Social control is the gift that keeps on giving for the Nicolas Maduro regime, with that effort to keep adherents happy thanks to handouts, very often based on seizures and other dubious procedures.
It’s a win-win, at least for Maduro: seize a cache of toys arguing that they are overpriced or imported illegally, keep militants happy with some free toys. And then he goes on TV, calling himself Saint Nicholas with a mustache.
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The traditional leg of pork will, once again this year, be handed out to militants through the communal board, the pro-Maduro organization that is present in every Venezuelan barrio. Some six million pork will be handed out that way: to Maduro sympathizers only. The history of irregularities of the so-called Pernil Plan is varied.
In Caracas, an avowed Chavista told El Pitazo that last year he did not get his promised pork. But, that the head of his communal council, threatened him that, if he told of the missing pernil, he would see the rest of his benefits (subsidized food, politically-tied stimulus money) go away.
“He told me I had to tell everybody that I received the pernil, or they would withdraw every other benefit,” the man said.
Since 2016, every Chavista will tell he has received his pernil from Maduro and that he is grateful, although critics say only 30% ever see any pork. Local bosses typically keep the perniles (weighing in at three to four kilos) and only give away some of the meat to those who complain the loudest or pay him a bribe.
Two years ago, a pregnant teenage girl was shot in the head and killed during a pernil protest in a Caracas slum.
And while Feporcina, the association of pork producers, says production has contracted by 18%, Maduro says people will get their pernil in 2020. Just like they have said they have done since 2016.
The real toy story
The record of Maduro in toy distribution has been marked by hasty, violent interventions, seizures, and imports outside the law.
In 2016 the Maduro regime seized almost four million toys from Kreisel, a Caracas toy company. That year, Maduro started calling himself Saint Nicholas with a mustache.
For 2020, Maduro has assured that he already has all the toys. Those would be distributed by his government through the communal councils, without specifying the quantity and types of toys.
In October, the ruler announced the approval of unlawful, special measures for the importation of more than 10 million toys (tax and other modifications were not approved by the National Assembly), which, he said, will be given to the children of the country also through the regime-controlled communal councils.