The Maduro regime announced today that it was taking over Makro, a popular privately-owned wholesaler, effective immediately. The announcement came from William Contreras, the Superintendent for the Defense of Socio-Economic Rights, who cited “irregularities” at the company as justification for the takeover.
During a television interview that aired on a state-owned network this morning, Contreras listed a set of behaviours he claims Makro has engaged in, including:
… the condicionamiento de ventas [I think this means something like, “bundling of items for sale”], hoarding, usury, speculation and boycotting…
On the “condicionamiento de ventas” charge, Contreras alleged that Makro will sometimes refuse shoppers the ability to buy basic necessities like flour and rice unless they spend Bs. 5,000,000 (approximately $59) in other products.
Contreras also justified the takeover by saying that the company was part of the “economic war” against Venezuela, which is a concept key to the Maduro regime’s mythos.
It is not clear what the Maduro regime plans to do with the Makro stores once the takeover is complete.
Regime critics believe that the takeover of Makro is a poorly-disguised attempt to essentially steal the company’s products to distribute to Venezuelans during the Christmas season. As evidence, critics point out the fact that Maduro has used the tactic successfully before.
In 2013, Maduro ordered the takeover of the Daka consumer electronics store in November 2013, and forced the company to sell its products at dramatically reduced prices, setting off a wave of bacchanal shopping and looting that resulted in the near destruction of the company and months of product shortages. Aside from being timed to coincide with Christmas, the Daka takeover also took place a few short weeks prior to municipal elections.
In December of last year, the government raided a warehouse belonging to Kreisel, the largest toy distributor in the country. The government confiscated nearly 5 million toys and later sold them at steep discounts.
Citgo President Arrested
Attorney general Tarek William Saab announced this morning that the president of Citgo, Jose Angel Pereira Ruimwyk, and five other top oil executives have been arrested as part of a “crusade” against corruption.
While news of the arrests are still developing, Saab said that the detentions come in connection with a June 15 meeting this year involving two international companies: Frontier Group Management and Apolo Global Management. According to Saab, Citgo and the two companies agreed to a debt refinancing deal worth $4 billion, a deal that Saab said “compromised the future of [Citgo] and of our country.”
Citgo is the U.S.-based subsidiary of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.
Citing “sources close to PDVSA”, Reuters reports that the arrests are not in fact related to corruption, but are instead motivated by “turf wars for control of the company”.
Maduro Gets Credit for Citgo Arrests
Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez spoke today on the arrest of Citgo’s president and five other oil executives, saying that the measure had been taken under the initiative of Maduro himself. Rodriguez said:
A few days ago President Maduro ordered a deep investigation into these alleged acts that were happening in one of the main companies that belongs to the wide world of the Venezuelan oil industry. I’m talking about Citgo.
Rodriguez said that Maduro was concerned that Citgo was operating in a way that might “weaken the Republic, our oil industry or Citgo”, and that he considers the arrested executives to be “North American spies” and “vulgar thieves”.
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