A Christmas Not Even SUNDDE Can Save

The genuinely sad part is that even if you force stores to knock down prices 30%, people on normal salaries can't afford the basics their families need.

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Yesterday morning I went to downtown Caracas — the heart of our “chronofagous” bureaucracy. It was still early in the morning when, near the National Assembly people were starting to queue up outside closed stores waiting for they to open.

A bright sign made sense of it all: stuck onto the store’s walls, we saw a letter from SUNDDE – the infamous gov-ruled “consumer protection agency”:

Early in this week, another chavista barrabazada took place with councilman William Conteras ordering downtown stores to knock down prices by 30% in the downtown Caracas shopping district.

I stood outside a kids shoe store to check it out. A small, young woman who was standing in line looked at me while I was trying to take a snap pic – not of her, obviously – she looked enthusiastic. She was talking with an old lady about how worried she was about her child’s “niño jesus, he is 5 years old and he wrote a letter in november asking for a toy; she couldn’t get the one he asked for, but she was trying to get him a new pair of shoes for next schoolyear.

When it finally opened, I saw her and the old lady walk in like an avalanche, running, stressing themselves out to catch the 30% off sale and save their kids’ christmas. I followed them in and saw both of them asking the clerk about the discount. “Is the price shown after the discount?” the younger one asked. The clerk’s answer wiped the enthusiasm from her face.  After the forced discount, a pair of formal shoes was in the range of 20-35 thousand bolivars. That’s 0.7-1.1 monthly minimum wages.

The younger lady walked out empty handed.

I stuck around a little longer, mesmerized by the pathos of the scene.

The older lady stuck around a little longer and she even asked the clerk to take out a pair of shoes so she could inspect them. But after asking again — “but is that the final price?” — she also walked away.

Others who had been in line did the same. They looked crushed.

The “economic war” cannot be beaten with a 30% off sign and less with this daka-stylish moves.

I strolled away mulling the scenes I’d just seen and thought to stop for ice-cream at an artisanal shop that sells gelato with bizarre amazonian flavours.

I ordered a cup of copiazú, an exotic nut related apparently to cocoa, but which tasted closer to Guanabana to me.

There was no SUNDDE discount here.

I guess Amazonian fruit is just not part of Vivir Viviendo.


Rafael Labrador

Final year economics student at UCV. Time spent on data science during the week and homebrewing on weekends