Nicolás Maduro cracks down on Farmatodo

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Farmatodo is one of the largest pharmacy chains in Venezuela. To our foreign friends, the Venezuelan equivalent to a Walgreens or a CVS. A productive family business that has been an example of intelligent growth during the past couple of decades (although it has a 96 year old story). Due to the large number of stores across the country, they have been in the spotlight since the bachaquero apocalypse began. They have reported long lines of people waiting to access stores just like the state run Bicentenario supermarkets. Also, by the end of 2014 they were even accused of collaborating with the government because they tried to impose a rationing system. The truth is, as many large businesses in Venezuela, they have been taking measures to cope with the economic crisis —especially the rampant scarcity levels—, and have been open to meet with the government and try to work out solutions.

On Saturday afternoon, the President of the chain (and some employees) were informally summoned by President Maduro to discuss the lines outside one of their stores. —If this is the first time you stumble upon the blog please take your time to pick up your jaw from the floor, if you’re a regular, you know.— Later, they were driven to the headquarters of SEBIN (Venezuela’s political police). On Sunday the families reported that they hadn’t heard from their people since the previous night.

Enter stand-in minister Ernesto Villegas, who informed that the government had decided to open an investigation because they realized that in the Farmatodo store at Los Ilustres two of the cashiers were closed, and this was the reason for the line outside.

Later in the day, after Villegas’ statements on Twitter (sad, yes), Maduro went on national television and made clear that this was his doing. That HE “had several conspirators jailed in SEBIN,” and that HE had instructed the DA’s office to act quickly so they could remain in prison. Somehow he believes this gives him some credibility as an authoritarian, you know, trying to convince the people around him he has BOLAS, when all he is doing is making it really easy for his counterparties in the human rights violation suit coming his way.

But this wasn’t enough, he kept on talking and opened the door for the intervention (or expropriation as they say around these parts) of a “food distribution chain,” by saying that it would be integrated to the state owned network. It is not clear whether he was talking about Farmatodo or Herrera, C.A.

The Maduro administration has been bombarding the country with outrageous menaces and crazy news these days. What are they looking for? Are they hoping for a rerun of 2014? Is that even possible now?

Meanwhile, Minister of Economy (Finances, and Banking), Rodolfo Marco Torres, and the authorities of the securities administration, held “fruitful” meetings with different representatives of private banks and brokerage houses, looking to shape a new Forex system that will ease the burden on the current exchange regime. A new system that will require Dollars from private companies, such as Farmatodo. Go figure.