The Fracas in Caracas
Venezuela Crisis’ Latest Victim: Beer

In Venezuela, you may now have a five-day weekend—but it will be harder and harder to find a drink during it. As Venezuela falls deeper into crisis, its largest brewery—responsible for 80% of the beer consumed in the country—is shutting its doors. Reuters reports:

Venezuela’s largest beer maker halted the last of its four production plants on Friday in a spat with the government over access to foreign currency, threatening a shortage in a nation already hit by severe scarcities of food and other products.

Empresas Polar, the largest private company in Venezuela, had warned it would end production on Friday because President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government was refusing to release it dollars to import malted barley under strict exchange controls.

Operations at Polar’s plant in San Joaquin, which had been its last still in production, were stopped on Friday morning, a company spokeswoman said. “With this, activities at the four plants of Polar Brewery are halted,” she added.[..]

Maduro’s government often accuses Polar of exaggerating its dollar needs and hoarding products as part of an “economic war” by the business community, politicians and the United States aimed at undermining socialism in Venezuela.

In response, the Venezuelan government showed its usual razor-sharp understanding of economics:

Officials have said Polar’s billionaire president, Lorenzo Mendoza, should spend his own offshore money if he needs dollars.

Earlier this week, in an obvious reference to Polar, Maduro threatened to seize any plants halted by private companies and hand them over to workers. “Any plant that is shut will be recovered, it is a serious crime against production,” he said.

In the days of fighting sail, one of the quickest ways to start a mutiny was supposedly to cut off the sailors’ grog (or to run out of it). Venezuelans have dealt with a lot of shortages, from toilet paper to water, in recent months. Now one of life’s small luxuries may be added to that list.

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