As President Nicolas Maduro’s approval ratings remain low in the run-up to Venezuela’s December elections, the leader is invoking two of his favorite excuses for his country’s economic woes: private sector greed and international saboteurs. This time, he’s taking aim at the food industry. From Bloomberg:
Venezuelan soldiers seized a food distribution center rented by companies including Nestle SA, PepsiCo. Inc and Empresas Polar SA in Caracas as the government looks to boost support ahead of elections.
The companies were given two months to remove equipment and stock at the La Yaguara industrial park, which will be converted to social housing, workers said. Several dozen workers of Polar, the largest Venezuelan food company, remain on the premises in protest against the expropriation. […]
He [President Maduro] has blamed Polar and other private food companies for the chronic shortages of basic products and spiraling inflation, while maintaining currency and price controls that have made most of national production unprofitable.
While Venezuelan leaders are always given to skirting blame for their ineptitude, Maduro has found a less captive audience than his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. For more than two years, the country has been plagued by hyperinflation, power shortages, and a scarcity of basic commodities (ranging from toilet paper to drinking water) that required the enactment of a nationwide rationing system. Earlier this year, the country began selling off fixed assets to cover current liabilities, a short-term fix that offered at best a temporary respite from its economic crisis while sacrificing future revenue streams.
Like Argentina, Venezuela is rich in natural resources, and that alone should be enough to place it among the most prosperous nations in the region, if not the world. The mismanagement of Maduro’s government has become so stark that he is expected to lose December’s elections, should they be conducted honestly. The next step for the opposition is to ensure that they are.