Usury: hard to define, but we know it when we see it

ban_usuryPity poor José Gregorio Fernández.

Before a few days ago, nobody knew who he was. Now, he is one of the token prisoners in the government’s war against business.

You see, the former manager of JVG, a home appliances store in eastern Caracas, is being charged with “usury,” basically charging too much for his products.

The charges are being filed under Article 144 of the Law for the Defense of People in the Access to Goods and Services (sic!). The article defines usury as follows:

“Article 144: Those who through an agreement or a contract, whichever way is used to leave a record of the operation, hide it, or diminish it, obtains for themselves or for a third party, directly or indirectly, a provision of a service that implies a notoriously disproportionate advantage with regards to what the other party is providing, will be guilty of usury, and will pay a prison fine of one to three years. The same sentence will apply to whomever earns interest, commissions or service fees in a credit or financing operation at rates above those set by the Central Bank of Venezuela.” (sic!)

Basically, the article says you can go to jail if you earn too much money. How much money? Well, it doesn’t really say.

(Fun aside: notice how it says “directly or indirectly.” So if, through my acts, somebody engages in usury, I’m guilty. Buhoneros selling Blogging the Revolution in downtown Caracas at $100 a pop? I’m going to jail!)

Keep in mind that this law is one of those “shackles” that Mr. Maduro thinks he needs to do away with in order to fight some ficticious “economic war.”

Because, as you can clearly tell, the law is so restrictive, it leaves the government with no tools whatsoever to attack the horrible, medieval crime of usury.

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