Venezuelan Coffee Plant Marks 5 Years since Nationalisation

Venezuelan coffee company Fama de America this week marked five years since it was nationalised.

By Ewan Robertson
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Fama de America workers at an event to mark 5 years since the company’s nationalisation earlier this week (Angélica Barreto / Noticias24)
Fama de America workers at an event to mark 5 years since the company’s nationalisation earlier this week (Angélica Barreto / Noticias24)

Mérida, 13th November 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan coffee company Fama de America this week marked five years since it was nationalised.

Fama de America was taken over by the government of Hugo Chavez in 2009 amid suspicions that the owners were involved in hoarding, smuggling and price speculation.

Upon nationalisation, trade unionists at Fama de America also argued for a system of worker control to be developed at the company’s two plants, in Caracas and Carabobo state.

To coincide with the anniversary of the nationalisation, the Agriculture Ministry has announced the purchase of new machinery and other investments to raise output by 53% next year. According to an official press note, annual production of roasted and ground coffee is 18,000 tons, an increase on when the company was in private hands.

The company’s 350 workers have also gained improved wages and conditions since nationalisation, the press note stated.

A pro-government political analyst, Alberto Aranguibel, attended an event in Fama de America’s premises on Monday to mark the anniversary, where he argued that “the company faces threats for being an emblematic bastion of the revolutionary project”.

However a group of workers linked to the dissident leftist Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide) organisation have expressed their dissatisfaction with the company’s management. In a press release yesterday, they argued that management excluded workers from decisionmaking and had recently prevented them from holding a political event with Marea Socialista on factory premises.

“You (management) highlight the successes of five years of socialist administration. We say that the administration will appear minimally socialist when we take the key decisions among ourselves,” said the group, which also declared its opposition to “capital and bureaucracy”.

Under the governments of Hugo Chavez and current president Nicolas Maduro a wave of nationalisations have been carried out in “strategic” sectors of the economy such as telecommunications, cement, electricity, food and manufacturing. These have often been accompanied by a struggle to introduce worker control of administration and production processes.

The latest factory to be nationalised is a plant producing cleaning products which belonged to the U.S. company Clorox. The company abandoned operations in Venezuela in September citing economic difficulties for production, and the factory was restarted earlier this month following a government takeover and US $41 million investment.

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