Wednesday, June 12, 2013

April and May 2013. Sabotage and the Economic War against Venezuela

(Shorter versions of this chronology were previously published in the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)

April 17, Maduro argues that problems of high inflation and shortages of goods are due to an “economic war” waged against the country. Claims of sabotage against the electric system have been a recurrent theme in government discourse since last year, but now claims of sabotage against the whole of the economy become more prominent. On May 10 the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN) published a note denouncing that “the foreign ultra-right and the national ultra-right (have a plan), together with private businesses, to provoke shortages of basic food products.” 

On May 11 the Minister of Agriculture, Iván Gil, declared that the government is facing “a problem of sabotage in the process of food products distribution with the purpose of destabilizing the Bolivarian government.” The same day Maduro directly accuseddirectly accused Polar industries, the biggest remaining private food industry in the country and the main producer of corn flour for the national staple arepas, of having decreased its production levels and of hoarding food stuffs. He announced that he was calling Polar´s President, Lorenzo Mendoza, to a meeting on Tuesday 14, so that he could “explain to the government why they are producing shortages (desabasteciendo).” Maduro insisted that there is an “economic war” unleashed against the country. Polar industry has repeatedly claimed that it is producing at 100% levels of its capacity. Commenting Maduro´s claims, Datanalisis´ Luís Vicente Leon wrote on twitter that “The government took over more that 50% of the productive capacity of corn flour, but now produces less that 20% of the market. Who´s responsible?” 

Lorenzo Mendoza declared on May 13 that Polar had in fact increased its productions and sales by 10% compared to the same period in 2012. Maduro ratified that there is an “economic war against the fatherland”. He specified that this war has the purpose of “producing shortages in the country, of throwing at us an uncontrolled inflation, all so that they can achieve that the country is barred from international credit (…) I say to all, we are working on a series of economic actions. We are treating this as a war plan.” To Lorenzo Mendoza he said: “If any of you think that you are going to bring down Maduro, be careful because it could be you that ends up defeated.” On May 13 Polar representatives met with Vice-President Jorge Arreaza, and Lorenzo Mendoza met the 14th with President Maduro. The meetings were cordial and Polar insisted it was producing at full capacity and willing to increase productions. The Government assured that it would also do its best to increase production or import of rice and corn to provide Polar

On another front of this “economic war”, on May 14 Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming informed in a news conference that the government would be importing up to 50 million rolls of toilet paper so as to “respond to the high demand that has been generated in the country for this products, demand that has been promoted as part of the economic war waged to destabilize the country.” Fleming was referring to the hording of basic products by Venezuelan families due to rumors of shortages.

Also during this period, on April 19, Maduro claimed that his government has defeated the latest “phase of a coup d’état.” He argues that “there is no opposition in Venezuela, but only a permanent conspiracy boosted form the United States. (…) The proofs are there, some of them have come out, and we will reveal others in the next hours.” 

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