BY CONSERVATIVE, and totally unofficial estimates, tens of thousand of color television sets have been imported into Venezuela in the last three years - many carried in individually through the Caracas international airport by Venezuelans returning from shopping sprees in the United States.
The fact that there are no color broadcasts in the country has apparently been no deterrent. The joy, it seems, is not in the watching, but in the owning.
Venezuelans like to buy things and with oil exports now bringing in $10 billion a year, in a country of fewer than 12 million people, they can afford to buy just about anything they want.
Other Latins call Venezuelans the "Texans of South America." To cultured, high-strung Amgenhines and history-steeped Colombians, they are noisy, brash and unsophisticated.
To a non-Latin observer, it is precisely that innocent, swaggering arrogance - facilitated, of course, by the money - that gives Venezuela a vitality absent in many of Latin America's struggling, tradition-bound nations.
Venezuela is an experiment - in managing the scarce Latin commodity of democracy, in trying to be a Third World leader and above all, in buying one's way into the modern world. Mistakes and excesses abound, but Venezuelans are convinced that, as long as they maintain the will, they will find the way.
When color television comes to Venezuela, as it surely will in the near future. Venezuela will be ready for it.