October 21, 2009

Your apartment is their heritage

Quico says: Chavismo has surely entered its churrigueresque period when the government decrees a gas station as a protected historical site, an irreducible part of the nation's cultural and ethnic heritage. Yet there it is, in the official black and white of Official Gazette No. 39,272.

Mind you, Estación de Servicio Los Caobos is merely one item in a list of over 1,200 buildings, homes, parks, schools, churches, streets, highways and entire neighborhoods that figure in the Culture Ministry's new list of "protected historical sites" in Caracas' Libertador district.

The decree is a classic statement of dadaist tropical despotism. In one fell swoop, the government designates whole swathes of the city as protected heritage sites. El Nacional's headquarters is on the list, as is Banco Mercantil's. Not even the Distribuidor La Araña (pictured here), the crucial highway interchange that links up the Francisco Fajardo Highway with the one that goes to La Guaira, is saved from the mighty sword of cultural protection. Do you feel your ethnic heritage safer already?!

The slight bemusement this piece of bureaucratic protectionism stirs up quickly dissipates when you realize that, as protected heritage sites, all these areas come under a slew of new regulations. Suddenly, if you live anywhere in El Paraiso, Bella Vista, San Bernardino, La Florida or Los Caobos, you live in a protected historical site. Even if you manage to find someone willing to buy it, you can't just up and sell your house whenever you want. You can't even rent it, or get a mortgage loan against it.

No siree. Now, because your dilapidated, 50s-era, never-renovated San Bernardino apartment building is deemed part of the nation's "cultural heritage," you need special permission from MinPoPoCulture to do anything with it.

Another bit of paper, another chavista ideologue looking to screw with your life as long as you don't pony up and get off your mule. One more hoop, and one more layer of political control added to the mix of an already asphyxiated society.

The part that gets me most about this is that these people just don't have the courage of their convictions. If, as is clearly the case, they just plain don't believe in private property rights, why don't they come out and say it? Why all the sniveling, semi-covert, back-door, fine-print nationalizations? Why don't they make an honest woman out of their convictions? If they did, we may just be able to have a serious debate about it.

As things stand, we can at least take some comfort from knowing we can pump our massively subsidized gasoline from historically protected pumps.