To Guillermo and to so many other dreamers…
Calle Real, Chuspa
I “met” Guillermo Mantovani (@cplpesca) via Twitter, the same way he “met”the Head of Insopesca, the fishing Institute that has to approve the technical aspects of his project for him to obtain financing from the Government. The Head of Insopesca asked him to resubmit his rejected project, which was rejected again. I just asked him to send me the material on his project. While it is easy to write about macroeconomic numbers and distortions in the economy, it is the micro stuff that really tells the story about what is going on in Chavez’ Bolivarian Revolution. But in the end, both lead to the same conclusion, the revolution destroys in the name of ideology, but it is that same “ideology” that does not allow it to build anything. Everything is stuck in the empty and impractical minds of bureaucrats, who have never managed anything, but live comfortably on their Government salary and perks. Meanwhile, Guillermo and the people who could benefit from his project, wait the eternal promise of a non-existing revolution and the ever evolving and distorted ideology that is behind it.
Mr. Mantovani saw the town of Chuspa in the Coast of Vargas State for the first time in ’99, right before the mudslides that destroyed that State (another failure of reconstruction, even if the destruction can’t be blamed on the revolution). He liked the town and the area and felt moving to Chuspa would provide a good balance, an active retirement in a place that needed everything, a change of pace and a cleansing of the mind, far from what people call civilization. Slowly, he became an accepted resident of Chuspa.
His diagnose of the town was clear: Low levels of education, no healthcare, huge unemployment, sub-employment in fishing and few opportunities for women, which destroys their self-esteem and their lives. Mr. Mantovani got involved. He helped improve telephone services. Helped get some “Info-Centros” set up there to give people Internet access. He talked to hundreds of people, including Chavez who visited Chuspa in 2003. He participated in Mision Sucre and Mision Ribas. The road was improved after Chavez’ visit, but unemployment and under employment in fishing was pervasive. He started organizing the fisherman in the town and those nearby. When the Government invented coops, they already had two, the number reached eight. The interest in the coops on the part of the Government died, it was another Bolivarian fashion, he had to leave for two years, resources never arrived, the coops died. They are no longer there.
He never lost touch and when PDVAL was created, he got PDVAL interested in fishing and its products, they funded a center for stock-piling fish, 100 boats for the fishermen and promised a processing plant. Oil prices dropped, money was spent only in t-shirts, hats and transportation to political rallies. Nothing happened.
Mr. Mantovani decided then to start a company and submitted a proposal entitled: “Recovery and development of the socioeconomic structure of the Litoral central, via the activation of their tourism-fishing towns”. The plan contemplates to start a company that will be in full motion in 120 days, creating jobs, particularly for women, who can only aspire to have cleaning jobs from the regional Government. The goal was to create 700 jobs, between fishermen and the processing plant, including 220 jobs for women.
The company would provide fishermen all of the materials, from gas, to bait, to the ice needed. It would set up the stock piling centers to work 24 hours a day and acquire the infrastructure necessary for processing. A turnkey, 5Ton/day plant would be purchased from a Spanish company and the company would set up distribution, including ice making in Chuspa, transportation to markets, a distribution center near Caracas.The company would buy 25 small boats and 15 “palangreros”, the type of boat that carries an array of hooks below it. The proposal details time frames, methods and even a savings plan and independence plans for the fishermen. It looks at the market and all of its possibilities, even the type of fish to be processed and sold, with emphasis in selling to PDVAL, small fish stores and if there is excess production to restaurants and larger markets.
The project requests Bs. 30 million in financing, about US$ 7 million at the official rate of exchange. The company is owned by Mr. Mantovani, but he has agreed to give 20% of the company to the Communal Council of Chuspa, once the financing is obtained. The company will direct 5% of its gross income for social responsibility and 5% to improve the conditions of personnel. The Chuspa communal council backs the project and it has other approvals from Government entities.
In order to obtain financing, Insopesca, the National Institute for Fishing and Aquaculture has to give its technical approval of the project. The project was rejected once and Mr. Mantovani resubmitted after the exchange via Twitter with Mr. Gilberto Gimenez, President of Insopesca. Here is an excerpt of the second rejection, denying the “technical” backing necessary for the project to receive financing:
“The project is conceived under the concept of a private company, which leads us to suggest that models aligned with the new economic and productive policies be used. Even if the vision of the project is to administer goods and means of production for the fishermen, it sets up a situation which legally privileges the consortium, which promotes only one Director, as the only shareholder of the consortium (Did they even read the project???), which blurs the current context for the promotion of socio-productive organizations. It also describes a potentially monopolistic model, that is, under this scheme there will be a great power over the market, which will be the only one to own the product, the resources, the service and the goods, with the risk that the fishermen will return to the old scheme of exploitation and dependence on the boss to whom they will have to report”
So much for a technical evaluation of the project. It even sounds like they did not even bother to read it, since 20% of the company would be given to the communal council. The evaluation never even considers any of the parts of the projects proposed, its viability, the fact that it will generate employment in an area that has no sources of employment other than the local Government. It is just ideological “paja” by someone who has no clue as to even start running a project. To hell the inhabitants of Chuspa and the fisherman. Let them continue living a precarious, but ideologically “pure” life. So much for loving “the people”.
I bet those that asked for financing for setting up a red shirt or cap factory, got it. But Mr. Mantovani dared to dream, wanted to help, adapted his structure to the Government’s guidelines, coops then, communal council now. He also adjusted the structure so it would fit the local idiosyncrasies, customs and problems. He tried, but some bureaucrat shot him down in the name of ideology.
But, as Mr. Mantovani more or less said, either in his emails with me or one of the many documents he sent me: “It just seems as when it comes to facts, some of us are more socialist than others”
All pictures courtesy of Guillermo Mantovani