Poderopedia is an interesting concept. It’s a social network map of powerful people in one country or another. It started in Chile, which is a good place for it. Chile, despite scoring well on some measures of social mobility, isn’t really all that mobile at the very top end. The billionaire class is compact, made up of a long-lived oligarchy with massively overlapping interests. The social network map is crucial to understanding the country. We’re talking here about a country where the main respectable newspapers, El Mercurio, La Tercera and La Segunda, all devote multiple color pages EVERY DAY to social event photos. Social pages are, essentially, social network maps: who was talking to whom, and where.
Now, Poderopedia is off to Venezuela, where it faces a much more challenging task. Venezuela, in theory, has had middling social mobility, but the lived experience is that people can make it. Sure, there are still a few people around who are descended from the old aristocracy, but many of them have little to show for their fancy names. And today, we’ve been through the rise and fall of many newish dynasties along with big flash in the pan banks, booming retailers and new industrial players. The last decade has been especially important at creating huge new-money power centers from families that were, in some cases, living with dirt floors just a few years earlier. Within these groups, the connections are often hard to suss out. I once had the pleasure of asking someone about the reputation of a wealthy Venezuelan, only to later learn that the subject of my inquiries was, secretly, my source’s employer. Continue reading