Archive for September 6th, 2005

Law of the jungle in place in Venezuela

September 6, 2005


You would
think that a Government that approved a Constitution taylor-made to its desires
and goals (96 of 100 members of the Constituent Assembly were pro-Chavez) and
that controls the National Assembly and the Judiciary branches would simply put
them both to use in order to do what it wants. But it is becoming increasingly
clear that the law of the jungle is what now rules in Venezuela, as
the most powerful animal (the Government) seems to be doing whatever it wants
and introducing a level of anarchy and confrontation that can not be good for
the country.

In the
last week pro-Government groups have taken over two private companies and a
church, in clear violation of the laws and the Constitution, without a single Government
official criticizing the actions. In fact, one of the “interventions”, the euphemism
used by those taking over these facilities, was led by the Minister of
Agriculture himself accompanied by the National Guard.

The
first plant intervened
was a combination silo, industrial plant owned by
the Polar Group, the largest industrial group in the country. The silos were in
use, but the rest of the plant which produces white corn flower had been shut
down. The latter had been shut down as part of a consolidation driven in part
by the direct import of flour by the Government, bypassing local production. The
company ahs not been notified by the Government of the action, has official
paperwork proving the plant was functioning and is asking for an injunction
from the Venezuelan Supreme Court.

The second
plant intervened
is a tomato processing and canning plant owned by
multinational Heinz. The plant was purchased by Heinz in 1996 and was currently
shutdown because tomato production in the area is significantly down and
producers could not satisfy its requirements. Heinz said the plant is on sale and
was even offered to the Government.

Finally,
in the most bizarre case of all, a church
in the area of Mariches
, right outside Caracas, was taken over by the
National Guard together with one of the so called “Endogenous Battle Group”
created by Chavez These groups say this
church is run by a bunch of oligarchs. Representatives of the church said today
that the community is behind the church and the parish priest that holds mass
and had community services there until the intervention.

The
Government has intervened two industrial plants; one was a valve manufacturing
company which was shutdown in 2002. The other was a paper company that went
under last year. In both cases the National Assembly fulfilled some of the
steps required for expropriation, such as declaring them of public utility, but
there has been no payment to the rightful owners in either case, as required by
law.

Clearly,
the law of the jungle seems to be the prevailing one at this time, after a long
period of decisions controlled and manipulated by the Executive branch. If
allowed to stand, this will further limit investment in the country and will
likely contribute to further deterioration of the productive economy. Moreover,
this introduces further anarchy into the country as other groups are encouraged
to try similar actions in industrials plants near their homes. Certainly not a
way to build a country and a possible presage of more similar actions to come.

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