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Venezuelan beer crisis deepens

The beer shortage crisis in Venezuela, as its biggest brewer becomes ever more embroiled in a row with the government, deepened this week with troops now occupying a distribution centre.

Empresas Polar breweries, the largest privately held company in Venezuela and its chief brewer and distributor, has been accused by President Nicolas Maduro’s government of “economic sabotage”.

The troubles have been building since the beginning of the month when workers went on strike because of a pay dispute and Polar has now said it has been forced to shut two of its six breweries because of a lack of imported barley.

Meanwhile, the situation has escalated further since a warehouse complex in Caracas used by Polar and Nestlé workers and officials has been occupied by the army, with the government saying the land is needed to house the poor.

The closures were announced on Thursday and could affect a quarter of the country’s beer production according to the Guardian although the Federation of Beer Brewers has said if raw materials get through both sites could be brought back on line within a month.

However, with the on-going walk outs pver pay at breweries and distribution centres, Polar has also said it is struggling to get deliveries out to certain areas of the country.

Maduro has accused Polar of sabotaging the economy by deliberately creating shortages. However Venezuela is suffering, it is thought, triple digit inflation and there are severe shortages of cooking oil, toilet paper and sugar. Businesses say this is due to the government’s socialist policies although the state has said it is due to an “economic war” being waged against it.

There are apparently no signs of real shortages in stores at the moment but the head of the liquor store federation recently warned that “zero hour” had been reached because of the shortage in raw materials.

He has since been detained “for reasons that remain unclear.”

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