Amidst food shortages and massive lines at grocery stores, the chief executive of Dia Dia, a supermarket chain recently taken over by the Venezuelan government, has rejected the government’s claims that the company was hoarding foodstuffs in an attempt to destabilize the economy, asserting that the supermarkets’ warehouses had just three days’ worth of basic goods.
“Dia Dia has not engaged in hoarding,” the company insisted in a statement, adding that it hasn’t attempted to undermine the economy, either, despite what the government is saying.
Venezuela is in the midst of a serious crisis. The drop in oil prices has rocked the national economy, and currency controls restricting the availability of dollars for imports is one of the major reasons why many items are now scarce, analysts said. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, however, claims a right-wing elite is responsible for his country’s serious economic problems.
On February 3, Maduro temporarily took over the supermarket’s 35 stores, which sell popular Hispanic foods such as enchiladas and arroz con pollo in poorer neighborhoods, alleging that it was hoarding goods and closing check-out counters to create long queues in an attempt to sabotage his socialist rule. Days later, Maduro announced that all 35 of the stores would be folded into the state food distribution system.
“They know there’s a huge issue with food scarcity in Venezuela and they do not want to be responsible,” said Aguerrevere.
Maduro has even gone so far as to arrest the store’s general director, Manuel Morales, on charges of sabotage and destabilizing the economy. The New York Times reports that the intelligence police arrested Morales inside the presidential palace as he was leaving a meeting with a vice president in charge of food supplies.
“He is illegally detained,” said Aguerrevere, adding that the charges against Morales could lead to 10 years of prison time. “It’s crazy. He’s totally not guilty. It’s not fair to his human rights.”