Archive for January 27th, 2014

Prison Sentences In Venezuela’s New “Just Prices” Bill

January 27, 2014

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Daniel has given you a neat angle on the new ¨Bill for Just Prices¨, which implies that if Jeff Bezos ever set foot in Venezuela he would have to go to jail. But Mr. Bezos is very unlikely to set foot on this country. But I want you to give you a slight different angle, the consequences for those that live in Venezuela. What they will face under the new Law. Now, I am not a lawyer, nor do I want to bore you with the details of the new Bill. I just want to point out how absurd, even medieval and fascist the whole Bill is.

Thus, I will concentrate on the prison sentences that local people will supposedly get for violating the Bill and the reasons for it:

–Take for example Article 51, which says more or less: “Those who sell goods or services at prices above those fixed or determined by the SUNDDE (The Superintendency created in the Bill to supervise everyone) will be sanctioned with prison terms of between eight and ten years.

The Bill is actually quite ambiguous, it is one thing for the price to be “determined” than for it to be “fixed”. The SUNDDE can “determine” at any time that your price was excessive. This will create a legion of of SUNDDE employees looking to determine prices so they can ask for a bribe.

Now, just to make sure, the Bill details what it means to say “Those who sell”. It is not only the owners, but also the administrators of companies that would be responsible under this new regime of threats and terror that is about to begin in Venezuela. In fact, I expect many owners to say “Forget it!” and just close shop, the same way I expect many Managers to say “Forget it!” and resign to their positions once they figure out what it entails under the new Bill.

But contrast Art. 51 above with Article 57, for example, which says: “Those who buy basic products in order to make money, to resell them at prices higher than those established by SUNDDE will be sanctioned with between 200 and 10,000 tributary units. Note the difference? If you make or sell something and violate the regulations, you get eight to ten years of jail, but if you are just a reseller (Mostly street vendors, I presume) you will have to pay between Bs. 21,400 and Bs. 1,070,000 (US$ 1,893 and US$ 94,690 at the new newfangled Sicad rate. Thus, you can extortion everyone, the penalty is just different, oligarchs get eight to ten, aspiring capitalists who are part of the “people” get to pay a fine (or a bribe!)

–It gets better. Article 55 says “Those that carry out actions or incur in omission that directly or indirectly affect the production, imports, gathering, transportation, distribution or commercialization of goods will be sanctioned with ten to twelve years of jail.

Subtle, no? Imagine you engage in a protest, block traffic: Ten to twelve years because you affected distribution or transportation. Or suppose you supported that protest, then you indirectly helped those guys. See it? This gives the Government carte blanche for jailing people. And they will!

— Article 58. Those that “condition” the sale of regulated goods or services by SUNDEE will be sanctioned with prison between two and six years.

Of course, it will be up to this new super bureaucracy, the SUNDEE, to determine what this conditioning means. You rent a store to someone and put in that they have to paint the store, not you, well, tough, you go to jail. Think about it, contracts will not be able to have any condition whatsoever or else! No soup for you! And jail too!

–Finally, there is an article that says that those that get involved with contraband (out f the country, of course) will be punished with jail sentences between 10 and 14 years.

Jeez! I wonder where they will be able to find new personnel for the National Guard. Unless, of course, the military s exempt from this. Which could happen, this is, after all, a revolution.

There you have it, It will be so easy to go to jail, so easy to charge you and convict you, that I ask: Would you work for a company or start a company that would be subject to this Bill?

No way Jose, as The Village Voice used to say.

The Bill, of course, has dozens of other nuances and penalties, I just thought I would highlight the worst ones. If you find comparable ones, please note in the comments.

And inflation? Will surely be higher in 2014 than in 2013, new Bill or not.