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Beer And Other Essential Services In Mexico City

Cerveza esencial
Cerveza esencial
Alidad Vassigh


MEXICO CITY — Confinement has had few consolations, in spite of all the efforts to sell it as an "opportunity for personal growth."

The good news from where I sit is that I can see beer showing up again in Mexico City's supermarkets and convenience stores. When the country imposed a nationwide shutdown, the measures included halting activity of "non-essential" sectors, which it turned out included the production of beer. I know, it boggles the mind in a country with several standout brands, including Negra Modelo, Pacífico and the deeply unfortunately named Corona.

In the first days of quarantine in April, as beer became scarce, I thought I was cleverer than the rest by going from one Oxxo or 7-11 store to another, scouring the neighborhoods like a drunkard's courier, looking for any last remaining cans. It was my own answer to those stockpiling toilet paper in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Someone must explain the logic of the beer policy.

But clearly others in Mexico City were doing the same as me on the beer front. I then decided the only answer was to swap beer for whisky and vodka (lasts longer) but stopped after the first two bottles, as the liquor began going down with frightening ease each successive evening. Before you know it, you're conducting an orchestra like Boris Yeltsin.

Salud — Photo: Cassiano Barletta

But seriously, I am told to believe the rationality of science through the pandemic, but then someone must explain the logic of the beer policy. I thought this every time I viewed a shop with shelves filled with Coca-Cola and every sorted sugary drink, plus all the chocolates, sweets and salty snacks you could eat to assuage your all-day anxiety. You know, all those things that bring on obesity and foment diabetes, and make you more vulnerable to the virus. Still, someone in Mexico's government decided beer was not essential, but Coke and potato chips were?

Bleak times on the beer front are over.

They say the world will change after the pandemic. For me, it will continue to be a struggle between thinking individuals and those abstract powers, be they technology, governments or corporations, that try to impose their rules ... all the while suggesting it was just the natural course of events.

My rantings, however, are quieting. As I said, even as lockdown restrictions remain in place, the bleak times on the beer front are over. Leave it to 7-Eleven to catch the national mood with its posters of beer bottles declaring to passersby: "Qué gusto volverte a ver." So nice to see you too, old friend.

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An End To Venezuela Sanctions? The Lula Factor In Biden's Democratization Gamble

The Biden administration's exploration to lift sanctions on Venezuela, hoping to gently push its regime back on the path of democracy, might have taken its cue from Brazilian President Lula's calls to stop demonizing Venezuela.

Photo of a man driving a motorbike past a wall with a mural depicting former President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela

Driving past a Chavez mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Leopoldo Villar Borda


BOGOTÁ — Reports last month that U.S. President Joe Biden's apparent decision to unblock billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, frozen since 2015 as part of the United States' sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, could be the first of many pieces to fall in a domino effect that could help end the decades-long Venezuelan deadlock.

It may move the next piece — the renewal of conversations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and opposition — before pushing over other obstacles to elections due in 2024 and to Venezuela's return into the community of American states.

I don't think I'm being naïve in anticipating developments that would lead to a new narrative around Venezuela, very different to the one criticized by Brazil's president, Lula da Silva. He told a regional summit in Brasilia in June that there were prejudices about Venezuela — and I dare say he wasn't entirely wrong, based on the things I hear from a Venezuelan friend who lives in Bogotá but travels frequently home.

My friend insists his country's recent history is not quite as depicted in the foreign press. The price of basic goods found in a food market are much the same as those in Bogotá, he says.

He goes to the theater when he visits Caracas, eats in restaurants and strolls in parks and squares. There are new building works, he says. He uses the Caracas metro and insists its trains and stations are clean — showing me pictures on his cellphone to prove it.

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