Venezuela hands US factory to its workers, Maduro announces new mission to tackle shortages

July 12, 2016

Graffiti on the Kimberly Clark Corporation factory gates reads: "No to the closure".

The Venezuelan government announced on July 11 that it had seized a factory of the US company Kimberly Clark Corporation — producer of numerous personal, feminine, and baby care brands including Huggies, Kotex, and many others, TeleSUR English said that day. The government will hand the factory to its workers to continue manufacturing after the firm said it couldn't produce.

Morning Star Online said Maduro accused Kimberly-Clark of participating in an international plot to damage the country's economy.

The move acts on a government pledge to take over foreign-owned facilities shuttered in the face of economic challenges in the country.

The factory takeover comes as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro launched a new program aimed at tackling shortages of food and medical supplies in the South American country, TeleSUR English said.

Titled the Great Sovereign and Safe Supply Mission, the project will focus on the food, pharmaceutical, and industrial sectors in Venezuela. It will take place under the oversight of the president and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Maduro announced Monday evening.

The socialist president reiterated his criticisms of an “economic war” and a campaign by the US-backed right-wing opposition to “sabotage” the government. Maduro said that while the shortages are real, these have also been exaggerated by the opposition and mainstream media to delegitimise the his government and the pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution.

Maduro said he hopes that the new plan will help to “impose order and authority in all channels of the economy.”

The program will aim to develop more efficient local production as well as a new system to effectively distribute basic products to tackle some of the root problems of the crisis, which the government has repeatedly linked to the largely private control over supply chain from production to distribution.

In his July 11, Maduro said that 93% of distribution networks in the country are privately owned, which “is pulverising” the system and among the root causes of the shortage problems.

Maduro's Supply Mission is a multi-pronged program including measure related to production, pricing, research and development, and logistics, among others. It includes strategies for direct monitoring over production and distribution of food, medicines, and other basic goods in the name of ensuring processes are carried out with transparency and according to the law.

In May, the Maduro government extended the country's state of emergency for 60 days in the name of tackling the “economic warfare."

Morning Star Online said that speaking on television and radio, the president also disclosed on July 11 that US banking corporation Citibank, which has handled some of the state's international transactions, has notified the government that it will close the accounts of the Central Bank of Venezuela in 30 days.

He linked both actions to the economic war on his country, calling it President Barack Obama's “new imperialist inquisition.”

Labour Minister Oswaldo Vera had earlier said the government would take over the Kimberly-Clark factory at the request of the 971 workers who have occupied the plant in central Aragua state that the company has decided to close down.

Kimberley-Clark announced on July 9 that it was suspending production in Venezuela because of a lack of primary materials, currency trouble and soaring inflation.

“Kimberly-Clark will continue producing for all Venezuelans,” declared Mr Vera in a televised statement from the factory surrounded by workers chanting pro-government slogans.

The minister said that the factory closure was illegal and that it had reopened “in the hands of the workers.”

He explained that almost 1000 workers had urged him to restart production, adding: “We've just turned on the first machine.”

The Texas-based company claimed on Monday to have acted appropriately in suspending operations. Kimberly-Clark joins Bridgestone, General Mills, Procter & Gamble and other transnational corporations in scaling back operations in Venezuela to exacerbate the country's economic crisis, Morning Star Online said.

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