Violent toys and video games are now illegal in Venezuela. The law – called the Law for the Prohibition of Violent Video Games and Toys (Ley para la Prohibición de Videojuegos Bélicos y Juguetes Bélicos) – was passed in November and went into effect on Wednesday.
So what does it say, exactly?
The law prohibits “the manufacture, import, distribution, purchase, sale, rental, and use of violent toys and video games.” The all-important definition paragraphs of the law (published along with the rest of the law starting on page 2 of the December 3, 2009, edition of La Gaceta [PDF]) read as follows:
1. Violent video games: Video games or programs that can be use on personal computers, arcade systems, video game consoles, portable devices or mobile telephones, or any other electronic or telephonic device, that contain information or images that promote or incite violence and the use of weapons.
2. Violent toys: Objects or instruments that in form mimic any kind of weapon used by the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, weapons of war used by any other nation, citizen or state security forces, as well as those that, though not promoting war, establish the kind of game that stimulates aggressiveness or violence.
No word yet on how Venezuela’s arbiters of justice plan to deal with the scourge of rubber bands, sticks, Space Invaders, spit wads, baseball, Madden NFL 2010, Wii Boxing and finger guns currently plaguing the nation. The punishment paragraphs muddle things further:
Article 13. Those who in any way promote the purchase or use of violent toys or video games as defined by this law will be punished with a fine of between 2,000 and 4,000 tax units.
Article 14. Those who import, manufacture, sell, rent, or distribute violent toys or video games will be punished with 3 to 5 years in prison.
Emphasis above is mine. “Promoting” could include everything from advertising a game console that plays violent video games, to posting on a chat forum, making a statement on television, or telling your friends about a violent video game. In short, it’s the kind of “chilling-effect” law that can be interpreted into applying to just about anyone.
The bitterly hilarious subtext to the whole thing is that the one really “promoting” violence and war in Venezuela is Hugo Chávez. Forget toys, he’s setting up peasant armies and arming them with real guns. He’s spent US$4 billion since 2007 on high-tech Russian weaponry like Su-27s and tanks. And he’s constantly posing for photos holding weapons, like it’s the coolest, manliest thing ever.