Venezuela Regime Seizes Control of Starving Country's Meat
By Charlette Sosa
Latin American Herald Tribune
December 23, 2018
CARACAS -- Twenty-one public and private slaughterhouses are under a “temporary occupation,” announced Tareck El Aissami, Venezuela’s Vice President for the Economic Area. The seizure — which is for “180 days renewable” — will guarantee the “correct distribution of meat products,” according to El Aissami.
Aissami claimed “irregular activities" by “mafias” prevented “access to meat at fair prices." The Public Prosecutor's Office will investigate the owners of the “intervened slaughterhouses,” he said during a press conference Friday at Miraflores Palace.
There were “at least five meetings” in efforts to “rectify” the owners’ “conduct and criminal activity” ahead of the decision, he added. Aissami since 2017 has been facing drug “kingpin” charges from the U.S. Treasury — which he denies.
The move follows President Nicolas Maduro’s call for a complete seizure of Venezuela’s meat industry. “The government has to assume 100 percent of the production, distribution and marketing of meat,” Maduro declared early in November.
We intend to “defeat” the mafias which “hide” beef and then “illegally” inflate prices, he emphasized during a broadcast on state-run Venezolana de Televisión (VTV). “Compliance” for meat supplies in October reached 64 percent, Maduro added.
Venezuela’s Federation of Cattle Ranchers (Fedenaga) warns a government seizure will “only” lead to more “hunger and misery” for Venezuelans.
“Meat production in Venezuela today reaches 40 percent” of what the country consumes, compared to the 97 percent produced in the 1990s, the head of Fedenaga, Armando Chacín told Televen’s Noticiero. Next year, production will be “far” worse, he predicted.
Despite having the World’s largest proven oil reserves, Maduro’s Venezuela is in an economic freefall. Last week, the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) finally — after a three-year gap — came through with some numbers to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), reported Bloomberg. The BCV confessed to an 860 percent inflation rate for 2017, while numbers for the first half of this year are still pending.
The IMF in October said Venezuela’s inflation rate could hit 10 million percent in 2019. The report, “Regional Economic Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean: An Uneven Recovery,” noted that indicators on Venezuela “be interpreted with caution” due to data lapses.
In August, Maduro erased five zeros from the country’s battered currency under a new name — Bolívar Soberano (BS). But this, numerous minimum-wage-hikes, price controls, and state takeovers have done little to spare Venezuelans from the ravages of hyperinflation and widespread shortages.
“The agricultural sector has been the victim of an excessive attack for many years, evident in invasions, price regulations, cattle rustling, extortion, kidnapping, robbery and theft,” said Chacín.
“Illegal” expropriation already exists, said Luis Prado, Fedenaga’s vice-president. He pointed to a regional problem, during an interview with Caracas-based Onda Radio. Governors are “expropriating some 1000 head of cattle per week” at the “request” of the Administration. “They are killing wombs” to meet compliance sums. Current government prices fail to cover our “operational” costs, Prado said.
With “nails and teeth” ranchers “are trying to preserve what little is left” of our herds and our ranges to restore production, Chacín said.
“The Venezuelan crisis,” according to Transparency International’s Caracas chapter, “is deeply related to the corruption and bad performance of … enterprises that are property of the state,” reported LAHT last month.