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Sven Berg: Venezuela, land of beauty and suffering

I've never been a place that offers as much year-round fun as Venezuela.

I bartended in Stanley the summer of 2000, and that was great, but when fall came, you best believe I headed to Arizona.

The nearly two years I spent in Venezuela between January 2005 and October 2006, I never lacked for fun activities. Of course, there were amazing nightclubs. A few miles north of me were the beaches on the north coast. On Sundays, I played football — yes, American football — in a ragtag sort of league.

Someone was always having a party for a birthday or some other reason, and those are a big deal. Until my most recent trip, in late September and early October, I never went to the mountain region. I can now tell you it's spectacular.

But Venezuela is a country is in crisis. People are suffering because they can't find or afford enough food for their families. Crime is terrible. The government blames the business elite. The business elite blame the government.

Starting Sunday, my stories on the situation there will run in the Idaho Statesman. Please take a look and let us know what you think.