Government officials illegally halted a convoy of 10 Polar trucks carrying food supplies today near Barinas, Barinas state.
According to El Nacional, members of the National Guard, SEBIN and Barinas State officers halted the convoy this morning and informed the drivers that their cargo would be seized and diverted to the Distribuidora Socialista de Barinas (DISBASA) [Barinas Socialist Distribution Centre]. By the afternoon, four of the trucks were allowed to continue on their way, while six were seized.
Carla Hernandez, a Polar legal representative, said:
These people [the drivers] were told that starting today, DISBASA will be in charge of distributing basic necessities in Barinas state. This is a completely illegal move outside of the law, and we were not given any information in writing.
Hernandez explained that the trucks and their drivers had all required documentation up-to-date, and that the government had no legal basis for detaining them.
Dia a Dia Responds to Possible Expropriation
After being accused of hoarding and having its head arrested and charged with destabilizing the economy earlier this week, the convenience store chain Dia a Dia was quite likely expropriated yesterday.
Today, Dia a Dia issued a press release in which it calls into question the reasons for the government intervention. The release explains that the warehouse inspected by the government last week found to be “hoarding” products is the chain’s central warehouse. This warehouse services all 35 stores in the country, and usually has enough stock to last three days. The organization argues that far from hoarding, what inspectors found was merely inventory destined for stores. According to Dia a Dia, “a number” of its employees have been arbitrarily detained in the past week.
The Dia a Dia convenience store is a chain of 35 small stores across the country, dedicated to serving the country’s poor by offering them a dignified environment in which to purchase basic necessities. Since its start in 2005, Dia Dia has grown to employ 800 Venezuelans who, thanks to their hard work and dedication, serve our customers around the country.
Our chain operates using an efficient logistical model which uses a single central warehouse, located in La Yaguara, which makes it possible to stock all of our stores. Given the fact that the stores are small in order to be as close to poorer areas as possible, they do not have a lot of room for stock, and therefore depend on a very frequent rate of delivery (up to twice a day) to maintain adequate stocks. For the sake of efficiency, it’s normal for our central warehouse to contain the majority of our inventory, which is usually enough to cover a few day’s worth of stock. For example, when it comes to basic necessities – specifically corn flour – we can count on only 3 day’s [worth of inventory] out of the 197 tonnes a day that each store sells.
All of the merchandise that enters our central warehouse is sent to the stores. The government know this, since for years all of the deliveries by our providers and to our stores have been authorized 100% by the National Executive through the SICA system, which means that the national government has real-time information on the movement, quantity and type of product that enter and leave the warehouse in question.
The national government through the Ministry of Nutrition (SUNDDE) carried out an inspection last week on our company, with which we’ve collaborated fully and granted access to our facilities, including the central warehouse at La Yaguara. In spite of the collaborative spirit the company has shown the inspection, a number of employees were arbitrarily detained, including store managers and warehouse workers. Currently, our director general, Manuel Morales, is still arbitrarily detained under irregular conditions by the SEBIN. Mr. Morales was detained by the DISIP at the gates of the Miraflores Palace as he was leaving a meeting called by the Minister of Nutrition [Carlos Osorio]. The company has put its legal resources to work for his release.
None of the three SUNDDE records [of the inspections] show evidence of a crime by Dia Dia. So, why is good work being persecuted?
Since its foundation, Dia Dia has worked to bring quality products on time to poor areas. Dia Dia has followed all of its labour obligations with its workers, its suppliers and partners, and has paid all national and municipal taxes on time.
We are Dia Dia, young, honest, and hard working people. We hold our heads high, and we want to continue to grow and sharing our service each day with poorer areas in an efficient manner, adhering to the law, just as we’ve been doing these past ten years.
Students Plan Massive Demonstration
The country’s major student organizations are calling for massive demonstrations on February 12, the anniversary of the protests that rocked the country in the early months of 2014.
It was on February 12 of last year that discontent with the scarcity, security and inflation situations forced Venezuelans onto the streets. The protests – overwhelmingly peaceful, though sometimes violent – lasted weeks, and resulted directly or indirectly in the deaths of at least 38 people, three of them on February 12.
Daniel Briceno and Eloi Araujo, representatives from El Movimiento de Liberacion y la Federacion de Centros Universitarios-Universidad de Los Andes, explained the reason for the demonstration:
February 12 2015 is the one year anniversary of the death of more than one Venezuelan who went out onto the streets to exercise their right to protest peacefully to ask for a better country.
The students urged Venezuelans to “not become distracted” by the government’s constant assertions that the problems plaguing the country are the fault of anyone but the people in power.