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Published: Thursday, June 03, 2010
Bylined to: Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Venezuelan government pursues rotting food wastage as more cases emerge

VHeadline News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue reports:  The case of the rotting and decomposed food found in containers at Puerto Cabello customs yard continues to hold public attention, especially among government supporters.

Interior & Justice (MIJ) Minister Tarek El Aissami has stated that more arrests are possible as the investigation into the huge waste takes shape. The former president of the State PDVAL food distribution service will be formally charged today for his part in the mess.

The government, El Aissami said, will establish responsibilities and apply penalties in a transparent fashion. "The public must know the results of the battle in public and private administration ... we have an implacable battle against internal corruption, inefficiency and bureaucracy."

The National Assembly (AN) has reacted to the scandal. AN foreign policy committee deputy, Saul Ortega has supported the investigation and criticized the opposition for latching on to the scandal when the government was already on the case.

Speculation and hoarding of food products by the bourgeoisie sector is immoral, he insisted. Ortega expounded that social programs aim to obtain special prices for food that arrives in the country to benefit less well off sectors and such examples of waste must be severely penalized.

What he would like to see, Ortega exclaimed, is responsibilities established throughout the whole chain, including the person in charge of the storage center ... "there are special conditions to comply with in each kind of food and an entry and exit protocol to follow ... the latter was not followed."

Former Central Bank of Venezuela director, Domingo Maza Zavala has joined the chorus of protest, saying the waste is a great loss for Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) . However, the essence of the scandal lies not in negligence, he stated, but in the crime committed against the population.

PDVSA has become a center of controversy, he continued, because its physical product has been contracting. While oil prices have been increasing worldwide, export volumes have not with the result that less oil revenue is coming in.

Maza Zavala brushed aside government forecasts of an economic take-off this year, declaring that there are no indications of a real recovery of economic activity. Retail sales have dropped, he said, which could be interpreted as a serious recession. The only latent positive sign is an increase in public spending, which is understandable, given the approximation of elections.

A report in El National cites a claim from inhabitants of Los Guayos (Carabobo) of 400 containers with powdered milk and cooking oil stored for the past two years in a warehouse belonging to the Transgar company.

Another complaint centered on containers at Montesano sheds in Puerto Cabello (Carabobo) allegedly containing rotting milk.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue