April 3, 2007

Chavez Doesn't Dance
Ciudad BolĂ­var, 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.



April 3rd, 2007

Correct me if i'm wrong, but isn't Chavez openly anti-Bush? (and not, as you stated, anti-American). I'm no big cheerleader for Chavez but that's a pretty important distinction.


April 3rd, 2007

The man is anti-Bush, no doubt about it. Though I believe he's more anti-American policy, and against much of the global policy of the world. While I disagree with him, he makes valid arguments and the current state of Venezuela can back him up.

John Chimpo

April 3rd, 2007

Chavez is ardently anti-Bush and anti-American foreign policy. These often times are one in the same, as the faces may change, but the underlying policy of repression and exploitation remains. Bush is not the cause of this but merely the latest in a very sinister face of evil imperialism. Chavez, like most non-Americans, can and does separate the people of a country from the government.

The history of Venezuela is heartbreaking. The debt burden foisted on them (that they are still recovering from) has both domestic and foreign origins. Corrupt politicians and greedy International Bankers colluded to drain a wealthy and successful country to the point it is at now. The Oil Crisis of the 70s and the resultant sky-rocketing interest rates on dollar-denominated debt crippled Venezuela as well as many other Latin American countries.

Chavez's motives and politics may rankle the establishment, but considering the state that Venezuela was in at the end of the 1990s, something needed to be drastically changed. He has been elected and reelected and survived a US supported coup. He is the legitimate leader of the country. While he needs to push the country away from the resource curse of an Oil-driven economy, it is imperative to remember that he's starting in a pretty sh!tty place that wasn't exactly his fault.

Life was good in Venezuela for a small portion of people. These landed elite who controlled most of the land and capital, are the ones who despise Chavez. The majority of the Venezuelans (the poor) are seeing improvements in areas that would never have been possible. Chavez has his faults, is prone to hyperbole, but he is changing things.

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