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UPDATE 2-Venezuela troops occupy Polar food distribution warehouses

Stock MarketsJul 30, 2015 20:25
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UPDATE 2-Venezuela troops occupy Polar food distribution warehouses

(Adds details of further companies impacted)
By Girish Gupta
CARACAS, July 30 (Reuters) - Venezuelan troops occupied a
Caracas warehouse complex used by local food giant Empresas
Polar and Nestle NESN.VX to distribute food and beverages,
workers and company officials said on Thursday.
The move follows months of accusations by President Nicolas
Maduro that Polar, the country's largest private employer, is
working to sabotage the economy. The company denies this.
Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez expropriated several
warehouses from Polar, in some cases arguing that the space
should be used to build houses for the poor.
Around 50 workers protested inside the complex, including
atop a water tower, with contractors joining them in solidarity
outside in a poor neighborhood in the west of Caracas.
"If we don't work, we don't eat," said truck driver Carlos
Munoz, a 43-year-old contractor for Polar. He transports food
and drink from the site to shops and distributors.
"There's no food in Venezuela and now they do this! How are
people going to eat?"
Workers said dozens of national guard and police took over
the building on Wednesday evening. National Guard troops
remained within the complex. Graffiti on its walls read, "No to
expropriation."
Polar said the move puts 2,000 employees' jobs at risk.
"This is our principal dispatch center," company director
Manuel Larrazabal said in a statement, adding that Polar sent
12,000 tons of food and six million liters of drink out every
month from the site. "We ask that the measure be reconsidered."
The government did not respond to a request for comment.
Nestle spokesman Andres Alegrett said the company was
informed by the facility's owner that the area was being
expropriated and that the firm was preparing alternative means
of distribution.
Other companies renting space at the site include Cargill
CARGIL.UL , Coca Cola COKE.O , industrial gases supplier
Praxair (NYSE:PX) PX.N and the clothing firm Zara, according to a
statement from Inmobiliaria Carapay, the owner of the complex.
The OPEC nation is suffering what is believed to be
triple-digit inflation and shortages of basic goods from shampoo
to chicken. Critics blame a failed state-led economic model
while the government says an "economic war" is behind the
problems.
Polar has said its operations are limited by its inability
to obtain dollars to import raw materials.
Authorities told Polar the area was to be used for housing,
said a company source who is unauthorized to speak publicly
about the issue.
Around 50 people on Thursday rallied outside the complex in
support of the measure, chanting, "We want homes."
"Many of us here don't have homes. Chavez promised us
homes," said Lindomar Nieves, a 37-year-old mechanic holding a
Venezuelan flag.

UPDATE 2-Venezuela troops occupy Polar food distribution warehouses
 

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