Caracas, October 16, 2006 (Venezuelanalysis.com)— Yesterday, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez inaugurated the country’s first new railroad in 70 years. The first new stretch is to run from Caracas to the town of Cúa, about 41 km to the south.
The new railroad, which cost $2.4 billion and took ten years to build, is the first stretch in a new rail system that is eventually supposed to connect all of Venezuela’s main cities.
Chavez sat at the train’s helm on its maiden 30 minute voyage and, upon arrival, said, “This is a historical day, an event to register in the pages of history.” “Finally the era of the railroad has arrived in Venezuela, which is the era of revolution, of happiness,” added Chavez.
The railroad was a complex undertaking, as it had to include 24 tunnels, for a total of 20 km, and 27 bridges, spanning a total of 8 km.
Each of the Japanese-built trains will transport 922 passengers, for a total of an estimated 87,000 passengers per day, which is estimated to increase to 94,000 per day by 2010.
So as not to conflict with campaign regulations during the inauguration ceremony, Chavez avoided mentioning his reelection campaign, but he was wearing his trademark red clothing and called the railroad a work of love, in reference to a Venezuelan saying (“obras son amores”) and in reference to a campaign theme of his about his love for Venezuela. Referring to the train, Chavez said, “These [public] works can say many things, but one is of the love we feel for Venezuela.”
Chavez also called for the construction of a transcontinental railroad, which would reach from Venezuela to Argentina, suggesting it could be called the “train of the south.” This would be another in a long line of similarly motivated Chavez-proposed works, such as the gas pipeline, bank, university, and television “of the south.”
“Now that we are members of Mercosur and are constructing the gas pipeline, we should think about constructing a railroad for the South,” said Chavez.
Another major public works program that Chavez announced during the ceremony was the third bridge over the Orinoco River, whose ground stone will be laid in the coming weeks. A second bridge has recently been completed, but still has not been inaugurated because Brazil’s president Lula da Silva said he wanted to be there, but has not yet been able to provide a date, according to Chavez.
Other upcoming major public works projects Chavez mentioned were more railroads, such as one connecting Cúa and Puerto Cabello (see graphic). Also, his government is analyzing the possibility of constructing a train line between Caracas and the airport.