Greetings anew, Master Ari.
Geez...just reading about your trips, man...it's like I can almost get a whiff of Asian air. Too bad I'm sort of landlocked, you know...My wages are so ridiculously low it'll be funny only when I've lost my mind for good.
I couldn't help noticing some parallels between what you said about North Korea and what we're living here in Venezuela:
"That place is truly bizarre, (...). The poverty is bad, although on a par with typical third world poverty, but the religious obsession with Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il is what sets the place apart. People there feel genuinely blessed to have two such wonderful leaders for their country, and don't realise how much the rest of the world holds the leaders up to ridicule."
You wanna talk about poverty? Try digging this:
a) US Dollars are "officially" at 1960,00 Venezuelan Bolívares -In reality, though, given the currency exchange regulations, for the average Joe to get dollars at that price is nothing short of a miraculous feat. Of course, there's always the black market. How much for those dollars? "that'll be just 3100,00 Bs (bolívares) each, mate"
b) Venezuela's largest mobile phone company, Telcel, has been bought by Movistar (which, as I understand it, is as Spanish company).
c) CITGO Petroleum Corporation, a subsidiary of PDVSA (our main national oil company) has sold two of its refineries over to foreign companies.
d) Over 80% of the total workforce is either jobless or forming part of the "informal economy" sector. Many laid-off professionals join these ranks every day
e) In Caracas alone, there are over 3600 stray children (the so-called "children of the streets"). Among these, many have started performing a juggling show whenever the stoplight turns red so as to earn a few miserable coins. Needless to say, these children are often exploited by their parents, who spend the money on beer (the drunken bastards).
I could go on and on, but that would prove too depressing, even for myself. The point is, a sizeable portion of the populace revere -or, at the very least, they fake it at academy award-winning standards- this vile mockery of a president called Hugo Chávez. A great many people have sold out their conscience for mere crums. This government has even bought weaponry from Spain on the false ground that they are preparing for an "asymetrical battle" against the US (like someone in his sane mind would believe that). Those weapons will serve the sole purpose of slaughtering anyone who dares oppose this tyranny openly.
I'm off to work now, pal. Tell you more when I find the time.
It's tricky to be on the left of Fidel Castro, but Hugo Chávez has found a way.