At around 5:00 PM last night, a judge escorted by National Guard soldiers informed PepsiCo (and its owner in Venezuela, Polar) workers in the companies’ warehouses in La Yaguara, Caracas, that the government had expropriated the facilities and that they had 60 days to vacate the premises. The affected warehouses will be demolished, and subsidized housing projects will be built on the land. The order for the expropriation came from the Ministry of Houses and Habitat.
The La Yaguara industrial zone houses the largest Polar distribution centre in Caracas. The expropriation of the land will also affect Coca-Cola and Cargill, since the companies also have facilities there.
The order to expropriate the land appears to come from the Gaceta Oficial No. 39596, which came into effect on May 18, 2011. Page 382.813 of the document calls for the “forceful acquisition” of land belonging to Polar in the El Algodonal/La Yaguara area for the construction of the Nueva Comunidad Socialista Amatina.
Polar issued a statement today pleading with the government to reconsider the action. It also said that the expropriation yesterday completely paralyzed the distribution of food products to Caracas along with Vargas and Miranda states. Manuel Felipe Larrazabal, the director of Polar Foods, pointed out that the warehouses provide meaningful employment to hundreds of people:
These facilities employ 477 PepsiCo workers in Venezuela, and 138 from Polar Foods. Moreover, more than 1400 indirect jobs are generated through the companies that provide us with transportation services.
The Polar distribution center at La Yaguara provides primary service to 19 municipalities. Polar says that each month, 12,000 tonnes of food and 6 million litres of beverages are dispatched from La Yaguara to more than 9,900 clients. Larrazabal also said:
We ask that this measure be reconsidered in light of the fact that these are very active work sites which serve to provide stock to the capital and neighbouring states. We don’t question the fact that homes must be build – as they are a necessity – but we do wonder why active industrial zones must be affected.
Below, two pictures from the La Yaguara area last night:
Workers Protest Against Expropriation
A group of Polar workers vowed their continued support for the organization at the company’s main office in the El Algodonal area of Caracas today. Jackson Medina, one of the workers there, told El Nacional:
We are afraid of losing our jobs. We have been working for this company for years, so it’s become a part of our life. We have a responsibility to produce food for the country, and that’s why we will not allow anyone – no matter who orders it – to expropriate our second home.
Alexander Noguera, another worker, said:
It’s sad and unjust that once again a company must fall pray to the bad government practices, which is ordering a forced eviction. We are not here playing or watching television; what you’ll find here is people who are committed to Venezuela, working.
We have families and houses to maintain, children to encourage, wives to help, and a country for which we must produce… let us continue working, which is what we know how to do best.
Below, some shots of the demonstrations at El Aldogonal today:
Smolansky: Expropriation Will Hurt Venezuelans
El Hatillo mayor David Smolansky spoke on the La Yaguara expropriation today, and warned that harming Polar – the country’s largest food producer – would ultimately worsen the scarcity crisis. Smolansky said:
The company that produces the greatest quantity of food which has formed part of the diet of every Venezuelan for more than 60 years continues to be a target of the government. We want to show our support for the workers of Polar, who are about to lose their jobs in the face of this assault by the government.
Now, with this possible expropriation of the largest food and beverage distribution centre in Caracas, we run the risk of worsening the scarcity crisis and increasing the level of corruption when it comes to selling basic necessities.
Smolansky also said that the expropriation is proof that Maduro is not “the worker’s president”, and that the economic crisis could not be resolved unless the national government began to respect the right to property and the rule of law.
Polar Temporarily Shuts Down Two Beverage Factories
Two out of the six beverage factories owned by Polar Beers will be shut down temporarily due to a lack of raw materials for production, according to the Camara Venezolana de Fabricantes de Cerveza [Venezuelan Chamber of Beer Producers]. The organization said that the factories will remain closed until they receive the barley needed to produce beer.
It is not clear when the barley will arrive.
Unrest at Colombia Border
Protesters and National Guard soldiers faced off at a stretch of the Colombia-Venezuela border in Tachira state for six hours last night. The protests began as a result of the death of a smuggler who was killed by National Guard soldiers in the area yesterday morning.
The smuggler was 31 year-old Yesid Plata Angarita, a Colombian citizen. Angarita was apparently caught in the act of smuggling products across the border when National Guard soldiers fired at him. He was struck in the neck and killed.
Protesters congregated at the San Antonio International Bridge, which connects Tachira with the Colombian Santander Norte department. The National Guard responded to the scene, and an exchange of rocks and tear gas ensued.
The situation had been cleared by 3:00 PM.
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