The latest economic casualty in Venezuela under its perpetual Bolivarian socialist revolution is beer.
Empresas Polar SA, which produces 80 percent of the beer consumed in Venezuela, halted production at the last of its four beer factories on Friday, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The company’s other three factories were shuttered over the course of last week.
Empresas Polar has laid off 6,500 employees. Another 3,500 workers will lose their jobs by the end of next week when the supply of the company’s beer is expected to sell out.
Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s socialist president, has responded by accusing Empresas Polar of conspiring against the Venezuelan government and the country’s 30 million people. Maduro called the company’s closure “a serious crime.” He also threatened to seize the company, which owes international companies hundreds of millions of dollars for imported raw materials.
“Plant closed, plant reclaimed, a plant that we’ll put into production, with the law in our hands,” the handpicked successor of Hugo Chávez said in a speech this week, according to the Journal.
Empresas Polar also manufactures other products including food and soft drinks. It has long been forced to sell many of those products at a loss because of the socialist government’s price controls.
Newly-unemployed workers are shocked — shocked! — about losing their jobs.
“Empresas Polar is a company that has looked after its workers not just well, but very well,” plant worker Rosana González told the Journal. “I never thought this would happen.”
The financial problems besetting Empresas Polar are similar to the problem besetting businesses of all sizes across Venezuela. The socialist country’s currency, the bolivar, has grown increasingly worthless. Consequently, Empresas Polar cannot afford to import barley, malt and other raw materials necessary to make beer.
The weakened currency would present difficulties even in a free and open market. However, the dilemma facing Venezuela’s business sector is significantly complicated because the leftist government strictly controls access to the dollars necessary to import commodities.
Runaway inflation — currently the highest on earth — and shortages of food, medicine and all kinds of goods are the result. Rolling power outages are a norm.
The International Monetary Fund expects Venezuela’s economy to shrivel by 8 percent this year — continuing a painful 8-year trend of economic contractions.
Before the beer production shutdown, Empresas Polar made a number of beers including Solera and Polar Light. At BeerAdvocate.com, one reviewer describes Solera as an “insipid” pale lager. A reviewer describes Polar Light as “an easy-drinking beer made for the hot summer days” — “best if the beach is close” — which provides “a hint of headache the day after.”
In 2013, Sundecop, a Venezuelan state agency that enforces price controls, took over a toilet paper factory in response to nagging supply shortages. Bureaucrats said that the scarcity is a “violation of the right” to obtain such goods, according to Reuters. Supporters of the government criticized crooked businessmen for hoarding toilet paper. (RELATED: Venezuela, Chicago Public Schools Face Toilet Paper Shortages)
Chávez, the socialist leader who preceded Maduro as Venezuela’s president, was born into a working-class family and espoused Marxist-Leninist socialism yet managed to leave his daughter with a $4.2 billion fortune.