Once a thriving, glamorous city, Venezuela’s capital is buckling under hyperinflation, crime and poverty
Lamenting the Decline of Caracas, Once the 'Jewel of Latin America'
"A generation ago, Venezuela’s capital was one of Latin America’s most thriving, glamorous cities; an oil-fuelled, tree-lined cauldron of culture that guidebooks hailed as a mecca for foodies, night owls and art fans."1
In 1998, as the setting for his election celebrations, Chávez chose the balcony of the Teresa Carreño, a spectacular, brutalist style cultural centre. Built during the 1970s oil boom and reminiscent of London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, it has hosted stars such as Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Ray Charles and Luciano Pavarotti, and epitomised the country’s new ambition. “Venezuela is reborn,” Chávez declared.
Twenty years after that upbeat address, an economic cataclysm experts blame on ill-conceived socialist policies, staggering corruption and the post-2014 slump in oil prices has given Caracas the air of a sinking ship.
Public services are collapsing, businesses closing and residents evacuating on buses or one of a dwindling number of flights still connecting their fallen metropolis to the rest of the world.
“It’s a feeling of historic frustration,” sighs Lugo as he steers through shadowy streets counting the apartments where the lights are still on. “A country that performed a miracle in reverse – it’s just impossible to believe.”