The “ley seca” (dry law) that prohibits alcohol sales is one of the traditional measures implemented in Colombia during electoral events. This peculiar law, which prohibits the sale of alcohol, is in effect during every electoral weekend. The regulation theoretically also prohibits consumption, although it is obviously impossible to control this practice in private homes. Nevertheless, a person found in a state of intoxication or openly consuming alcohol in public will face penalties.
The objective is to prevent conflicts and ensure a significant reduction in the consumption of alcoholic beverages, to encourage participation and the smooth progression of the voting process.
On the upcoming Sunday, October 29, the country will conduct local and regional elections to choose the 32 departmental governors and mayors of the 1,103 Colombian municipalities. The law prohibits the sale of alcohol from 6 pm on Saturday, October 28, until 6 am on Monday, October 30. During this period, bars, nightclubs, and nightlife venues must remain closed. The fine for non-compliance with the law amounts to 392,000 pesos (95 dollars).
Benefits of Voting
In addition to the significant police and military presence to ensure the seamless execution of the electoral process, dry law aims to prevent acts of violence, confrontation, personal aggression, and, most importantly, to facilitate citizen participation in the elections.
Similarly, the law offers several benefits to nationals who exercise their right to vote and can provide proof of it. When you vote, electoral tables issue a personal certificate in the elector’s name. With this document, the State acknowledges a 10% discount on various public services: passport issuance, academic enrollment in public universities, and the issuance of duplicate military IDs.
Moreover, a person who can prove their vote may receive priority in the allocation of educational scholarships, entrance exams to public and private higher education institutions, and public housing subsidies..
Finally, any worker who can demonstrate their vote will enjoy a half-day of paid leave, which they can choose to take any time within the 30 days following the elections.
Controlling the sale and consumption of alcohol is not a new or unusual practice in Colombia during significant events or high-intensity sporting matches. However, there was a law, stemming from the “ley seca,” known in the country as the “Ley Zanahoria” (Carrot Law).
In Colombian slang, “zanahoria” refers to the behavior of a health-conscious person, although it often carries derogatory connotations. This law also prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol and required nightclubs to close at 1 am. The first legislation of this kind was experienced in Bogota during the mayoralty of Antanas Mockus in 1995.
These restrictions typically applied only to public alcohol sales venues, such as liquor stores, bars, and nightclubs, as well as alcohol consumption on the streets, and did not have jurisdiction over private clubs or consumption in homes. At the height of its enforcement, this law prompted many bars and nightclubs to change their legal status, labeling themselves as “clubs,” and exploiting legal loopholes, leading to the popularity of “after parties,” which were informal establishments operating in private homes, generally unoccupied, without any advertising.