CARACAS, Venezuela – One of Venezuela's most-prominent opposition bloggers, whose English-language musings are a must-read for foreign journalists, academics and political junkies, is leaving his beat as a chronicler of the country's socialist revolution.
Francisco Toro said that his decision to cut ties with the Caracas Chronicles blog he co-founded reflects the stagnation that has overtaken his homeland since former President Hugo Chavez's death last year and which makes the country less interesting to write about.
When the blog began, in 2002, Chavez was a fast-rising, political maestro who craftily leveraged the world's largest oil reserves to rally anti-American sentiment in Latin America and other parts of the developing world. A decade later, in the hands of his less charismatic successor Nicolas Maduro, Toro says much of the revolution's influence has waned as the economy reels from widespread shortages, 50 percent inflation and a currency crisis.
"The truth is that like a lot of people I miss Chavez," Toro, who was also a frequent contributor to the New York Times, said in a telephone interview from his home in Montreal. "There's no real hemispheric dimension anymore. Venezuela is so clearly not a model that any sane person would want to emulate. It's just a local story of a country gone crazy."
The blog's other founder, Chile-based Juan Cristobal Nagel, says the blog will soon be relaunched with new voices including more women and younger writers inside Venezuela. The blog attracts a daily average of about 6,000 hits, says Nagel, and many of its most popular postings were published in a book last year by the two longtime friends.
Toro's last entry on Jan. 30 was characteristic of the no holds barred analysis readers have come to expect of Caracas Chronicles, which although unabashedly anti-government doesn't spare the opposition.
In it, he and co-author Dorothy Kronick take aim at the methodology used by a local group that estimates the country's murder rate quadrupled over the past 15 years to 24,763 violent deaths last year. In the absence of verifiable government data, the forecast by the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, or OVV for its Spanish initials, has become a touchstone for opposition attacks on the government's security record — perhaps wrongly so, says Toro.
"Oddly, in this hyperpolarized environment, the quality of that OVV number hasn't gotten much scrutiny — and the OVV figure is not what it seems," the authors write.
Fans of Toro will still be able to relish his trademark blend of wit and wonk. He's starting a new blog, www.BoringDevelopment.com , to share insight culled from his day job working on a development project in South Sudan. While Toro says he may not be able to help himself from weighing in on Venezuela from time to time, it'll no longer be his daily bread.
"Turns out I only have room in my head for a single obsession at a time," he said in a farewell message on Sunday.