Venezuelan Corporation Internationally Accuses Government of “Harassment”

In an ongoing dispute with the Maduro administration, Venezuela’s largest food and beverage producer has accused the Bolivarian government of “harassment and discrimination” due to the Venezuelan president’s public protest against the conglomerate’s role in the country's economic war.

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Empresas Polar President Lorenzo Mendoza. (El Heraldo/Fernando Llano)
Empresas Polar President Lorenzo Mendoza. (El Heraldo/Fernando Llano)
By Jeanette Charles
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Los Angeles, California, August 18th, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan conglomerate Empresas Polar, denounced Nicolás Maduro’s administration this week at the International Labor Organization (ILO) for alleged “harassment and discrimination”. The Maduro administration has consistently called out Polar for scarcity of goods which are fundamentally linked to struggling economic conditions for Venezuelans across the country. Polar is the South American nation’s largest brewery and producer of food and other basic goods.

Polar initially submitted their complaint in 2015 to the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association regarding alleged attacks against their company and workers at the hands of national government officials.  

On July 27, Polar turned in an official appeal at ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Their statement included a wide range of grievances among them citing the “arbitrary detention”of nine Polar managerial staff earlier this year. 

Polar’s appeal is currently supported by the International Organization of Employers (OIE) of which it is the only Latin American member.

“We went to the ILO because it is an organization in charge of defending work around the world and we feel that the actions undertaken by the Government against the company are a threat to Empresas Polar’s 30,000 jobs,” expressed Polar’s legal director, Guillermo Bolinaga.

Bolinaga alleges that the government has increasingly taken actions against the company and its workers within the last several months.

“Just this year we have received 768 inspections,” he said.

Additionally, Polar accused the government of carrying out a “media smear campaign” to discredit the image of its company, directors and workers. “We presented all the proof [we have] of harassment and malice,” said Bolinaga.

In recent months, the Maduro administration has worked alongside Venezuelan workers to reclaim abandoned factories and support worker-controlled projects. In July, Venezuelans took over Kimberly-Clark’s factory and have since collaborated with the government to produce personal, feminine, and baby care products.

Likewise, the government facilitated negotiations at the Coca-Cola factory in June securing workers’ labor rights. On repeated accounts, Maduro has voiced his administration’s support for worker-led initiatives and national production as well distribution of goods as part of the people’s offensive against the economic war.

Among their grievances,  Polar blamed the government’s “tight currency controls” for their limited access to foreign currency for raw goods.

In early April, Maduro responded to Empresas Polar President Lorenzo Mendoza’s public outcry over currency controls. “Don't worry about [US] dollars, there are none,” Maduro stated. "I told him [Mendoza] not to worry, he has a lot of [dollars] abroad," the Venezuelan president added, calling on Mendoza to use his own financial resources to ensure the corporation’s productivity.

Empresas Polar was founded 75 years ago and produce the majority of goods currently scarce on Venezuelan store shelves including pre-cooked cornmeal, coffee and other products.

The ILO is a United Nations agency founded in 1919 that deals with issues regarding labor, labor standards and social protections representing all 187 UN member states.