Original art by @modográfico

As I came home yesterday from a long business trip, I decided to catch up on Venezuelan news. I took to Twitter, and found this gem from our official Carta De Racionamiento 2.0: one potato a day gives you half of what you need for proper nourishment. It made me sick: this is Ceaușescu at his worst.

Communists should know that you can only fight hunger by producing food. And when I read this profile on Lorenzo Mendoza, a silent hero standing against genocide, I had to share it.

Venezuelans are hungry, one study reported that 73 percent of the population involuntarily lost an average of 19 pounds in 2016. But in the midst of chaos, there is a simple product stocked in every kitchen: precooked corn flour called Harina Pan produced and distributed primarily by Mendoza’s company. It’s the key ingredient for making arepas (the equivalent of sliced bread in the U.S.). Except to keep the product on store shelves, Mendoza has to import the raw materials. To get raw materials, he has to buy dollars from the government. And Venezuela’s access to dollars is drying up, putting Polar’s main product in jeopardy.

My instinct, even though I don’t have the proof here, is that Mendoza took a loss on Harina Pan to keep the company intact. He knows how to stick to business, not get into politics and not threaten the government,” says Robert Bottome, a consultant and former editor of VenEconomy who has interviewed Mendoza several times.

I can’t appreciate Mendoza’s efforts enough. Lorenzo, man: Thank you. Millions of Venezuelans will see better times because of you.

24 COMMENTS

  1. My chavista buddy on Margarita Island told me by phone one day that the bread shortage in the country is the fault of Lorenza Mendoza. I asked how that was and he said it was because Mendoza was not importing enough wheat flour.

    I responded, “so you mean to tell me that the only man in Venezuela capable of importing wheat flour is Lorenza Mendoza, and this is after almost 20 years of chavismo with total countrol of the country?”.

    Crickets.

    Are they all really this stupid, or are they just willingly stupid?

    • In fact the venezuelan government by decree is the only authorized importer of corn and wheat flour. Any foreign currency assigned for these imports goes directly to the bank account of the vendor/supplier. Polar, under the current foreign exchange nightmare, legally can’t and won’t buy foreign currency to pay for corn flour imports.

      • I recall watching on Vladimir a La 1 last year a rep of Polar, one of their buyers if I’m correct, saying that the country would consume all of its home-grown corn within about 2-3 months of the harvest. All other needs would be met, of course, with imported corn.

        Last year there were at least a few thousand hectares of corn planted in my immediate area, though that was way down from the year before. This year there are less than a thousand hectares planted.

        2018 is going to be grim.

      • A friend’s business, big user of scarce wheat flour, is buying flour marked origin Turkey, surely not a big producer, but probably one of many commission agents used by the Regime to import wheat flour into Venezuela.

  2. I thought Putin promised to send all of the wheat for bread that Venezuela needed.
    I have paid $2.89 per kilo at a Walmart in Florida to buy Harina PAN to ship to Venezuela.
    The package says Tampa (I think) on it.
    PAN is much cheaper to buy in Venezuela and sending money for staples is much cheaper than paying the fight. The problem now is finding it in Venezuela.
    Many necessities are simply unavailable.

    MR, I just tried calling you to give you a number to call to get everything straightened out.
    I will try later.

      • Thanks Robert
        I think it is Con Agra that has a place in Florida.
        I couldn’t remember where the PAN plant was, I just remember noticing that it was a US product.

          • Excellent!
            I will be happy to know that they are in your possession.
            Domesa partners with UPS and their website says that you can ship from anywhere UPS services to anywhere Domesa services.
            The last time I checked UPS rates to VZLA, they were very high.
            Perhaps your part guy can provide some guidance.
            Sao Paulo may workout to be a good export location.
            I’m hoping to find a way that doesn’t have the delays that even airfreight has. If a time critical shipment, such as medicine needed to get to you or someone else, the week delay for airfreight would be unacceptable.
            Just planning ahead.

  3. Polar has at least two plants outside Venezuela that can produce Harina Pan, one in US near Houston and another one near Bogota, Colombia. You can buy the US produced one through Amazon, 6 packages of 1 kg for $ 30 and fraction: https://www.amazon.com/Harina-PAN-White-Flour-Venezuela/dp/B005IGI08U

    Main problem with Venezuelan production is the white corn required, there is not enough production in Venezuela, and Polar has to import it, through the Government, who has the monopoly… Polar had a program where they supplied the seeds, and offered help for Venezuelan farmers, as long as they sold the crop to polar, but this plan has been sabotaged by the Government with their continuous expropriations (land confiscation)…

    • Moses,
      I was not successful trying to order food on Amazon for delivery to Venezuela.
      Amazon has a global platform but VZLA is very limited as to the food products that can be ordered and delivered.
      I don’t think that they have food in the VZLA warehouses.
      Most likely if they did have inventory, it would be seized by the regime.

  4. Per Dolar today, BM XR is now 66,000 BsF to 1 USD. It’s going over 100,000:1 before January.

    Hope this Mendoza guy has deep pockets ….

  5. I actually met him for a dinner once about 10 years ago. Even back then he explained that every single packet of PAN was sold at a loss. So essentially all the rest of items Polar produced subsidized PAN production. I don’t recall how much of a loss, but I remember it was not an insignificant one (10 years ago! cant imagine now). His reasoning for this was two fold, 1. its a basic staple and he wasnt going to let people go without, and 2. thousands of people in the production/distribution/etc chain depend on it for their jobs. This guy seriously deserves a massive pat on the back!

    • A common practice, actually.

      Convenience stores in the United States sell petrol at a minimal profit, if they make a profit at all on petrol. The reality is, that low prices get the customer to stop and fill up, with the belief that they will come into the store and purchase goods at a considerable mark up… the price for convenience.

      Mendoza isn’t stupid. He makes up for his losses by gaining everywhere else. He keeps in the publics good graces by providing food to Venezuelans who are suffering, and also keeps in the goodwill of Chavismo, who KNOWS FULL WELL that if they nationalized Polar, they would fuck it up within a month. (The way they fuck up everything they touch)

      Chavismo will fall sooner rather than later, and Mendoza will survive them and come out smelling like a rose. A king-maker for sure, if not the king. Crazy smart that lad.

      • One very large and critically important difference, the example you mention is a strategic one made by gas/convenience stores based on the very low margins of gasoline sales (even though gas stations in expensive areas sell it at significantly higher prices ie the difference between fuel in Miami Beach and farther inland). This in contrast is a government imposed mess which leads to zero profit and/or shutdown of many companies.

        Also, Im sure they dont lose money on the gas they sell, at most they break even. In the case of Polar in Venezuela, the loss per bag was quite large 10 years ago. Nowadays its inevitable that that loss per bag is much much bigger. Is he a shrewd business man? Sure. But those gains you mention happen because he diversified himself and set up shop outside Venezuela precisely because of the impossibility of continuing to do business inside of it.

        As far as “keeps in the goodwill of Chavismo”…all that good will is doing is 1. not allowing him to buy dollars to import material, 2. shuts down his plants arbitrarily and often, 3. makes Polar sell products at a loss, and so on.

        Youre likely right about one thing though…the government probably hasnt fully taken over/shut down Polar yet because they still manage to provide food and they know full well that if they nationalized Polar they would fuck it up within a month and hit overdrive on the amount of hunger going on.

  6. “and also keeps in the goodwill of Chavismo, who KNOWS FULL WELL that if they nationalized Polar, they would fuck it up within a month”

    I don’t know about the goodwill of Chavismo, but you hit the nail squarely on the head with the rest of your statement. Even these fucktards are smart enough to know that nationalizing Polar would be a stupid move of epic proportions on their part.

    • Without a doubt, the only “goodwill” Mendoza gains from Chavismo is being allowed to stay in business. He certainly isn’t chummy with them. He is Maduro’s favorite homegrown, capitalist whipping boy.

      But as I mentioned, I think he is crazy smart. When Chavismo falls (as it must) he will be perfectly positioned in Venezuela. I think the guy has a heck of a lot more to gain by keeping his nose barely above the water than any of us know about.

      • As I spend a small fortune on tractor parts imported from Brazil, I keep telling my woman to calm down, eventually this regime will fall and we’ll dominate the local tractor market. She always responds, “we already dominate the local tractor market and we’re going broke doing it”. LOL

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