Let them NOT eat cake: Venezuelan bakers face the president in ‘bread war’

People buy bread at a state-run bakery in Caracas, Venezuela, in June 2016. (Photo: Mariana Bazo/Reuters)
People buy bread at a state-run bakery in Caracas, Venezuela, in June 2016. (Photo: Mariana Bazo/Reuters)

An organization that represents Venezuela’s baking industry is pushing back against President Nicolas Maduro’s crackdown on bakeries and bakers, whom he has blamed for the country’s bread shortage.

Earlier this week Maduro charged that bakers are waging a “bread war” by illegally using government-imported flour to make expensive sweet breads and croissants. Fevipan, the Federation of the Bakery Industry, responded on Twitter Wednesday that “Currently 80% of bakeries have inventories at zero, the remaining 20% ​​have received 10% of their monthly consumption.”

The bread shortage is just one symptom of the record-high inflation rates and deepening recession that have driven Venezuela into the worst economic crisis in its history. For more than a year, Maduro has imposed a national state of emergency, which has included government rationing of food and other basic necessities.

Using the hashtag, “todos somos panaderos” or “we are all bakers,” Fevipan has continued to agitate on Twitter, requesting an “urgent meeting with President Maduro, to provide you with accurate information” and vowing to remain “unrestricted allies of the country’s food security!”

“Work on the basis of respect!” Fevipan tweeted Wednesday. “There is no crime when our guild seeks to produce bread for the people.”

Two bakeries were seized and four individuals arrested in Caracas this week for alleged misuse of government-imported flour to make specialty items like croissants, sweet bread and brownies.

Venezuela’s socialist price control policies mandate that 90 percent of imported wheat be used to make white loaves or French bread.

In addition to ordering official inspections of bakeries across the country to ensure compliance with this rule, Maduro also moved to cut down on massive bread lines by banning people from standing in line for bread.

“Those behind the ‘bread war’ are going to pay,” Maduro declared earlier in the week.

Fevipan has been calling for a meeting with Maduro for months to discuss problems with the government’s process of supplying wheat flour and other materials to the baking sector.

“We are confident that dialogue is one of the main ways out of this situation,” Fevipan tweeted Thursday, referring to the food supply shortage that has resulted in massive bread lines outside bakeries across the country. “Together we can do it.”

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