Maracaibo is filling up for the final and the traffic is destined to get even worse than usual.
The thing that has surprised me most about Venezuela is the driving. My colleagues and I used to argue over which country had the worst drivers: Brazil or Argentina. Both have unenviable rates of traffic fatalities. The correct answer, however, is Venezuela.
The traffic in the cities I’ve visited has been horrendous. It can take hours to get anywhere because of the congestion. Accidents abound. In the four hour trip from Maracaibo to Barquisimeto I saw two bad crashes. The trip back from the stadium into town the other night took hours because a lorry had hit a car (and because the roads weren’t finished). Colleagues report similar horror stories.
Part of the reason is that so many Venezuelans drive clapped out old cars. The two-car family is the norm among all but the poor.
They can afford it because petrol is so cheap. Unbelievably, laughably, ridiculously cheap. How cheap? Less than two and a half pence a litre. Or by another measure, almost 40 litres for a pound. Or for Americans, 80 litres for a dollar.
And that’s at the official exchange rate. At the illegal exchange rate from the guy on the corner you can almost double the rate (from 2150 Bolivares per dollar to 3700 Bolivares per dollar).
I’ll be glad to get back to Brazilian drivers. I never thought I’d ever say that…