I have never been to Venezuela, but it is #1 on my travel wish list of places to visit. Azure-blue Caribbean waters. Majestic sand dunes. Soaring Andean peaks. Stilt villages in the middle of South America’s largest lake. Mile-after-endless-mile of dense Amazonian jungle. The world’s tallest waterfall. A seething urban megalopolis that is the final resting place of revolutionary hero Simón Bolívar. All of those places exist in Venezuela. Have you seen the Pixar movie “Up?” Do you remember the bizarre, alien landscape upon which elderly Carl’s house landed on? That rocky landscape – a tepui – is there, too.
The problem is, Venezuela is unsafe. It almost certainly is the most dangerous country in the Americas. Around the time I became interesting in visiting the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the country was several years into its initial presidency with Hugo Chávez, a far-left populist with the United Socialist Party. Venezuela’s security situation went from “fair” to “bad.” In 2007 Chávez attempted to change the constitution so that he, essentially, could be president for life. This referendum was defeated by the narrowest of margins, but in the years that followed, the country’s economic and security situation deteriorated even more, from “bad” to “worse.”