After “decommissioning” nearly four million toys from importers during raids on warehouses yesterday, the government agency in charge of setting and regulating prices for consumer goods in Venezuela – SUNDDEE – has announced that it will distribute the toys to children during the Christmas season.
The toys will be distributed through the CLAP network, which is made up of community organizations that are tasked with selling subsidized food directly to families throughout the country.
The move was announced by SUNDDE superintendent William Contreras, who called in to a show on the state-owned VTV network, saying:
These products will be handed over to the CLAP so that Venezuelan children can have their niño Jesús [the Venezuelan equivalent of Santa Claus] guaranteed [sic], and so that companies can learn that they cannot play with the rights of Venezuelans because we have a government that has decided to guarantee the rights of all Venezuelans.
While the government justifies the seizure of the toys by claiming that they were being hoarded”, opposition critics are calling the move theft.
Miranda state governor and opposition leader Henrique Capriles spoke on the case through his Twitter account, saying:
The government does not produce anything, so they steal from those who do.
At the same time, Vente Venezuela leader Maria Corina Machado described the “decommissioning” of the toys in the following manner:
This is called theft. They [the government] are destroying what was left of commerce in Venezuela. They’re destroying earnings and jobs that took years to create.
It is important to note that the toys will not be given away by the CLAP: they will be sold at whatever price SUNDDE deems “fair”, with the profit going directly to the government. As superintendent Contreras put it:
We are calculating the value of the toys so that we can incorporate them into the CLAP distribution network which currently delivers 18 food products around the country.
The decommissioning and selling of the toys is not without precedent. The Venezuelan government has a history of using the Christmas holidays as an excuse to take bread-and-circus style measures.
Most famously, Maduro ordered the government to take over the Daka retail store chain in November of 2013 in order to sell products as discounted prices, a move that sparked looting and the eventual destruction of the company.
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