Friday, December 23, 2016

The Dictator Who Stole Christmas

As staggering inflation ate away at Venezuelan salaries at the height of the Christmas season, Venezuela's president-for-life Nicholas Maduro enforced a government-mandated Black Friday, where store owners were ordered to reduce prices by up to 50% under the threat of being sent to jail if they didn’t.

This sort of December crackdown on businesses has become customary since a few years ago when the Venezuelan dictator ordered appliance chain stores to lower their prices so Venezuelans could shop at discounts-- which forced many businesses into bankruptcy.

But Maduro's Scrooge patrol really grabbed headlines on December 10, when Willia Contreras (head of Maduro's price control authority) and a band of National Guards seized 3.8 million toys from the Kreisel toy distributing company. A family-run business that has been selling toys in Venezuela for well over 20 years. Contreras’s toy police confiscated dolls, board games, robots and the like, now to be distributed and sold at “fair prices” by the government distribution network.

Following the crackdown on toys, Maduro turned his attention EPK, one of the country's leading purveyor of children’s clothing.  That firm was forced to subject its inventory to discounts of up to 70 percent.

The state media network came up with a clever way to wish Venezuelans a happy holiday, and replace Christmas with something else-- proclaiming, “¡Feliz Chavidad!”

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