Of all the outrages committed by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, his latest actions have gone too far. This, at least, according to New York Times reporter Simon Romero. Romero reports on Chavez's "decree" that sales of alcohol be limited over the Easter weekend. The government ban on alcohol sales during certain hours and in certain areas (like on the sides of highways) is intended to reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths over the holidays. Along the way, Romero paints Venezuelans as a bunch of drunken louts who only become politically active when their booze supply is cut short. Take this lede, for example:
Many Venezuelans shrug off President Hugo Chavez's increasingly frequent calls to create a New Man through a Socialist revolution. But a decree severely limiting alcohol sales for much of Holy Week has certainly gotten their attention.
"I drank with some friends in the neighborhood last night,” said Benigno Suero, a manager at an outdoor cafe. Mr. Suero, who lives in Petare, a sprawling slum on the city’s eastern edge where beer is commonly consumed on the street, said with a smile, “We drank three crates.”
It should be pointed out that prohibitions on alcohol sales during high holidays is far from unprecedented in Latin America. It should also be mentioned that procuring alcohol on Easter will be easier than Romero seems willing to admit. For more on this, check out this piece from Reuters, or this from the Mail and Guardian. But the most noteworthy aspect of Romero's piece is his comparison between the alcohol ban and the latest round of corruption scandals that have hounded Chavez's government:
The rollicking [?] reactions to the alcohol ban stand in sharp contrast to the quietude that has greeted Venezuela’s latest corruption scandals: attempts by Supreme Court justices to avoid paying income taxes on generous bonuses and claims that government officials illegally siphoned off millions of dollars from state infrastructure deals with Iran.
It seems to me that Venezuelans can be excused for not giving the corruption charges much thought. After all, the papers themselves have ignored the matter. One would think that if Romero believed the real story was corruption, he would focus on this instead. Yet a quick search of the Times archive reveals that the paper of record has not filed a single story on the scandal. In fact, Romero's last dispatch from Caracas detailed how Venezuelans enjoy eating rats.
I'll be presenting a paper at the Whitehead Graduate Diplomacy Council's Annual Colloquium at Seton Hall University. The schedule of events can be viewed here (albeit with some minor spelling errors!).
The Best Player in Baseball Getting Warmed Up Before the Game
Thanks to my good friends John and Briony, I had the pleasure of attending Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. An overcast day provided an appropriate background for the pre-game memorial for Corey Lidel. Following a moving tribute video, Lidell' wife and young son threw out the first pitch. Then it was time to get down to business: booing Alex Rodriguez.