Venezuela’s socialist government has imposed new draconian measures on its bakeries intended to lay the blame for the intense food shortages the country is experiencing on craven small business owners. Bakers who do not adhere to these rules, the vice president announced this week, will risk having their business seized by the government.
Venezuela’s bakeries must now begin selling bread at 6AM – any later than 7AM will result in sanctions for the bakery – and use 90 percent of their wheat content to make bread. They are not allowed to be in possession of more than 300 sacks of wheat a month.
Inspections to ensure bakeries are complying with these new requirements began on Monday, and over 700 of them have received government visits so far this week. Bakers who do not comply with these programs risk having their bakeries expropriated and handed to the Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP), socialist brigades tasked with distributing the nation’s food supply.
“We have identified part of the conspiracies and deeds that have generated sabotage in order to bring bread to the people,” Vice President Tareck El Aissami said on Monday. “Bakeries which do not follow [the rules] will be occupied by the government.” El Aissami reiterated the government’s belief that the reason for the current bread shortage in the country is that bakers use too much of their wheat for expensive and needless pastries instead of using their supplies to make bread for poorer people.
President Nicolás Maduro issued a stern warning to the nation’s bakers, whom he accused of launching a bread war. “They will pay, I swear,” he told a crowd on his Sunday night television program. “Those responsible for the bread war will pay and, later, don’t go and say that it is political persecution.”
“Even our lord Jesus Christ put bread into the Our Father,” Maduro added, referring to the Lord’s Prayer, an ancient poem Maduro’s government once modified to praise late dictator Hugo Chávez.
Bakers have expressed extreme frustration at the new measures. Last year, the government put the nation’s food supply under the control of the military, so bakeries are beholden to the whims of the government ration system. According to the nation’s bakers’ organization, 80 percent of the nation’s bakeries do not have inventory to make bread. The government also regulates the price of bread, so the laws of supply and demand do not apply in the Venezuelan economy, and bakers have no hope of making a profit.
Venezuela is suffering an extreme food crisis, which has led as many as 2.4 million Venezuelans to rely on scraps from garbage trucks and dumpsters as food to survive. A report by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo found entire families relying on food scraps to survive, especially those who have recently lost their jobs because of the nation’s current state of economic freefall.
Some Venezuelans deny that they are eating the food waste, instead claiming they are scavenging for their dogs. Others are honest: “You know what is worse than this heat?” one woman asked an El Tiempo reporter, “Being hungry.”
The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional estimated that over 8,000 businesses have shut their doors since Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Socialist revolution took over the country eighteen years ago.