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Law of the jungle in place in Venezuela

By Miguel Octavio | The Devil's Excrement

07.09.05 | You would think that a Government that approved a Constitution taylor-made to its desires and goals (96 of 100 members of the Constituent Assembly were pro-Chavez) and that controls the National Assembly and the Judiciary branches would simply put them both to use in order to do what it wants. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the law of the jungle is what now rules in Venezuela, as the most powerful animal (the Government) seems to be doing whatever it wants and introducing a level of anarchy and confrontation that can not be good for the country.

In the last week pro-Government groups have taken over two private companies and a church, in clear violation of the laws and the Constitution, without a single Government official criticizing the actions. In fact, one of the “interventions”, the euphemism used by those taking over these facilities, was led by the Minister of Agriculture himself accompanied by the National Guard.

The first plant intervened was a combination silo, industrial plant owned by the Polar Group, the largest industrial group in the country. The silos were in use, but the rest of the plant which produces white corn flower had been shut down. The latter had been shut down as part of a consolidation driven in part by the direct import of flour by the Government, bypassing local production. The company has not been notified by the Government of the action; has official paperwork proving the plant was functioning and is asking for an injunction from the Venezuelan Supreme Court.

The second plant intervened is a tomato processing and canning plant owned by multinational Heinz. The plant was purchased by Heinz in 1996 and was currently shutdown because tomato production in the area is significantly down and producers could not satisfy its requirements. Heinz said the plant is on sale and was even offered to the Government.

Finally, in the most bizarre case of all, a church in the area of Mariches, right outside Caracas, was taken over by the National Guard together with one of the so called “Endogenous Battle Group” created by Chavez These groups say this church is run by a bunch of oligarchs. Representatives of the church said today that the community is behind the church and the parish priest that holds mass and had community services there until the intervention.

The Government has intervened two industrial plants; one was a valve manufacturing company which was shutdown in 2002. The other was a paper company that went under last year. In both cases the National Assembly fulfilled some of the steps required for expropriation, such as declaring them of public utility, but there has been no payment to the rightful owners in either case, as required by law.

Clearly, the law of the jungle seems to be the prevailing one at this time, after a long period of decisions controlled and manipulated by the Executive branch. If allowed to stand, this will further limit investment in the country and will likely contribute to further deterioration of the productive economy. Moreover, this introduces further anarchy into the country as other groups are encouraged to try similar actions in industrials plants near their homes. Certainly not a way to build a country and a possible presage of more similar actions to come.

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