Photos: Rosender Evíes

According to Fedecámaras and Lara’s Chamber of Commerce, more than 200 companies have shut down and around 500 shops have declared bankruptcy in the last two years due to the national economic crisis, a hard blow for the products and services offered to Lara citizens.

The economic measures recently imposed by Nicolás Maduro’s regime keep causing uncertainty and confusion among Barquisimeto shop owners. Many think that companies and stores will shut down en masse, as they have no capacity to pay the Bs.F. 180 million (Bs.S. 1,800) wage to their employees, and they foresee that unemployment will increase exponentially along with company shutdowns. These decisions don’t solve the country’s serious problems, on the contrary, hyperinflation and the decline of workers’ purchasing power will intensify.

Although the minimum wage hike was published in the Official Gazette on September 3, business owners are filled with uncertainty and face great hardships to find raw materials, guarantee production and get the money to pay their employees. The government has said that they’ll finance payroll payments for small and medium companies for 90 days, but shop owners don’t know the methodology or the steps they must follow in order to get the promised subsidy. Also, they have no idea of how things will be like after the 90 days have elapsed and much less about the impact they’ll have on the new salaries and social benefits at the end of the year.

Carlos Quintero, owner of an auto parts store in the city, decided to keep his doors closed while the situation and the prices normalize. He says that his profits aren’t enough to pay salaries and replenish his inventory. “I can’t open the shop, I can’t work at a loss, and I really don’t know where I’ll find the money to pay my employees their wages.”

María Zabaleta, owner of a shoe store in the boulevard of Barquisimeto’s 20th Av., says that she joined the strike called by the opposition on August 21, but she felt pressured to open her shop due to the government’s threats. She says that her best choice is to sell all the merchandise, liquidate the store and avoid working at a loss. “These will be the last shoes I’ll sell.”

Pablo Chirinos, head of Lara’s Chamber of Commerce, cautioned that the economic announcements could unleash a wave of unemployment and ruined shops. Meanwhile, Fedecámaras Lara representative Alberto Gámez says that “the sector is frightened and we could see 35% companies shutting down.”

Giorgio Reni, representative of Lara’s Chamber of Industry, said that “there’s a process of decapitalization because the government hasn’t implemented corrective economic measures.”

Arrests and sanctions

The shop owners who decided to open their stores and sell products to the public have been “on the radar” of the inspectors of the National Bureau for the Defense of Socio-Economic Rights (SUNDDE) and the National Bureau of Agrofood Management (SUNAGRO), charged with enforcing the economic measures on fair prices.

When authorities visited the Hiper-Lider Cabudare y Tamaca supermarket chain in Lara, they arrested managers Edwin Hernández and Nerio Parra, allegedly for committing crimes of speculation. Between Tuesday, August 21 until Thursday, August 30, 22 shop owners have been arrested.

Allegedly, during the inspection 52,000 kilos of hoarded basic basket products were found in the supermarket, such as butter, ketchup, canned goods, pasta, milk-based products and personal hygiene items. Similarly, in the supermarket located in Tamaca, authorities found 800,000 kilos of food and personal hygiene products.

Additionally, during inspection campaigns, 52 stores have been sanctioned for irregularities in price retagging. In view of these actions, over 50% of shops have closed in fear of penalties or arrests.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. My aunt and her husband worked as mules for 30 years on a business that employed 16 people permanently and another 20 or so seasonably. Now in her 70s, she even developed chronic back pains from standing and walking for hours without any rest.

    They held off dismissals for years, cutting costs where they could, not being able to pass on full raw material increases to their low-income customers. On Tuesday, August 28th, they called a meeting to announce they’re closing up shop.

    • Just for those who don’t know; “working as mules” only means working really hard under harsh conditins, and not someone who personally smuggles contraband, usually drugs.

    • Just for those who don’t know; “working as mules” only means working really hard under harsh conditions, and not someone who personally smuggles contraband, usually drugs.

  2. Everything is normal. As oil revenue dries up, the marxist elites have less to steal (agenda item 1) so they more turn to destruction and impoverishment (agenda item 2). Coming soon: tribalism.

  3. Where I am at, most all shops in Plaza Bolivar and adjacent commercial districts have the santamarias down. The only ones open are banks, a panaderia or two and Rattan (supermarket that is literally full of empty shelves). The mayor in this municipality is Chavista. He has been sending out goods from the acalde to fiscalize businesses. My girlfriend who is an accountant in this district said that most of these village idiots do not know how to figure out a percentage on their calculator and are out to f*&k people over rather than actually look at the books. They do not work for Sundee or Seniat, just rojo rojitos from the mayors office. Seriously, they cannot even figure out a percentage.

    By contrast, in the adjacent municipo, it is opposition and it is not a politics to harass businesses. By contrast most all of the shops are open for business (that is not to say that the shelves are full however). Only difference is that the supermarkets are full of people not from this municipo because there is nothing is in the Chavista districts. Hopefully this is a brutal lesson in economic geography for most Venezuelans who still dont get it: businesses are not charities, it is a total headache to run a business because it is a HUGE RESPONSIBILITY, nobody is going to sell for a loss, and this is what you get when you have a communist government who want to believe economic laws do not exist and it is all just a big conspiracy (oligarchy/el imperio vs el pueblo).

  4. We’re slowly but surely getting away from working with the general public and just selling in bulk to preferred clients. Less risk, less hassle chasing people who promised but failed to pay, and actually more profit in the end because the goods don’t sit on the shelves for a week or two.

  5. Just what the Master Plan for Complete Cubanization of Kleptozuela calls for. Run businesses down, leaving only the Corruptos and Complicit crooks with some businesses, and kicking every honest, hard working business people out of the country. Que se vayan o que roben con ellos. And when they finally leave the country, as almost 4 Millions people have quite recently, they start working overseas and sending back BILLIONS of US$ and Euros in “remesas” back home to help starving family members. Perfect. All acoording to the master plan, final phase of the Complete Cubanization of Narco-Kleptozuela.

  6. The Chavistas have essentially put the onus of paying the pueblo on the shop owners, even declaring what the salaries will be. Despite the threats, there is no way to make people work at a loss – the very idea is ludicrous – so one by one the shops will close putting the while thing on the Chavistas. At some point soon, once they have squeezed value from every last citizen and shop owner, the Chavistas won’t be able to pass the buck anymore, and an immediate crisis is sure to follow.

    The private sector is running on fumes, with basically no means to refuel, so to speak. Can’t go on forever.

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