After announcing that the Farmatodo pharmacy chain would be facing scrutiny for allegedly deliberately causing lines at its stores, the government announced today that several of the company’s executives had been arrested. According to the president of FEDECAMARAS [The Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce] Jorge Roig, seven executives were arrested. As of 4:30 PM today, Roig says that only two of the executives remain in custody.
Accusing them of “conspiracy”, Maduro said:
I have several conspirators under arrest, store owners, in the SEBIN [headquarters].
Maduro claimed that part of the sabotage campaign Farmatodo was waging included using cashiers to unload trucks with inventory instead of chasing customers out.
Despite the increased attention on Farmatodo and its owners, a government source said that the company was not in danger of being expropriated.
Farmatodo released a statement today in which it downplayed the arrests, saying:
We want to remind the great Farmatodo family that our main objective is providing the efficient and convenient availability of medicine and basic necessities to Venezuelan communities, a job which we’ve been undertaking for more than 96 years, always adhering to all applicable laws and working with different social actors, including the government and our communities.
During the past few months, we’ve had to take a series of special measures which have required your collaboration to aid with the arrival of products for the more of 2.5 million clients and patients who visit us each week in each of our 167 pharmacies.
Farmatodo operates in a transparent way, and we’re permanently at the calling of authorities so that they can inspect our operations just as they have done in the more than 60 inspections for which we received satisfactory grades in January alone.
Yesterday, we received an inspection by SUNDDE [the superintendency of fair prices] and SEBIN [the Venezuelan Intelligence Service] which resulted in the opening of legal proceedings which are being handled by our legal division. As part of the proceedings, company executives were invited to give statements to SEBIN.
We will continue to serve our clients with the same level of professional for which we are known, and adhering – as always – to all applicable laws.
U.S. Imposes Visa Restrictions
Part of the sanctions against Venezuelan officials approved by the United States government late last year have arrived in the form of travel restrictions against a number of Venezuelan officials and their families.
Although privacy laws regarding visas prohibit the United States government from releasing the names of the affected officials, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FLA) released a list back in May with the names of 23 officials he wanted the government to sanction. It is likely that the list was used to draft the bill, and the the officials affected by the sanctions are in this list. They include accused drug-smuggler and formed head of Military Intelligence Hugo Carvajal and Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz.
The individuals were placed in the list and targeted by sanctions due to their involvement in the systemic human rights violations that have been taking place in Venezuela since February of last year. As of today, the targeted officials and ex-officials cannot legally enter United States territory.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki spoke on the sanctions today, saying:
We are sending a clear message that human rights abusers, those who profit from public corruption, and their families are not welcome in the United States
Maduro Accuses VP Biden of Conspiracy
Maduro addressed the nation last night, and accused United States Vice-President Joe Biden of being personally involved in a conspiracy to remove him from power. Maduro alleges that Biden has put into motion a plan to overthrow him, Maduro said:
The northern imperial power has begun a dangerous, desperate phase, and they’ve gone to speak to other governments in the continent to announce the overthrow of my government. I accused vice-president of the United States, Joe Biden, of personally speaking with presidents and prime ministers.
Maduro did not provide any evidence for his claims.
The White House was quick to respond to the accusations, calling them:
… clearly part of an effort to distract from the concerning situation in Venezuela, which includes repeated violations of freedom of speech, assembly, and due process.
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