Venezuela’s government on Saturday said it was temporarily occupying the local subsidiary of multinational packaging company Smurfit Kappa, accusing the company of using its dominant position in the market to inflate prices.
In the run-up to Sunday’s municipal elections, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government has launched an “economic offensive” to try to win over voters fed up with chronic shortages of basic goods and annual inflation of 54 percent.
Last week, Maduro said inspections of businesses would be stepped up and called for tough punishments for those accused of price gouging.
The opposition says his statist policies, and a decade of strict currency controls, are the problem.
Venezuelan Industry Minister Ricardo Menendez said the local subsidiary of Irish packaging group Smurfit Kappa had hiked prices for some food-related products by 372 percent in the last year.
“This company is being occupied temporarily to guarantee the provision of raw material for the food chain, everything related to the packaging, to guarantee the food produced in our country,” Menendez said on state TV from the company’s factory in the west-central state of Carabobo.
He said the government was not taking over the day-to-day running of the facility.
“The owners are responsible, before the country, to guarantee the maximum increase in production from this plant ... but the state will be here, vigilant, to make sure that no one sabotages our economy,” he said.
There was no immediate response to requests for comment sent to Smurfit Kappa.
It is not the company’s first collision with Venezuela’s socialist government.
In 2009, former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez seized 1,500 hectares of forestry land owned by Smurfit Kappa, vowing to clear the trees and use the land for crops.
At the time, analysts said the company had about 30,000 hectares in Venezuela, representing 35 percent of the group’s Latin American landholdings, which represented 15 percent of Smurfit Kappa’s revenues.
Maduro, who has staked his leadership on preserving the legacy of his late mentor Chavez, alleged on Friday that price irregularities had been found at almost 99 percent of 1,705 businesses inspected so far this month.
Maduro’s administration accuses companies of marking up prices by as much as 1,000 percent over cost, though many retailers say they have been forced to increase prices due to lack of access to foreign currency at the official rate.
The president asserts that “capitalist parasites” are trying to wreck the OPEC nation’s economy and drive him from office.
The opposition denounces his latest theatrical economic moves as short-term populism and says they are coupled with incompetence that will only make things worse in the long run.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference