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"Bread War" erupts in Venezuela

"Bread War" erupts in VenezuelaDespaired Venezuelans now are facing another problem as last Thursday President Maduro started his "bread war". After living through shortages of water, electricity, medicine, banknotes and beer, Venezuelans are now struggling to find one of the most basic foodstuffs of all.

Bread has become all but impossible to find at many Venezuelan bakeries, which say Maduro’s socialist government is not importing enough flour for them to make it.

Not so, Maduro insists and accuses bakeries of hoarding flour to destabilise his government and using it for expensive cakes and pastries rather than cheap, subsidised bread.

Maduro has dispatched the army, police and uniformed civilian militias to escort officials from the National Superintendency for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights in a wave of bakery inspections.

“They are hiding the bread from the people,” the President said Sunday on his weekly TV program, vowing to crack down on greedy bakers.

“They are going to pay for this, I swear. Those responsible for the Bread War will pay. And don’t go around calling it ‘political persecution,’” he added.

This week the authorities arrested four people in the crackdown and confiscated two bakeries accused of charging more than the official bread price.

The government heavily subsidises imports of basic food products such as flour via an artificially high exchange rate. But plummeting oil revenues mean the dollars needed to keep the scheme going are in short supply.

Bakeries allowed to buy subsidised flour are supposed to use 90 percent of it for bread and only 10 percent in cakes and pastries. On Sunday’s presidential TV show, Vice President Tareck El Aissami accused bakeries of flouting that regulation by making too many cakes.

The Venezuelan Federation of Bread Manufacturers says cake is not the problem.

According to the industry group, Venezuela’s 8,000 bakeries are receiving just 30,000 tonnes of flour a month, when they need four times that to meet demand.
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