Markets in Everything: Democratic Prices Edition
There's a big election today in Venezuela, one that has prompted Hugo Chávez to get into the restaurant business!
Tucked into a corner on Plaza Bolívar is Café Venezuela, part of a chain of open-air restaurants established by the government this year. The cafe serves Venezuela-grown coffee and Venezuelan snacks like cassava bread at so-called solidarity prices, half or less than what customers would pay elsewhere.
Ideology is also on the menu. The cafes were created by Comerso, a state holding company for socialist enterprises, which also manages stores that sell everything from subsidized arepas, the crispy corn cakes that are the staple of the Venezuelan diet, to inexpensive Chinese cars. The branch in Plaza Bolívar replaced a clothing store that once occupied the same spot and was expropriated live on television by Mr. Chávez.
The planners behind the cafes have multiple objectives: to provide food and conviviality at democratic prices, to serve as commercial linchpins to renew some of the city’s most run-down districts and, not incidentally, to remind satisfied patrons of the government’s populist program in an election year.
Note that it is the Times reporter, and not a Chavista (at least not a Venezuelan Chavista) who coins the phrase "democratic prices"!
The absolute best part of the story was this though:
Doris, 20, said she still planned to vote for Mr. Chávez and his list of congressional candidates. “Supporting Chávez is the best way to get a job,” she said. She is studying petroleum production and hopes the correct political views can help her land a job at the national oil company.
Good luck Doris, you're going to need it.