Caracas, February 2nd 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) Several managers at the Venezuelan pharmaceutical chain, “Farmatodo,” have been questioned due to what authorities have described as a number of irregularities taking place at the business.
The managers are accused of using techniques such as refusing to distribute products since December 2014 and understaffing tills in order to create queues to buy medicines.
The information was relayed to the Venezuelan public last Sunday by President Nicolas Maduro in an act commemorating the 198th birthday of Venezuelan revolutionary, Ezequiel Zamora.
“I have several conspirators who are the bosses of a chain of stores currently in the SEBIN (Venezuelan Intelligence Service). I have asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office to accelerate procedures so that they go to jail for sabotaging the Venezuelan people through this chain of stores,” he explained.
Since Christmas, Venezuela has witnessed the sudden emergence of long lines of citizens queuing up to buy basic food items, medicines or technological goods outside of stores. This has coincided with opposition calls for those caught in the lines to “stay in the streets” to “demand justice” from the government.
“Of every 10 tills available, they would only staff 3… These are guerrilla tactics,” explained Maduro.
According to the head of state, the managers had been caught “red handed” by authorities last Sunday but had denied responsibility when questioned.
“They declared that the workers were to blame.. cowards, parasites! This is the same oligarchy which was confronted and defeated by Zamora 150 years ago,” asserted the Venezuelan head of state.
Farmatodo is a highly profitable Venezuelan business formed in 1918 and which now has stores in international locations such as Colombia. Whilst its Colombian stores are fully stocked with products which are sold at much higher prices, in Venezuela many citizens have been sporadically unable to come by basic medicines, as well as finding themselves obliged to queue up to make a purchase.
According to Ernesto Villegas, Head of District Government in the capital, Caracas, The Superintendency of Fair Costs and Prices has opened up a legal proceeding against the pharmaceutical chain. Its stores are continuing to operate as normal across the country.
“Persecution” of Private Business
Although the government has confirmed that it has ruled out expropriating the chain in Venezuela, Jorge Roig, the head of Venezuela’s largest business federation, Fedecamaras, has accused the government of attempting to destroy private business in the country.
“This is the total and exclusive persecution of private business, aimed at putting an end to it,” he declared to rightwing press.
According to Roig, five of the managers who were initially arrested have subsequently been released, whilst the President of the company and the General Manager are still being questioned by Venezuelan intelligence services.
Just over a week ago, Roig responded to government allegations that private businesses were trying to bring down the Maduro administration through an economic war on his Twitter account;
“I repeat, whilst there continues to be an attack on private business, there will be no production and there will be queues,” he tweeted.
For Jorge Martin of the Hands off Venezuela Campaign, Roig was “spelling out” the private sector’s “blackmail” of the Venezuelan government.
In other words “as long as there are price controls, foreign exchange controls, increased workers' rights and nationalisations we will wage economic sabotage,” said Martin on his Facebook page.
The country’s political opposition has equally closed ranks in its criticism of the measures against Farmatodo, with 2013 presidential candidate and Governor of Miranda state, Henrique Capriles Radonski, taking to Twitter to express his outrage.
“Farmatodo has been an example of a successful private company. The consequences go beyond this chain. We are talking about finishing off the little that remains,” he stated.
Whilst the government has stated that it will do all it can to “protect the working class,” political analysts such as Eva Golinger have warned that an attempted coup is currently underway in the country.