On Mendoza, Hunger and the Potato

The word “heartless” doesn't begin to describe the way the Venezuelan government handles the hunger of its people. Lorenzo Mendoza is still doing his best to fight this.

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.