Chavez Doesn't Dance
Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela
In February Hugo Chavez, the openly anti-American president of Venezuela, was empowered with the ability to propose and pass legislature without presenting it for a vote. One of the new laws that just hit the street for this year's Easter holiday season: No alcohol sales after 5:00 p.m.
Venezuelans are on vacation, headed to the Caribbean coast by the truckloads. I've met travelers at my hotel that have run away from the northern beaches and islands to escape the price-hikes, queues, and chaos. The week preceding Easter Sunday—this week—is fiesta time for Latin America, but Chavez doesn't seem to want to party. Instead he has decreed that a dry law sweep across the country each evening for 10 days (having started last Friday).
An Italian fellow was telling me last night the impact this new law is having on the nightlife and businesses of the coast is tremendous. Nightclubs are closed, as the absence of alcohol sales reduces profits to laughable levels. Beer, when it is dispensed by restaurants, is done discreetly in coffee cups, or with the lights off, as proprietors caught selling alcohol face a minimum fine of VE$2,000,000.
I'm waiting to hear the other side of this story; to hear why I'm not caught up in the middle of a revolution. Maybe they can forgive such behavior by their president because Chavez has consistently kept the price of two things at rock-bottom levels (keeping the populous happy): Beer and gasoline.
If you like to drink and/or drive inexpensively, Venezuela is the place to do it. Both a bottle of beer or a gallon of gasoline will cost you around US$0.15.
Now that is giving the people what they want.