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Government-owned hotel stands as evidence of deepening class divide in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela – The Hotel Humboldt in Venezuela is the project of an extravagant military dictator’s use of oil royalties in the 1950s. It used to be an icon of Venezuela’s golden age. Now it stands as irrefutable evidence of the country’s deepening class divide.

Former President Hugo Chávez started to restore the 14-floor tower in 2012, and despite shortages of food and medications, President Nicolas Maduro completed the project in 2018. It’s where the government’s elite celebrates.

Carlos Salas, the hotel’s general manager, said a one-night stay at the mountaintop hotel in Galipán, a small town in a protected national park, has an average rate of $300. That is about 12 years of work for someone who is earning the country’s minimum wage.

Salas said the government-owned hotel has been under private management. Maduro is proud. He toured one of the hotel’s 69 suites. It overlooked Caracas. He shared the video on social media and talked about the hotel’s casino on national radio.

The hotel has a pool, a spa and six restaurants. To gamble at the casino, the bets must be placed in petros, Venezuela’s digital currency. Players can buy the petro tokens with any cryptocurrencies, yuan, yen, dollars, or euros. State employees receive their bonuses in petros.

Henkel García, of Ecoanalitica, a Caracas-based consultancy firm that has reported on the gradual dollarization of the Venezuelan economy, said the hotel’s luxury is reminiscent of the transformation undertaken in post-communist Russia. The economic transition allowed politicians to join the top 10% who controlled the majority of Russia’s wealth.

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Weddle reported from Bogota, Colombia and Torres contributed to this report from Miami.

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.