Venezuela’s economy has been ravaged by the recent drop in oil prices, in large part due to higher production of fossil fuels in the United States. While the nation’s economy has already been suffering since the Chávez era due to the cumbersome expenses on the government’s part to help subsidize programs allegedly to aid the poor, recent months have seen a significant downfall in the value of Venezuelan currency. The situation has exacerbated the looming threat of hyper-inflation.
Rather than cutting spending, however, the socialist government is carrying on with its month-long Christmas festivities. Some weeks after debuting the “socialist Barbie” (it’s a Barbie the government forces stores to sell at 10% of retail value), President Nicolás Maduro has announced a series of festivals and giveaways that will last all month. One such event, the “Festival of Latin American Music,” was scheduled to begin on November 28 and last through December 6, and feature more than 200 musical acts.
Opposition leaders concerned about the current state of the nation’s economy, which has forced much of the country to shop in illegal open-air bazaars to find coveted products such as deodorant and laundry detergent, have questioned the wisdom of spending so much money on public events. And Chavistas are fighting back: as the Argentine news outlet Infobae put it, “anyone who dares question government spending becomes an enemy of Saint Nick.”
Ernesto Villegas, the governor of Caracas’ Capital District, attacked the opposition on state television and accused them of wanting to deprive Venezuelans of the Christmas holiday. Speaking with respect to a separate festival called Suena Caracas (“Caracas Sounds”), he accused the opposition of orchestrating what he called “Operation Grinch” to “steal Christmas from the people once again.” “This is an operation against Christmas in general, against the right of Venezuelans to halt daily life once a year to celebrate family, union, and [get together] for the end of the year and the beginning of a new one,” he claimed. “This all occurs in December, independent of political or economic conditions and of religious beliefs.”
The Chavista dictatorship has long used Christmas as a political tool. Last year, President Maduro released a “anti-capitalist” Christmas carol dedicated to extolling his own greatness, as well as proclaiming the entire month of December “Christmas” and starting the holiday celebrations in November. Claims of a “war on Christmas” by the opposition also recall insidious campaigns by Maduro lackeys against his former presidential campaign rival, Henrique Capriles Radonski, who was the target of a number of anti-Semitic attacks by Chavistas (Radonski is a practicing Catholic of ethnically Jewish background).