Foreign Policy Blogs

Conservation in Venezuela? Not Likely

On Wednesday, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela urged his countrymen (and women) to make efforts to conserve water and electricity.

The most likely reason that citizens will not use these resources, however, is not due to patriotism, goodwill or a penchant for conservation, but because they have no choice – there have been ongoing water shortages and blackouts throughout the year.

During my time in Caracas there were not infrequently days with power outages or when water would only be turned on for about an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. In the capital city of a country oozing with oil resources, it seemed odd to sometimes rely on bucket showers for bathing.

Venezuelans are Latin Americans, but from my experience they have taken on many aspects of American culture, whether it is a love for cars or fast food. This includes a general wastefulness of resources, similar to the United States. But how not to have this tendency within a country where filling the 20-gallon gas tank of a gas-guzzling SUV might cost only $1.50?

At my local bakery I became a mini-celebrity – or perhaps just an odd curiosity – when I would return for fresh loaves of bread and re-use the previous day’s clean brown paper bags.

Chávez can hold 6-hour long TV shows as he pleases, or call for rallies with thousands of supporters. His chances of inspiring any rapid change in habits on electricity and water use, however, are highly improbable.

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David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.