As kids, we used to talk about having Christmas in July. Some of us even had little parties. We put up homemade Christmas decorations, baked Christmas cookies and we exchanged homemade gifts. It seemed a little strange, celebrating Christmas in July under the blazing sun of a heat wave, but we had a good time singing Christmas carols and pretending there was snow on the ground.
But here we are, many decades later, and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced last week that November 1st would herald the arrival of “early Christmas” in Venezuela “because we want happiness for all people.”
President Maduro would like his countrymen to see him as the benevolent Santa Claus, extending the holidays by an extra month and giving workers most of their bonuses and pensions nearly a month early.
But President Maduro isn’t quite so benevolent. It seems that the country is slated to hold municipal elections on December 8th and he is in a hotly contested race. To make sure that everyone remembers to vote for him, he lit the Nativity lights at the Presidential Palace and created a Deputy Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness, tasked with coordinating anti-poverty missions in the country.
I don’t know how much good that will do because his people have been suffering all kinds of problems since his election after the death of Hugo Chávez in March. They have suffered food shortages, electricity blackouts, a downturn economy and a toilet paper shortage.
Theoretically, the Venezuelan people would be very grateful for their early bonuses and pensions but if they are still having to contend with food shortages and electricity blackouts, they are more apt to see these early payments as the ploy it is to get him reelected than the compassionate and generous Santa Claus that he is pretending to be.
In fact, it’s the kind of scheme that could backfire spectacularly. With only eight months into his regime, Maduro didn’t create these problems but only time will tell if he can fix them.