Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter in Venezuela

Easter in Venezuela is a week long event called Semana Santa (Holy Week). People flock to the beaches all week, but the real deal starts on the Thursday before Good Friday when the official holiday begins.

Normally the beaches fill up with large crowds with people drinking beer and scotch whisky openly. Venezuelans love their booze and partying on the playa and this week is a great boon to local economies; both formal and informal.

This year, a day before the beginning of Semana Santa, President Hugo Chavez decreed (he has free rein for 18 months in ruling totally by decree) that there would be a "Ley Seca" (Dry Law). This meant no liquor or alcohol sales from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM anywhere, including bars and restaurants in effect till April 9. The Chavismo spin is blaming the evils of capitalism are taking priority over social responsibility.

This decree has taken the wind out of the sails for the holiday. Local businesses estimate they lost the equivalent of about $3,000,000 in the first 3 days of the week. There doesn’t seem to be the rowdiness of years past, and there is certainly less traffic. Some people expressed their opinions by writing on what they think on car windows with white shoe polish, but ultimately prohibition doesn't work, and in an informal observation (riding my bike through the crowds along the local beaches) there still seemed to be plenty of alcohol being consumed, and I'm sure it could be purchased from some entrepreneur with his cooler on the beach.

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