Last Wednesday, President Maduro announced an additional cut in public employees’ working hours: for the next two months, in order to save energy, every weekend will be a long weekend! Beginning last Friday, April 8th, the public sector’s working week runs from Monday-Thursday, and then only in the mornings. ¡Eficiencia o nada! As with most recent public policy measures, it doesn’t seem like this decision was ever really debated or properly thought out.

 
Carmen is worried about what will happen to her job with all those lost sales. We said goodbye, as we took opposite ways in the crowd.

I needed to look something up at the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia’s library for my research, so I took the long Metro ride from La California to Capitolio. The woman sitting next to me is also going to El Centro. We got to talking about our President’s latest announcement.

Her name is Carmen, she lives in la carretera vieja Petare-Guarenas and she left home at 6:00 am so she could get to work by 8:30. She cooks at a restaurant near Plaza Caracas and she’s worried about this Fridays off thing. The small restaurant where she works serves mainly public employees, both in the dining room and through a lunch delivery service that goes out to a few ministerios.

Fridays are usually their best days: the week is over and more people take it slow and go out for lunch. Plus on Fridays they have remate de caballos at this restaurant, which also ups the take. Carmen is worried about what will happen to her job with all those lost sales. We said goodbye, as we took opposite ways in the crowd.

At Capitolio, I hop on a por puesto heading north to Los Mecedores, through Avenida Baralt. The sightseeing on this ride is depressing: people waiting in endless lines at every pharmacy or grocery store. It’s early, there’s no traffic yet at 8:00 am. It’s easier to ride a car or a bus than trying to walk in these thronged streets.

Bad luck at the library: the report I’m looking for isn’t there, despite a press note I’d read announcing it was submitted to TSJ two years ago. They tell me I should look for it at the institution that produced it. It’s bad news, I came all the way out here because I knew the library would be open and also I know the staff here is polite and hard working.

As I’m leaving the building and returning my visitor’s pass, I remember Mr. Maduro’s announcement and ask the security guard if they will work this Friday. He says he doesn’t know, they have to wait and see what the magistrados will decide.

My next stop is Defensa Pública, and I decide to walk. Bulevard Panteón is one of my favorite walks in central Caracas, with its trees and many places to visit (like Casa de Estudio de la Historia de Venezuela). It is a quiet walk, as it always has been: no buhoneros or bachaqueros to be found. But the street looks dirty, garbage here and there is a constant reminder of the uselessness of our mayor, who doesn’t seem to care much about his duties. And a motorcycle running across the pedestrian boulevard tells me that anarchy has extended here as well, there is no consideration for my favorite walk at all! It’s only a couple of blocks from Foro Libertador and I arrive to my destination.

A security guard receives all the people who come here for legal assistance, directing the crowd into the different offices where they can get help. When my turn is up, I ask for the library. He’s as surprised as if I had asked about an office for paranormal affairs.

I tell him about the stats on their website and the report I’m looking for. He sends me to Atención al Ciudadano and seems so stressed I don’t dare to ask if they are working this Friday. Fortunately, the line is small and moves fast. When I get to talk to a clerk in Atención al Ciudadano, she too is amazed by my request. I guess I’m not going to get any data that isn’t already published online.

It’s time to go to my office, so I walk to Capitolio. At the Plaza Bolívar, I find the usual chavista red-shirt crowd looking ever more organized. At the south west corner there is a big tent, with seats arranged as an improvised meeting room where a group is watching a big HD TV. Here and there you can see groups in their red t-shirts walking around.

Just in front of Capitolio there are huge speakers and loud music. Then I remember the demonstration against Amnesty Law (or, erm, “Criminal Amnesia Law”) called by the President.

I stop and breathe a sigh of relief for Ms. Carmen. They may not be going to work, but I’m pretty sure after their demonstration here, plenty of the public employees will turn up to her restaurant for lunch on Friday after all.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for your well-written post, Lissette. Yesterday someone from Valencia wrote me and told me about his visit to Caracas a couple of days ago. He said how well the city was compared to Greater Valencia when it came to electricity, water, queues, availability of products.
    He spent several days there and he goes to Caracas on a regular basis.

    Public employees do not go so often to state-mandated demos outside Caracas, even if they do go. A lot of times they actually have to go to Caracas.

    Caracas, in all its squalor, is doing fine compared to most of Venezuela.

    • Because guarimbas in Caracas would mean the death of chavismo (You know, the “they wanna kill muh!” paranoia).

      That, or that all the bolikids and fat fishes in chavismo live in Caracas, so the rest of the country can rot for all they care.

    • In France birth rates rose after the 35 hour week was introduced. And apparently (I haven’t seen the data) DIY stores began to do better.

    • I guess many would like to, but high inflation rates have turned most of leisure activities into unaffordable luxuries. Alcohol is now really expensive for anyone living on a salary. I guess Jota’s hypothesis is more likely!! 😉

    • No industry is truly immune to recession, but Alcohol is certainly more elastic than many. I remember a few months ago, around new years, we were buying beer in a small town. At the time, the price of a case was around 3000bs if memory serves me. The owner was musing that at the market across the street, people were pissed because the price of flour (or something staple) had gone up 20bs, but they continued to buy beer from him at 3000bs o al precio que sea. And it was partly true, we considered ourselves lucky to get the last 2 cases of beer available anywhere within 40km.

      On the other hand, my wife’s father was as alcoholic as they come, downing at least a tercio before 10am… and he recently cut back to 2-3 a week, max, citing prices. So even a very elastic market does have it’s breaking point…

      Still, i’d say alcohol remains a decent investment here. Even if not immune to the economy, it will be one of teh first things that bounces back!

  2. Awesome post Lissette! And nice hat tip to Boulevard Panteon, I also think it’s one of the best walks in the city 🙂 right next to the surroundings of the Central Bank and Plaza Bolivar

    I’d say find El Centro without so many public sector workers on Fridays is going to be a lot calmer, and nicer to be around. But your point stands.. I guess this measure isn’t gonna be good for the businesses in the area at all.

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