News / Americas

Maduro Government 'Occupies' Venezuela Electronics Chain

President Nicolas Maduro, right, with Adan Chavez, (left) brother of the late president Hugo Chavez, and Venezuela first lady Cilia Flores, visit the late leader's tomb in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 5, 2013.
President Nicolas Maduro, right, with Adan Chavez, (left) brother of the late president Hugo Chavez, and Venezuela first lady Cilia Flores, visit the late leader's tomb in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 5, 2013.
Reuters
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the “occupation” of a chain of electronic goods stores in a crackdown on what the socialist government views as price-gouging hobbling the country's economy.

Various managers of the five-store, 500-employee Daka chain have been arrested, and the company will now be forced to sell products at “fair prices,” Maduro said late on Friday.

State media showed soldiers in one Daka shop checking the price tags on large flat-screen TVs. And hundreds of bargain-hunters flocked to Daka stores on Saturday morning to take advantage of the new, cheaper prices.

“We're doing this for the good of the nation,” said Maduro, 50, who accuses wealthy businessmen and right-wing political opponents backed by the United States of waging an economic “war” against him.

“I've ordered the immediate occupation of this chain to offer its products to the people at fair prices, everything. Let nothing remain in stock ... We're going to comb the whole nation in the next few days. This robbery of the people has to stop.”

The measure, which comes after weeks of warnings from the government of a pre-Christmas push against private businesses to keep prices down, recalled the sweeping takeovers during the 14-year rule of Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez.

Maduro, who took over from Chavez in April after the latter's death from cancer, has stopped short of more outright nationalizations, in this case saying authorities would instead force Daka to sell at state-fixed prices.

“Inflation's killing us. I'm not sure if this was the right way, but something had to be done. I think it's right to make people sell things at fair prices,” said Carlos Rangel, 37, among about 500 people queuing outside a Daka store in Caracas.

Rangel had waited overnight, with various relatives, to be at the front of the queue and was hoping to find a cheap TV and air-conditioning unit.

Soldiers stood on guard outside the store before it opened.

Critics say Venezuela's runaway inflation - the annual rate is now 54 percent, the highest since Chavez came to power in 1999 - is due to economic mismanagement and the failure of socialist policies rather than unscrupulous retailers.

Price distortions

Opponents also blame excessive government controls and persecution of the private sector for shortages of basic goods ranging from flour to toilet paper, and for price distortions and corruption caused by a black-market currency rate nearly 10 times higher the official price.

“This ridiculous show they've mounted with Daka is a not-very-subtle warning to us all,” said a Venezuelan businessman who imports electronic goods and is an opposition supporter.

Under price controls set up a decade ago, the state sells a limited amount of dollars at 6.3 bolivars, but given the short supply, some importers complain they are forced into a black market where the price is nearly ten-fold higher.

“Because they don't allow me to buy dollars at the official rate of 6.3, I have to buy goods with black market dollars at about 60 bolivars, so how can I be expected to sell things at a loss? Can my children eat with that?” added the businessman, who asked not to be named.

Maduro showed astonishment at a fridge on sale in Daka for 196,000 bolivars ($31,111 at the official rate), and said an air-conditioning unit that goes for 7,000 bolivars ($1,111) in state stores was marked up 36,000 bolivars ($5,714) by Daka.

Daka officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Maduro retains support from large sections of the population, particularly the poor who benefit from massive state welfare programs and who remain loyal to Chavez's dying exhortation to support his chosen successor.

But the growing economic problems in a country which is a member of OPEC and has the world's largest oil reserves, have begun weighing on his popularity, which dropped 10 points in recent months to 41 percent according to a recent survey by pollster Datanalisis.

The economy is the No. 1 issue going into local elections next month that are the 50-year-old Maduro's first test at the polls since narrowly beating opposition leader Henrique Capriles in the April presidential vote to replace Chavez.

Capriles, 40, is trying to cast the Dec. 8 nationwide municipal elections as a referendum on Maduro, whose legitimacy he still refuses to accept, alleging fraud at the poll.

“They don't say how they will fix inflation, shortages, devaluation. Incompetence rules,” he tweeted this week in the latest of a stream of attacks on the government.

Many economists are predicting a devaluation of Venezuela's bolivar currency after the elections, perhaps in early 2014, but senior officials have repeatedly denied that.

“Venezuela's immense resource base means it is not on the verge of collapse or default,” said David Smilde, a sociology professor at the University of Georgia who has studied Venezuela for 20 years, in a recent blog on the economy. “But it is sliding into serious economic dysfunction and that could seriously undercut Chavismo's viability as a democratically supported political project.”

You May Like

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent — Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Martin Gill
November 12, 2013 9:32 AM
"“Inflation's killing us. I'm not sure if this was the right way, but something had to be done. I think it's right to make people sell things at fair prices,” said Carlos Rangel, 37..."

Just like all liberal politicians and liberal voters or socialist supporters, just do something, regardless of whether it will fix the problem or not! So long Venezuela, it was entertaining knowing you.

by: Sentinel from: USA
November 09, 2013 10:44 PM
It's happening here in the US too, just not as blatantly.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

More Americas News

Venezuela Swaps Oil to Import Beans as Coffee Output Sinks

Once a proud exporter, country reduced to bartering crude oil for growing volumes of Nicaraguan coffee beans to make sure people get their caffeine fix
More

ExxonMobil Set to Begin Drilling Off Guyana

Project could turn up the heat under a long-running territorial row with neighboring Venezuela
More

Peru Indigenous Groups Settle US Court Claims with Occidental

Achuar communities alleged Occidental spilled oil and dumped toxic waste while operating country's biggest oil block, triggering widespread health problems
More

Petrobras Scandal Threatens Brazil's Political, Business Elite

Executives reportedly feeling inclined to cut plea bargains that would result in less jail time in return for disclosing graft scheme details
More

Tests Indicate Argentine Prosecutor Was Slain, Ex-Wife Says

Alberto Nisman, found dead days after accusing president of involvement in cover-up, didn't commit suicide, Sandra Arroyo Salgado says
More

Canadian Pastor Detained in North Korea

Hyeon Soo Lim arrived in North Korea in late January, went to Pyongyang on a humanitarian mission and hasn't been heard from since
More