Workers Protest Alleged Privatization of Venezuelan State Fishing Company

Workers at the state fishing company PESCALBA protested Thursday against an alleged decision by the Venezuelan government to privatize the public enterprise.

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PESCALBA fishing vessel. (Ministry of Fishing)
PESCALBA fishing vessel. (Ministry of Fishing)
By Lucas Koerner
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Caracas, October 3, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Workers at the state fishing company PESCALBA protested Thursday against an alleged decision by the Venezuelan government to privatize the public enterprise.

PESCALBA was created by former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in the eastern coastal city of Cumaná in 2010 as part of an effort to challenge the private sector’s dominance of the fishing industry and to guarantee Venezuelans access to fish at affordable prices.  

However, workers at the firm are now accusing Fishing Minister Angel Belisario of moving to sell off half of the company’s shares to private capital.

In particular, they reject the conclusions of an official report presented to President Nicolas Maduro, which claims that the shipyard is closed due to damages and that fishing has ground to a halt. 

“We fish more than 90 tons of tuna per month, representing over 150 million bolivars, and the shipyard has a similar turnover, our company is complete and absolutely self-sustainable, financially sound and optimum,” declared Jhonny Esparragoza, general secretary of the workers’ union. 

The union leader also rejected the report’s allegations that the S.S. José Martí fishing vessel is non-operational and accruing expenses. 

“It’s a lie, the vessel is rented to a Dutch firm and generates almost 100 thousand dollars per month,” he added. 

The fishermen are demanding that President Maduro dispatch a presidential commission to conduct an evaluation of the firm in order to verify the conclusions of the report. 

The Ministry of Fishing has yet to issue a public response to the workers’ petition.