"Ley Seca" Chronicles (Updated)


noticia_3764The ten-day ban on selling alcoholic beverages, ordered (and later extended) by decree as part of the national mourning period caused economic losses for liquor stores and booze distributors.

Now looks like it’s coming back for both Holy Week and the April 14th election.

The sector was already facing difficult times after the recent devaluation forced prices up.

Now, the prolongued sales ban has made inventories pile up and could even put some stores out of business. A delegation of liquor store owners met with the Interior Ministry and have asked for a legal reform to have more working hours to help recover their losses.

Another complaint has been how the Ley Seca is sometimes implemented at very short notice: last Carnival, Interior Minister Néstor Reverol said there was no need for it. But 24 hours later, he simply changed his mind.

The ban didn’t help in reducing criminality numbers during the ten days it was in effect.

On a related note, Brazilian brewing company Ambev told workers of its Barquisimeto factory that all operations there will be shut down, as Brahma beer will leave the country.

UPDATE: The “Ley Seca” will be back for four days of the Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday). The remaining days sales will be time limited.

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    • Yoyo that is incorrect. AmBev was formed in 1999 from the merger of 2 Brazilian companies it later merged with the European Interbrew thus creating Ambev in 2004. In 2010 they bought Anheuser-Busch for $52bil. You are correct about the company owning many major brands though. The company is controlled by Brazilians. I am not surprised that they would move out of the market in Venezuela considering the situation there. They can always export Brahma and their others beers from Brazil to Venezuela.

      • InBev is headquarted in Belgium.

        Venezuela can now be proud that it is one of the few countries not dominated by InBev tentacles.

        • Tell that to the people who have lost their jobs and cannot longer provide for their family. I´m sure that knowing that Venezuela is free from the “tentacles” of InBeV is a great consolation for them.

        • InBev is lead by a Brazilian, Carlos Brito, and Brahma is run by Ambev, which is completely run from Brazil. Inbev itself is nominally based out of Belgium, but has far more administrative employees in Brazil. The decision to pull production of Brahma out of Venezuela was a BRAZILIAN decision, no two ways about it.

          And what are you talking about “not dominated by InBev’s tentacles?” Do you think this will stop Venezuelans from consuming Brahma? What a laugh! Now that Venezuela is part of Mecorsur the better business conditions and low import tariffs into Venezuela will make Brazilian produced beers cheaper and more widely available. Watch Polar’s market share shrink and Venezuela turning into a InBev dominated market, another victory for the revolution.

          • Brahma’s very distinctive quality will be sorely missed, I’m sure.

            50% of tasters could identify Brahma in blind tests.

    • Would government-owned beer monopoly be the Chavista solution to imperialist oligarch owned beer? The Peoples’ Beer ! BoliBeer, anyone? We already have a song for a BoliBeer ad: Boli-BoliBeer.

      Given the Chavista record in production after nationalization/expropriation, a government-owned monopoly on beer production would be the best way to reduce drunkeness in Venezuela. 🙂
      Incompetence has its virtues.

      • Boludo Tejano,
        The concern is who would drink low quality Chavista cerveza? Moreover, who would trust it to be safe to drink? Without competition, the state brewery would have no incentive to create quality brews. Of course, high level Chavistas would drink imports.

  1. Ten days of mourning? Without alcohol? Did they want to prevent excesses in mourning, or in celebrations? Why is it that mourning and celebrations look soooo similar in Venezuela?

  2. It’s worth noting that the brand it’s actually owned in Venezuela by the cerveceria regional group of our old pal Gustavo Cisneros

  3. There must be a happy Polar bear somewhere. Who is their competition these days?. Whenever I ‘m back, I am always handed a mutation of Polar beer super light, extra extra light. We must be one of the few countries that drink beer by the case load. Plus all my friends are convinced that they get less ratón and that their fabulous waistlines stay as bloated as before. Ah, Cayo Borracho…

    • I imagine the polar bear might be happy, if and when it stops licking his wounds. The ley seca has affected all legal booze sales, and almost any food joint (high brow or not) that relies on Venezuelans almost insatiable thirst for booze for keeping afloat.

      I imagine right now only bootleggers and black marketeers can thrive.

      BTW, store owners I’ve spoken with say the booze sales ban begins tonight or tomorrow (I’ve heard conflicting versions), harking back to the times that the Easter holiday lasted the full ten days. Weird piety – are they going to recommend again people drink green tea?

  4. I’ve lived in Peru and Colombia for five years now. Both countries have mandatory voting and ley seca during election weekends. I always joked with significant seriousness that both were pure fascism.

    Mandatory vote – if somebody doesn’t want to vote, why should they have to? Why should their indifferent opinion count toward a candidate? I’ve changed opinions on this point after considering how an indifference bias would skew governance, realizing older people vote much more than younger people. That’s why you’ll never hear either side in the US go hawkish on Social Security or Medicare. The over-representation of older people may be the underlying reason of how US and European governments created their gravest problems in fiscal responsibility – they’ve developed an astounding ability to spend future generations’ money.

    Ley seca – But no booze for the entire weekend leading up to the vote? From a truly juvenile perspective in underestimating your populace, I can see the logic at face value. But is it really necessary? Is there any logical reasoning or past experience behind ley seca that I, as a gringo, don’t know?

    Peru and Colombia bar sales from Friday through the voting Sunday. Three days. I thought that was bad. But TEN DAYS for voting and MOURNING? Man, you got it bad.

  5. Beer in most L. american countries is a mass comsumption staple , all men drink beer and lots of it , for that reason its a cash cow , a big money maker . When in Peru el cojo Alvarado nationalized the Banks , the Beer companies substituted them as money lenders , they were the only ones having as much money as the banks . So when a beer company , whoever owns it , locks its doors thats a bad bad sign . Brazilian businessmen (who ever owns stock in their companies) take full opportunity of low hanging fruit (Odebrecht) , but they are as risk averse as the most conservative businessmen , this is why Brazilian companies have played shy with their participation in so many Venezuelan Investments , specially those government promoted ( Petrobras , Braskem .)

  6. No one here thinks ley seca for so unreasonable lengths of time (Chavez’s octavita, Semana santa, and Elections has an ulterior motive? i.e. hit the alcohol sector, specialty nemesis Polar?

    • I had not read this when I replied to Nemo. Well, I wouldn’t put it pass them. As I said, only bootleggers and black market sellers can thrive in this situation.
      I don’t drink, but most of my fellow Venezuelans known to me will buy their stuff no matter where they get it.

  7. In the U.S., election days were often dry. The parties were social organizations, and booze was a common feature. On election days, party organizations held rallies and marched to the polls in groups.

    This often led to brawls approaching riots between party factions. I once saw an account of an election day in 1830s Baltimore which read like a battle narrative. (“The Whigs drove the Democrats out of Federal Hill, but were taken in flank by Democrats coming down Carroll Street, and fell back north of the harbor.”)

    The arrival from the 1840s of millions of hard-drinking, hard-fisted, politically active Irishmen only aggravated this tendency.

    Indeed, one argument against women’s suffrage was that ladies should not be exposed to the drink-fueled depravity at the polling places.

    Also, In most of the country, voting was by public declaration, and voters often added a peroration: “I vote against that verminous reptile, Henry Clay, and for the noblest of Tennessee’s sons, James K. Polk!” In the South, where “gentlemen” commonly went armed and were as combative as any Irishman… one can see what this could lead to, and why it was thought best to keep liquor out of it.

    But why make the previous week or even days dry?

  8. The ban didn’t help in reducing criminality numbers during the ten days it was in effect.[murders]

    Which indicates that before the ban on alcohol sales, most murders were done in a state of stone cold sobriety.

  9. Braha is one of the casualties of the revolution that I will not grieve. Chavismo, it seems, has **some** idea of what it’s doing!

    Dreadful brew.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Just terrible tasting beer.
      When it was first introduced here in Margarita it quickly picked up market share but it didn’t last very long.
      The real beer drinkers quickly returned to Polar & now Polar Light controls more than 70% of the Island’s beer sales. Just have a look at the cases lined up in front of any busy bodegon on a weekend.

      Won’t be missed.

  10. It could be that brazilian beer makers are shutting down their Venezuelan business operation because they foresee the difficulty of getting the foreign currency they need to repatriate profits abroad .This same concern is bound to be shared by every foreign business in Venezuela (unless they are government connected and can assure themselves access to F Currency) . The dearth in f currency will of course also affect any beer imports.

  11. It’s funny to see how some Chavistas consider this a victory of some kind. They just don’t see that if Brahma wanted they could continue selling their beer in Venezuela thanks to Mercosur (as NorskeDiv rightly stated before). Not only can they continue selling their beer, they can make more profit out of it. How’s that? Easy… now they sell their beer in USD and forget about VEB and the forex nightmare we live in.

    Anyway, nobody has commented so far that one of the main reasons the company is leaving is their market share. Apparently it went down to 0.9%… so it seems like the revolution had a little help on this “victory”


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