• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Caracas Chronicles. The views expressed are the author's own.
Lost in the electoral hoopla, there was a recent “tug of war” between the Bolivarian government and the people responsible for parking lots, which brought back to the public sphere a seldom talked about – but very, very annoying – problem in Venezuelan cities today: it’s really, really hard to find parking.
After the new Labor Law was approved by stealth, the National Association of Parking Lots’ Owners and Administrators (ANPAGE) found out that applying the new legislation would be too costly for them, so they decided to drastically reduce their working schedules (including closing lots on Saturdays), unless prices were raised. This, mind you, after a seven year [price] freeze.
For those of you abroad: yup, even parking lot prices are state controlled in Bolivarian Venezuela. And it turns out your economics textbook was right: it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about rice, apartments for rent, sanitary pads, or parking spots, the second you mandate a price that’s too low, shortages arise.
A statement from former Labor Minister Ricardo Dorado became the government’s official response: No, you can’t do that because that would mean “…a reduction in a public service”. Stirring stuff. (Life, liberty and the pursuit of a parking spot…)
When everything pointed to a big showdown between the two sides, the government caved in and tripled parking prices. Parking owners suspended the plan to reduce hours in return and everything went back to normal. Well, back to Venezuelan normal, anyway.
Finding a free place to park is still a nightmare for those living and/or working in the city. The few parking locations are constantly full, forcing drivers to park in unsuitable places (left in hands of cuidadores de carros) and leaving their cars vulnerable exposed to theft.
The problem is expected to get worse in the forseeable future: Construction in our cities (like the capital Caracas) [is] growing at breakneck speed and parking lots are the ones paying the price for the lack of coherent urban planning.
– Gustavo Hernandez Acevedo is a writer for Caracas Chronicles, the place for opposition-leaning-but-not-insane analysis of the Venezuelan political scene since 2002