Venezuelan President threatens to seize shut factories

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro delivers a statement to the media with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia May 9, 2013. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has threatened the seizure of factories that have stopped production, and the jailing of their owners.

In a speech to supporters in the capital Caracas, he said the country had to recover the means of production, to counter its deep economic crisis.

The threat to seize closed factories came after Venezuela’s largest food and beverage company, the Polar Group, halted production of beer, blaming government mismanagement for stopping it importing barley.

The group’s billionaire owner, Lorenzo Mendoza, is a fierce critic of President Maduro.

“We must take all measures to recover productive capacity, which is being paralysed by the bourgeoisie,” Mr Maduro told a rally in Caracas.

“Anyone who wants to halt [production] to sabotage the country should get out, and those who do must be handcuffed and sent to the PGV [Venezuelan General Penitentiary],” he said.

“We’re going to tell imperialism and the international right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in one hand and a gun in the other… to defend this sacred land,” he added.

Opposition protesters have been rallying in Caracas to push for a recall vote to eject him from power.

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves but its economy has been severely hit by falling global oil prices. Its economy contracted by 5.7% last year and its official inflation rate is estimated to be topping 180%.

There are severe shortages of food, medicines and basic goods which Mr Maduro argues are due to business leaders and the US waging an economic war against his government.

State of Emergency

On Friday Maduro declared a full-blown state of emergency, expanding the state of “economic emergency” he had announced in January.

In an address to the nation, he said the measures would be in place for three months but would likely be extended over 2017.

He did not specify if there would be limits to other constitutional rights but he said the decree would provide “a fuller, more comprehensive protection for our people.”

Mr Maduro said the state of emergency was needed to combat foreign aggression, which he blamed for Venezuela’s problems.

And he said military exercises would take place next weekend to counter “foreign threats”.

The Venezuelan Minister for Communication and Information, Luis Jose Marcano, said the state of emergency would allow the government more resources to distribute food, basic goods and medicines.

But he added that it also created “mechanisms for the security forces to be able to guarantee public order needed because of the threats by armed groups”.

 

BBC/Nnenna.O