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No flour so no bread, so arrest the bakers

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The embattled administration of President Nicolas Maduro expropriated two bakeries as the Venezuelan government deepened its socialist economic policies, reported LatinAmerican Post.

There are more than 700 bakeries in Caracas. And the government said over the weekend that they should produce price-controlled bread (which bakers claim is a money-loser) “continually”. Of those, 436 have been visited by authorities since Monday. Twenty-six have already closed for business, the government admitted.

The two bakeries expropriated today -- “Mansion's Bakery” and “Rol 2025”, both located in the traditionally pro-Maduro Western side of Caracas -- were given to the “Local Committees of Supplies and Production”, or CLAPs, per their Spanish acronym, according to Sundde, the government’s consumer-rights watchdog agency. The committees are composed of militants in Maduro’s ruling PSUV party. The CLAPs will occupy the bakeries for atleast 90 days.

One of the reasons why machine gun-toting National Guards took over the bakeries was that the bread, according to the government, was light. “Each canilla (baguette) should weight 180 grams and these weight only 140”, Sundde head William Contreras said.

The CLAPs are working in tandem with a more shadowy organization tied to the Maduro administration, according to local media: the dreaded “colectivos”, pro-government biker gangs that show up at bakeries and demand to see the stock of flour and other raw materials used to make bread, in order, they say, to make sure the owners aren’t hoarding.

The government ordered panaderias to use 90% of their raw materials for the manufacturing of price-controlled bread. Bakeries that do not comply will be nationalized, Vice President Tareck El Aissami threatened on Sunday.

The government has a losing track record when it comes to taking over private businesses. Several “areperas” – inexpensive restaurants where the flat cornbread “arepas” used to be sold -- were nationalized back in 2012, when Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, was still alive and President. The result was an unmitigated disaster and now arepas in the non-socialized restaurants are more expensive than ever, so much so that local investment bank BBO's banker Miguel Octavio has developed an (ever-soaring) “arepa” index, to compete with the renowned McDonald’s inflation index. As of last month, the Octavio Arepa Index is up 407% in a year.

Anti-corruption NGO “Transparencia Venezuela” says the Maduro government now owns 511 companies, either through expropriation, nationalization or by creating new concerns, and most of them lose money. Actually, the NGO says the losses are bigger than the budget for health care, education, law enforcement, housing and social security.

“Transparencia” estimates that 70% of the government’s companies lost Bs 1.29 trillion in 2016, based on balances published in the “Gaceta Oficial”, the official gazette, the government’s newspaper of record. That’s 14% higher than the Bs 1.13 trillion spent last year in the above mentioned items.
Even worse, about half of the money lost was transferred, directly, by the central government, “Transparencia” says. So, the companies are losing their own money and extra funds sent by the government.

The number of public employees in Venezuela has grown from 1 million in 1998 to more then 3 million nowadays. Venezuela has some 31 million inhabitants and the working-age population is of around 10 million.


In his weekly address to the nation Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro warned that bread factories that were not producing, speculating, and "hiding bread from the people" would be expropriated and turned over to neighborhood organizations, reported teleSUR (Venezuela).

The Bolivarian leader said these producers, who are creating bread shortages that hurt the people, will be punished. "You will pay, I promise you. Those leading the bread war will pay. And don't say later that it's political prosecution," adding that factories were going to be inspected.

Maduro said producers holding back production or selling their goods on the black market would be jailed and their factories turned over to the Local Committees for Supply and Production, communal organizations created in 2016 to distribute staple foods in local areas at subsidized prices.
"The factories will be occupied by the government and will be turned over to the CLAP so they can start producing," Maduro said, adding that the full extent of the law will be applied to these speculators.

Part of the right-wing plot to destabilize the revolutionary government has been the withholding of production or the selling of the goods on the black market, where producers can sell at exorbitant prices killing two birds with one stone: turning a handsome profit and at the same time, causing desperation and misery for the people who end up having to wait in huge lines to try to meet their basic needs.

Although bread producers insist they don't have enough wheat from the government to produce more bread, the government accuses the business owners — who have never been fans of the Bolivarian process — of mounting a political and economic sabotage in the country.

Maduro also announced that in addition to the inspections, the government has opened 100 centers to sell bread in Caracas in a trial program that will extend to other cities.

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