HAVANA TIMES — Workers at Polar, Venezuela’s largest private food producer, protested the expropriation of their plant in Caracas on Thursday, after a court ordered their eviction for the building of low cost homes, DPA reported.
The measure affects Polar’s largest food production and distribution facility in Caracas and the subsidiaries of PepsiCo, Cargill and Nestle, which rely on Polar’s distribution network.
The production plant occupies an entire city block at La Yaguara, in the capital’s south-west.
The facility is being expropriated days after President Nicolas Maduro publicly accused Polar’s owner, Lorenzo Mendoza, of supporting what he calls an “economic war” against the people.
The workers said they will keep staging protests at the plant to oppose the expropriation order, for which the court established a 60-day term.
Jesus Graterol, a spokesperson for the workers of PepsiCo, said the court authorities and the National Guard troops (militarized Police) presented the plant eviction order to facilitate the study of the land for the building of homes as part of a government program.
Through their Twitter account (#todossomospolar), Polar employees stated it “is regrettable that no thought is devoted to how the population of Caracas will be affected in terms of food distribution following the expropriation.”
They declared the protest will be maintained to fight the expropriation order and defend their jobs.
“We’re barely managing to keep production going because of a lack of hard currency [for imports] and now they want to take the distribution center from us. We’ll continue to fight,” they announced.
Opposition leaders warned that this expropriation could worsen the consumer product shortages that have forced Venezuelans to stand in line outside supermarkets for several months.
Former deputy and opposition leader Maria Corina Machado called on people to come in defense of Polar, pointing out that its workers “embody our deepest aspirations to improve as a nation.”
“To defend Polar is to defend our right to a prosperous, safe and free Venezuela. To expropriate is to steal. President Nicolas Maduro has caused a humanitarian crisis and is now intentionally making it worse,” she stated.
The center-right opposition party Primero Justicia declared it was “ludicrous” that the government, instead of working with the private sector, should “stifle it, to the detriment of our people.”
“The overwhelming majority of Venezuelans consider expropriations arbitrary and unproductive,” he said during a declaration. “The expropriation of the Polar plant is the kind of radicalism that has brought about this crisis,” he added.
Recently, the government ordered private food producers to destine their products to government distribution networks, prompting reactions from private companies, which warned that the measure could worsen shortages. The government reverted the order shortly afterwards.
Venezuela is Cuba’s largest trade partner and closest political ally.