“This could mean the end,” said Sergio Silva, a shopkeeper in a poor Venezuelan neighborhood. “If Venezuelans do not have beer… this country could blow.”
Silva is referring to the shut down of Empresas Polar, Venezuela’s largest privately-owned company and holder of 80% of the domestic beers in the country.
Due to water issues, excessive inflation rates, and power cuts, Polar was forced to shut down at the end of April. “We are obliged to suspend the production of beer until we get access to the foreign currency necessary to procure material,” Polar officials said.
Financial Times reports that the problems Venezuela is having are due to the steepest import contractions ever recorded. The price of oil — accounting for 95% of Venezuela export revenue — has caused foreign reserves to reach a 13-year low.
Because Polar has such a high share of the beer market in South America, their product is considered a national icon. Their “beer, bikinis and beach” advertising campaign has been seen by million of Venezuelans. Some ads can be visible from up to 30 miles away across Venezuelan beaches when using media like billboards or aerial messages.
Lorenzo Mendoza, chief executive of Polar, has been asking for the Venezuelan government to ease its tight control over the private sector and to look to international allies for assistance.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro did not appreciate Mendoza’s claims and fired back, “If you cannot handle your companies, hand them over to the people who can, you bandit, thief, oligarch, traitor.”
According to The Daily Caller, Maduro has continued to threaten to seize the company. “Plant closed, plant reclaimed, a plant that we’ll put into production, with the law in our hands,” Maduro said.
Many believe that nothing will be done until President Maduro is out of office, but with such powerful connections throughout the Venezuelan judicial system, doing so would be difficult.
Eurasia, a risk consultant company, thinks that it’s possible but believes there is only one way to end this conflict. “The only catalyst for regime change this year,” Eurasia said, “is a potential social explosion.”
Mr. Silva added from his shop in the Caracas: “I give people a month without beer before they rise.”
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