For most employees, a day’s work doesn’t end in arrest because of slowed production.
However, for workers at Venezuelan soda factory that’s exactly what happened.
Empresas Polar, owners of a local branch of Pepsi-Cola, states on its website that last Friday (19 December) inspectors from the country’s ministry of labor, accompanied by police, arrested three employees because production had stalled at the Caucagua Plant in the state of Miranda.
The company, the largest food and drinks producer in the country, claims it was ordered to resume operations at the factory immediately.
Denouncing the detention of its manager and two human resources employees as ‘illegal’, the soft drinks manufacture has slammed the action, calling it a “clear abuse of authority” and “absolutely disproportionate and arbitrary”.
After the employees were arrested on Friday, Polar announced on Twitter that it would be mounting legal action “in defense of its workers”.
Empresas Polar ejercerá acciones legales en defensa de sus trabajadores que fueron detenidos arbitrariamente
— Empresas Polar (@EmpresasPolar) December 19, 2015
Held for three days, the relieved employees were freed on Monday (21 December) as Polar tweeted to say it had successfully secured the workers’ release. “Pepsi-cola Venezuela obtained full freedom for their workers from the Caucagua plant detained arbitrarily”.
Pepsi-Cola Vzla logró obtener libertad plena sin restricciones para sus trabajadores de Planta Caucagua detenidos arbitrariamente el viernes — Empresas Polar (@EmpresasPolar) December 20, 2015
The government claims that Empresas Polar has been intentionally impeding production in order to create a shortage of goods and drive up prices.
Polar, however, vehemently denies this accusation.
According to Polar, it is “impossible” to comply with the inspectors’ ‘unlawful order’, and that “production lines are paralyzed” because there is a lack of available materials. It says the inability to import much-needed materials is a result of the government’s currency control system which limits access to foreign currencies.
The detention of Polar employees comes just a few months after President Nicolás Maduro called for the CEO of Empresas Polar, Lorenzo Mendoza, to be prosecuted.
According to AP, in October, the president accused billionaire Mendoza of waging an “economic war” against the country with the intention of allowing Venezuela to come under the control of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The reports says that Maduro verbally attacked the businessman after a telephone conversation between Mendoza and government critic and Harvard University economist Ricardo Hausmann was broadcast on state television. Hausmann had allegedly advised Mendoza that in order to abate the country’s economic crisis, Venezuela would require a $40 billion IMF bailout.
According to Venezuelan news website Prodavinci, the president said in reference to Mendoza: “It is a crime which he did and is doing, speaking on behalf of the motherland. It is a serious offense under the law and must be prosecuted.”
In his crusade to end Venezuela’s “economic war”, Maduro has also accused other businesses and individuals of deliberately hoarding products in order to create a shortage, and later sell the goods at inflated prices.
TeleSUR reported in October that the president had announced on his weekly television program ‘In Contact with Maduro’ (En Contact con Maduro): “We will take measures to combat speculation and defend products and just prices.”
The oil-rich country’s economy has taken a turn for the worst during the last few years as oil prices plummeted in 2014, and the forecast looks less than rosy. The IMF predicts that the economy will contract 10 percent this year, and another 6 percent in 2016.
At the beginning of December, for the first time in 16 years, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela failed to gain control of congress. The Democratic Unity coalition won 99 out of the 167 seats in the National Assembly as voters decided to take a chance on the opposition amid rampant inflation and economic insecurity.
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