"Pico y Placa" Chronicles

Pico y Placa malo – on the left (puro amarillo) vs. Pico y Placa bueno – on the right (rojito, see?)

Just four months before the 8-D local elections, the central government has suddenly discovered there’s total traffic chaos in Caracas and now wants to do something about it.

Ground Transportation Minister Haiman El Troudi made public this week the “Mobility Plan for Caracas”. During his presentation, El-Troudi was open to apply traffic restriction measures, like the “pico y placa” program used in Bogotá, which forces private cars off the road during rush hour for one day each week, according to the number of their license plates.

Sadly for him, the “pico y placa” plan was already declared unconstitutional by the TSJ. According to an old decision of the Constitutional Chamber, such plan violate the “right to free transit” of all citizens.

Back in 2007, the Baruta and Chacao municipalitites (both held by the opposition) decided to implement pico y placa to reduce congestion. The national government strongly opposed this idea and then the courts intervened by suspending it. That ruling didn’t stop the towns of San Antonio del Táchira and Ureña (in the Colombian-Venezuelan border and both held by Chavismo), which started to use pico y placa since early last year.

So let’s review the score: if an opposition mayor or governor want to apply an idea that could help to alleviate some problem, in Act I Chavismo will use all the tools at its disposal to stop it. (And that’s a lot of tools.) Act II is… steal the idea.

Folks, it’s all about electioneering. Need proof? During the presentation of the Mobility Plan, sitting next to Minister El-Troudi was Ernesto Villegas. Why he was there if he’s no longer Information Minister? Because he’s Chavismo’s candidate for Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas, that’s why.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. I don’t know how the acquisition cost of any given car compares to that in the US, but with the nearly-free gasoline running costs are very low and the subsidy has, more than not providing a disincentive to use cars vs. other transport options, encouraged the use of cars. If it’s going to take you an hour to get from A to B whether you take your car or the Metro, why put up with the Metro when you can sit in your car with the AC cranked up? Pico y placa is a good idea as an easy-to-implement way to make some dent on congestion, but something of an effort to try to corral the horses after they’ve left the barn, I think.

    • Obviously, pico y placa isn’t the definitive solution to traffic congestion in Caracas, but right now it would help quite a bit.

      • No doubt – and I agree with your larger point about it being an electioneering ploy. But would people actually go along with it, or would it get flouted so much as to be meaningless?

        • I think it would face some resistance at first. People are not used to this kind of restrictions. It’s a matter of how applying it and trying to get drivers to support it. Also, it needs a good public transportation system to back it up and right now, we’re very far from having one.

          • Somehow, I forsee problems with enforcement.

            If there’s difficulty validating that someone else has insurance, when they do have it, why wouldn’t someone simply steal the license plate of a compliant car of similar make/model and switch them out on a daily basis in under 30 seconds or so?

            If this is actually enacted, I happily predict a sudden surge in plate thefts.

      • La libreta de racionamiento is not a solution but help quite a bit… said Castro 50 years ago.

        If government can´t deal with traffic then: next! But don’t tell me that the solution (total or partially) is that I can´t use mi car.

        It is a suicidal idea accept measures that give the State the power to interfere where it’s not entitled to do so. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin “Those who sacrifice liberty for ‘cuality of life’ deserve neither”.

      • Are you all suffering from amnesia, or what? And why take Bogotá’s ‘Pico y Placa’ as a model, when Caracas pioneered in this field starting… 1976!?
        It was called ‘Día de parada’. Remember? For instance: http://www.gustavopierral.net/?p=26022
        Back then, it actually had these two downfalls: boost car sales, as a significant number of affluent caraqueños bought a second car to bypass their compulsory ‘día de parada’, and promote yet another ‘corruptela’ (no, national sportsmanship in corruption did not start with chavismo) in the form of officials working with the Ministerio de Transportes who very much welcomed a friendly ‘tajada’ offered them to deliver a second set of car plates.
        But yet again, the mind-boggling thing is that generation through generation Venezuelans keep forgetting everything that went on in their own country before they learned to say ‘ma-me-mi-mo-mu’. With this inevitable result: time and time again, you see Venezuelans striving real hard to invent the formula for hot water.

        • the explanation for the amnesia is simple, querida Ana. For, most who come to these blogs weren’t born then. But more importantly, whatever mechanisms were brought forth by governments, before the entrenchment of the Cuban-directed Bolibanana Republic, were evil, with direct input from the CIA.


          • Two comments : the dia de parada of 76 despite the abuses and circunventions did work , Traffic did improve with the measure . Ortega y Gasset once pointed out that we neednt concern ourselves too much with the abuses ( because they are inevitable even in the best of sytems ) but with the ‘uses’ , We shouldnt expect perfection only a modicum of success which can be slowly improved upon with practice . The second comment has to do with the fact that government linked corruption (which ties in with the Venezuelan cult of the Picaro) goes back to our early history . Its grown much worse with Chavez but its always been there !! even before the birth of the Petrostate , In fact there is evidence that Bolivars father as head of colonial customs engaged in a bit of hanky panky to line his pockets . We were a poor country and only government business was big enough to sattisfy peoples appetite for easy money and graft. The difference lies in the way that the regime has allowed its leaders and friends to indulge in it whilst pretentiously and shamelessly purporting to represent purity and morals in its governance.

          • Correction : the dia de parada was instituted by President Herrera Campins in the early 80’s until the first Caracas Metro was opened sometime in 1983. The Metro improved traffic so much that the dia de parada became unnecessary.

    • Cars in Venezuela are terribly expensive, even used ones. A new Chevy Cruze (for ex.) may cost aroung 350.000 bs, which depending the exchange rate that you use, could be around $50.000 (6.3 bs/$) or $ 10.000 (35 bs/$), Assembly plants and local parts manufacturers get their $ at 6.3 bs/$,

      Used Cruzes are even more expensive, see http://carros.mercadolibre.com.ve/chevrolet/cruze/

  2. This week chavista’s scum have managed to end with my belief that one united Venezuela was still possible. I want jail for those delinquents .

  3. This plan was used in Mexico City, too. (It may still be.) However, it had big problems. One was that it caused people to purchase older, gas-guzzler cars, often with substandard pollution-limiting equipment from twenty years ago. At first, traffic was reduced; later, it was just as bad, but dirtier.

  4. Two tangential points (I get the the article is more about political and legal hypocrisy than pico y placa itself).

    For the past year we’ve had a new pico y placa in Bogotá, it goes from 6:00-8:30 and from 15:00-19:30 and it happens on alternating days. If your car has an even license plate, you can’t use it on even calendar days (like today) during rush hour, if you have odd plates, it can’t go out on odd calendar days. (Monday to Friday only).

    There was a big, big effect after the implementation of pico y placa (and it was accentuated for the years we had it for a full day), that the sale of used cars skyrocketed. People who were able to preferred to have two cheaper cars than one more expensive car, just to be able to drive every day. How this would play out given the last posts about the craziness of the used car market in Venezuela?

    • That also happened in Venezuela when it was implemented in the 80´s, people who could afford it, just bought an used car to bypass the regulation. That’s why I´m personally against many of these controls, at the end they end up being much more punitive for people with less resources, if you have several cars in your family or have enough money to get a new one you can bypass it, if you are a house with 4 people and only one car you are screwed specially in a city like Caracas where public transportation is a disaster.

      But considering that government policies have made used cars more expensive than new one and just passed a law that will make the used cars market disappear, maybe it will be more fair y luego dicen que no planifican!

  5. Why call it Pico y Placa if we already had our own nomenclature for it from the days of the ADECO governments of the 1980s ? DIA DE PARADA. What’s wrong with that???? Why do we even have to IMPORT names; don’t we import enough things already???

    • Dia the Parada was implemented in caracas by Luis Herrera government in the early 80,s at first it was voluntary and then it was enforced, think it was from 7am to 7 pm. At first only in several main avenues, and then in all Caracas. It did work, but it imposed sacrifices like leaving earlier and returning late to your home. Sale of new cars did not increase (thats an urban myth) maybe some used cars … many people just switched license plates but it was heavily fined. it was based on last figit of license plate: 1-6 monday, 2-7 tuesday, 3-8 wednesday, 4-9 thursday and 5-0 friday. Pico y placa is different

    • At this moment used car market is in hybernation …waiting for new law of new and used cars to be implemented .. ask any friend of your in Venezuela if he knows of anyone who is selling a used car …


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here