CARACAS – The government has seized the Makro wholesale chain, one of the world’s largest with 37 stores in Venezuela, for allegedly putting unacceptable conditions on the sale of basic goods, generally scarce in this oil-producing nation, state media reported on Tuesday.
“At this time we have taken over the Makro distribution network... that company placed unacceptable conditions on sales (to retailers),” the national superintendent for the defense of socioeconomic rights, William Contreras, announced Tuesday on state channel VTV.
He said the measure was taken in response to “a generalized complaint by society,” which, he said, has reported restrictions on access to food products in those establishments, which chiefly sell wholesale to small retailers.
Contreras said the company required clients to make “minimum purchases” of as much as 5 million bolivars (some $1,500 at the highest official rate of exchange, but around $60 at the black market rate) in order to acquire packs of precooked corn flour, an essential part of the Venezuelan diet.
He said that similar practices were found at a number of branch outlets for items like pastas and rice.
According to estimates by the opposition, the Chavismo that has ruled Venezuela since 1999 has seized hundreds of companies of different kinds, but mainly in the food sector.
The scarcity of food products and medicines has grown even worse over the past few months in the Caribbean country as its economy entered a hyperinflationary spiral, and while the Nicolas Maduro government attempts to restructure the foreign debt, various financial entities have already declared it in default of payments.
Opposition Congressman Jose Guerra, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that Venezuela is in default for more than $1.2 billion in interest owed to owners of its foreign debt.
“The government and (state petroleum company) PDVSA are in debt for more than $1.2 billion in interest on those bonds, for which the insurance on a default of those payments has been activated,” Guerra, chairman of the Finance Commission of the National Assembly, said in a statement.