That said, I would urge our classmate to follow up on the consular officer’s advice and go to the U.S. Embassy and do everything to regain his American citizenship.

    And I’d urge him to get any lawyer friends he knows and others in the U.S. to plead his case with a Congressman or Senator from the State in the U.S. he has most connection with. His story is harrowing and I would think would gain him many supporters. I hope connected classmates may be able to do something to help him.

  • Tom (TY) Smith August 9, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    I used to go to Venezuela a lot on business when I worked for Coastal in the oil business. I had a number of good friends there and I truly loved to travel there. Our counterparts in PDVSA, the national oil company, were highly competent and I helped Coastal bid on a number of projects for PDVSA, which was a world-class company in the early 1990s. I watched in horror as first Chavez then Maduro gutted the country and destroyed its economy. Chavez fired all the competent engineers and managers at PDVSA and replaced them with incompetent loyalists. Production quickly declined killing the golden goose. The economy was a shambles before Maduro, but he has made things so much worse, all to further his power at the expense of his people. My heart aches for the Venezuelan people who were good and hard working and didn’t deserve this devastation to their country.

    Regards to all, Ty