After clamping down on “grotesque” overpricing by electronics stores and proposing to set maximum profit margins, there have been some large queues outside such stores around Venezuela, while some shops have temporarily closed. The opposition and the private media have depicted the situation as “chaotic”, while the government has called on the organised grassroots to “guarantee order”.
Yesterday during an executive cabinet meeting President Nicolas Maduro alleged that opposition forces “have met in order to come out and infiltrate the queues and generate violence”. He said that communal councils, the Francisco de Miranda Front, and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) branches would “activate” themselves and “protect the tranquillity of the people”.
He also announced via his Twitter account that he would “incorporate the National Militia and grassroots into the economic offensive in order to guarantee order and reach the whole country”.
Maduro said that shops which are closed for “stock taking” had until midday today to re-open and sell products at “a fair price”. It appears that some shops closed in order to either avoid inspections or to change their pricing, though most businesses are functioning as normal.
Maduro also today rejected any violence in or around queues to buy products, and said that such violence would be prosecuted. Attorney general Luisa Ortega nominated state prosecutors to respond to the issue.
“I’m following everything, the abuses by the parasites and usurers have to end in peace and with the law,” Maduro wrote.
More hoarding and over pricing
Minister for internal affairs, Miguel Rodriguez said that authorities had uncovered four warehouses hoarding electrical and household goods. He said that warehouses are used to store such products “in order to sell them at Christmas time at exorbitant prices”.
The warehouses, in Carabobo and Miranda state, allegedly held products from Daka, the chain store shut down by the government over the weekend for making-up products by up to 1200% of the import price.
Rodriguez also said that owners of an electronics store in Zulia had been arrested after it was found they were selling state produced computers and laptops at very high prices.
Public prosecutors also charged two managers of the Krash Depot electrical goods shop in Falcon state for generic usury. The managers, Edwards Sosa and Angel Latuff must report to a Falcon court every three weeks, and are prohibited from leaving the country.
National Guard major general Justo Noguera also informed today that a warehouse had been found in Portuguesa state with 70 tonnes of corn flour being hoarded.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government signed an agreement with electronics company Samsung yesterday for a joint venture in order to manufacture televisions, monitors, washing machines, fridges, phones, and tablets in Venezuela.
On Saturday morning there was one small case of looting, in a Daka store in Valencia, Carabobo, while some private media have alleged that there have been a few more isolated cases of looting since then.
Businessman and commentator Alberto Ravell published a photo on social networks of what he claimed was looting. However the photo turned out to be from an earthquake in Chile, where products had fallen off a store shelf.
Venezuelan Private media and people on social networks have also used an EFE photo of a woman laughing as she carried three new electrical products, to accompany their articles about the looting of the Daka shop in Carabobo state.
The woman had actually bought the products legally from a Daka shop in Caracas, where there was no looting. Public media journalists have accused the private media of “stigmatising poverty and afro-descendancy” in their use of the photo.
The woman, Clotilde Palomino was interviewed by the Correo del Orinoco newspaper today. A domestic worker, she said, “I bought a blender, iron, and Blu-ray player with my small long term savings. I was very happy, and then when I left the shop imagine my surprise when there were some ten photographers and journalists taking a tonne of photos. I found out through a friend… who told me my photo was all over the place….truly it was horrible… I feel very bad because I’ve been the laughing stock of everyone, there are people who call me and make fun… here are the receipts for what I bought.”
Niurka Rivas, a spokesperson of the communal council that Palomino belongs to, said, “We support [the government measures to lower prices] because the business people can’t have such huge profits. If they bought dollars at [the official exchange rate], how can they sell things at the parallel rate? What more do they want to rob from the Venezuelan people? We aren’t willing to allow more abuse”.
Private press in Venezuela today have focused their front pages on so called “looting” and long queues to buy marked down electrical goods. Panorama headlined with “Queues and chaos increase in hunt for ‘fair prices”.
The English language media have also participated in the manipulation, with Investor’s Business Daily headlining, “Venezuela Becomes a Nation of Looters” and Press TV with “Looters threaten Venezuela’s stability”. Press TV’s footage shows one man carrying an appliance on his motorcycle, while later in the video, a woman who has bought something, chats to her friend.