President Nicolas Maduro ordered troops to arrest several managers of the electronics chain Daka for raising prices and extorting the Venezuelan people. Soldiers then occupied 5 Daka locations, which led to looting at the company’s store in the city of Valencia.
But Maduro exclaimed that the true looters were the Daka “bourgeois parasites” for inflating products to “1,000 percent of cost.” According to Al-Jazeera English:
Maduro, who accuses rich businessmen and right-wing political foes backed by the US of waging an economic war against him, said the occupation of Daka was simply the “tip of the iceberg” in a nationwide drive against speculators.
“We’re going to comb the whole nation in the next few days. This robbery of the people has to stop,” Maduro said. “You’ve not seen anything.”
He showed particular astonishment at a washing-machine on sale for 54,000 bolivars - $8,571 at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars to the US dollar.
Maduro’s move against Daka, after weeks of warnings of a pre-Christmas push against private businesses to keep prices down, recalled the sweeping takeovers during the 14-year government of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
Soldiers organised hundreds of people into queues at Daka’s store in Caracas, then called them in one by one.
“Inflation’s killing us. I’m not sure if this was the right way, but something had to be done,” said Carlos Rangel, 37, who was among the shoppers. “I think it’s right to make people sell things at fair prices.”
Venezuela’s annual rate of inflation is now 54 percent, the highest since Chavez came to power in 1999. Critics of the government say that is due to economic mismanagement rather than unscrupulous retailers.
Opponents insist, however, that the obscenely high prices are due to an artificially low official rate of 6.3 bolivars per U.S. dollar. Since only a limited amount of American currency is sold in Venezuela, one businessman says he is forced to pay almost triple the exchange rate in the black market and thus, can’t afford to sell products at a lower price and incur a loss.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi
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