Where in the world can the President of a country have a whim on Saturday night that disrupts people’s life and have it implemented within hours in violation of the law?
This is exactly what happened in Venezuela this weekend, as Hugo Chavez gave a speech after playing softball last Saturday and in the middle of it decided to pat himself on the back and declare today a National Holiday in honor of the great job he thinks he has done ver the last ten years.
Never mind that he did not have the power to do it. Never mind that he disrupted plans and schedules. Never mind that he caused damages to produce and shipments and delayed bank transfers and payments. Never mind that Venezuela is poorer tonight because of his stupid whim.
But despite the fact that it was illegal, as the decision to make today a National Holiday was not published in the official gazette in advance as required by law, the Government used all of its power and instilled fear on people to insure that they did not go to work today.
Because when you threaten everyone all the time, reminding people that the revolution is armed, it certainly comes in handy when you want something obeyed, even if it is illegal and stupid.
And today it worked. First, the Government immediately began saying it would fine any company that did not abide by the autocrat’s whims. This, despite the fact that there was no legality to back the fines. Second, the Government had the Banking association issue a press release that the banks would follow. Of course banks followed, for most of them the only business model is receive Government deposits in exchange for commissions they pay out. And they think they will live happily ever after.
And then today, the Government used both fear and force. Fear because even parking lots that open on holidays were closed. The same with bakeries, restaurants, stores, twenty four hour drugstores all of which are open all but one or two days of the year , but today they were closed.
And then, just to make sure, the police and the National Guard were sent out to shut down those that dare to open. As if on a National Holiday you were supposed to shut down completely. That is not what the law says or does. If you work, you have to be paid more, as simple as that. It is up to you to evaluate the costs and decide. Factories and the like shutdown, it is just too expensive. But when perishables are involved, or deliveries, or transactions that need to be completed, you go ahead and just do it.
Instead, a Government that has total disregard for efficiency and costs, somehow stupidly associating costs and efficiency with profit, created the fear that it has been cultivating and storing for years.
And it worked…
Because as the TV showed National Guards shutting down businesses, those that are regularly open on similar days and had opened in the morning, began to shut down just in case. By evening very little was open.
So, Caracas felt almost like a State of Siege day, no cars, no people, all commerce shut down. Few, if any, restaurants to go to.
The people are afraid. The years of intimidation have worked. The abuse of power by the Government is a daily affair. Everyone is afraid of the autocrat and his Government. Very few protest.
Caracas was proof of this today. Fear and intimidation rule. Democracy, whatever is left of it, loses.
Saturday it was a despicable attack on the Venezuelan Jewish community and its religion and culture. Today it was a direct attack on the rights of all hard working Venezuelans, tomorrow is anybody’s guess.
Sad, very sad. But get ready for it, unless you want to fight.