The head of the Federacion de Trabajadores de la Harina [Federation of Flour Workers], Juan Crespo, warned that the government expropriation of the La Yaguara industrial zone will result in increased scarcity and unemployment. The food distribution centre at La Yaguara is the largest in the Greater Caracas area; thousands of tonnes of food pass through there each month on their way to supermarkets and other establishments in the area.
On Friday, the Ministry of Housing and Habitat presented the companies with warehouses in La Yaguara an expropriation order, saying that the land was needed to build homes. On the matter, Crespo said:
It’s not that we’re against the government’s role when it comes to its social responsibility regarding homes, but we think that this is a very serious improvisation by the government.
Crespo also believes that the expropriation will spell disaster for the citizens of the area, who have already been feeling the effects of severe scarcity for several months. Crespo explained:
The purchasing of important products like wheat flour, cooking oil, sugar, and pasta have been affected [by scarcity]. We already see long lines at bakeries; in fact, there are seven thousand bakeries affected by scarcity, and there aren’t even any baguettes any more. We want to tell the government, the SEBIN, the Ministers, that we are making ourselves available so that they can supervise [operations] and certify that the scarcity is caused by lack of raw materials because we’re not being given foreign currency.
In Venezuela, foreign currency can only be acquired through a branch of the government called the Centro Nacional de Comercio Exterior [National Centre for Foreign Commerce] (CENCOEX). Industries must apply to CENCOEX for the dollars they need to purchase raw materials with which to make products. Severe delays in the rate at which companies gain access to foreign currency through CENCOEX have resulted in foreign suppliers refusing to sell material to Venezuelan companies, leading to a decrease in production.
Crespo also said that Cargill operates a warehouse in La Yaguara that provides 70% of its daily production – some 200 tonnes of food – to the state-owned PDVAL and Mercal chains that operate in the Caracas area.
Crespo said that 5,000 workers have declared themselves “on alert” over the La Yaguara expropriation. The workers have joined those directly affected in demonstrations calling on the national government to reconsider its plans to demolish the site, and to ease the access to foreign currency so that raw materials can be imported into the country.
Felix Gonzalez, a logistical worker with Polar Foods, voiced his opinion on the matter in the video below:
Felix Gonzalez: … I’m a young worker, alright? The only thing we’re asking for is the SADA guidelines [approval from the Superintendencia Nacional de Silos, Almacenes, Depositos y Agricolas] so that we can start dispatching food because we’re not hoarding anything here. I have a daughter, man, and I have to provide for her. I can’t just make three trips and earn Bs. 2,1000 [$3.10 at the current black market rate]. What can I buy with Bs. 2,100? I just want to work because this is the job that I put food on the table with. But I’m making three trips, and with Bs. 2,100 I can’t do anything. So now these people want to come and evict Polar – and for what? (…) … there’s Baruta, and that place over there — what’s it called? — El Hatillo – there’s lots of room there, right? But instead they come to tear down an active company?
Reporter: How does the shut-down of these warehouses affect you?
Felix Gonzalez: I don’t have a job. Where would I find a job? Where am I going to go and find a job if this is where my job is?
Reporter: But you’re a driver, so you don’t work directly for —
Felix Gonzalez: No, look, I work directly for this company [points to shirt].
Reporter: And they can’t re-locate you?
Felix Gonzalez: No. Where would they send me?
San Cristobal Doctors Declare Emergency
Doctors at San Cristobal’s Hospital Central de San Cristobal have declared themselves to be in a state of emergency due to what they consider to be a near-total collapse of the hospital’s ability to treat patients.
Jose Vicente Franco, who specializes in childhood infectious diseases at the hospital, said:
We have to let people know. We can’t be afraid to tell people that, unfortunately, we are bankrupt when it comes to health in our region due to bad policies. There’s an intensive care unit that needs attention; there’s a hemodynamics unit that has equipment that costs $1,000,000 and there’s just sitting there abandoned due to a lack of furniture and a lack of interest from the regional government.
The doctors also said that they are experiencing a human resources crisis, since medical staff who have left the hospital have left those who remained behind to work extra. The doctors said that the state is unable to hire new nurses due to a lack of funds.
Maduro: I Will Not Be Stopped
Speaking at a PDVSA event earlier today, Maduro said that he would continue down the path in which he’s currently set, and that “no obstacle, nor difficulty, nor economic sabotage” could stop him. He also called on supporters to help “stop the imperialist attacks”, because:
If Venezuela becomes a weak country again, all of our riches will be looted again.
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