CARACAS, Saturday September 10, 2005 | Update
* Federation of Trade and Industry Chambers head José
Luis Betancourt rebutted military occupation and closing of
productive facilities in the states of Barinas, Yaracuy, Guárico
* Fedecámaras showed solidarity with Empresas Polar following seizure of silos in south-western Barinas state, including military occupation and closing of facilities, in express violation of the national constitution."
* According to Betancourt, "such actions create a climate that violates overtly people's fundamental rights (...) as well as the right of property, economic freedoms, and due process of private liberty."
* "Those who protect such action disregard all of us, who want to live in peace and produce for the country's sake," said the organization in a press release.
* Betancourt voiced businesspersons' concern "about prevailing violence, insecurity and impunity, as well as the terrorist practice of kidnapping that endangers the Venezuelan people."
* "We ask the national government for urgent implementation of a citizen's security policy."
* Empresas Polar legal representative Gustavo Grau filed with the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) a document showing that Remavenca plant -a corn processing facility- located in southwestern Barinas state is fully operational. This site was seized on August 31 by military officers as instructed by the Minister of Agriculture and Lands Antonio Albarrán.
* Grau stated that he submitted a report prepared by the Second Public Notary Office in Barinas following an eye inspection in the plant, a certificate issued by the Light Industries and Commerce Ministry, as well as certificates issued by a department of the Agriculture and Lands Ministry.
* Such pieces of evidence show beyond any doubt that the Remavenca plant that was seized was fully operational "both regarding receipt, storage and conditioning in silos of cereals, namely corn, and the operations of the business office of Alimentos Polar based in this facility."
* He claimed that Empresas Polar filed an action with TSJ alleging that the firm's rights to property, economic freedom and due process were infringed.
* He underscored that, according to a notice the Agriculture and Lands Ministry published in a local newspaper, this move against Remavenca may be described as an expropriation.
* The Church of the Mercy, located at low-income neighborhood Winche, in Fila de Mariches, Miranda state, under the aegis of sisters Laura and Salesian fathers, was invaded by pro-government so-called Endogenous Battle Units (UBE) in order to accommodate a command post of military security comprising National Guard troopers.
* The legal representative of the religious congregation, Morelba Morillo, said this move not only runs counter the rights of the community, but it also infringes a concordat between the Vatican and Venezuela, under which the Church of the Mercy is granted juridical protection.
* This congregation was established as Vicarage of Saint Catalina by the Archdiocese of Caracas.
* The founder member, Luis Perico, ensured that efforts by Catholic Church and the community to finish construction of this temple have failed, and the facility is not even provided with power supply.
* Both Morillo and Perico agreed that a place intended to pay community services on behalf of the Catholic Church should not be turned into "a warehouse for weapons."
* "Even though the facility is precarious, father Pablo officiated mass on Sundays, and other community services were offered," Perico added.
* Morillo asserted that El Winche neighbors rejected the "arbitrary move" by President Hugo Chávez' supporters.
* She added that the members of the Church of the Mercy in the next few days were to file a complaint with the relevant Church authorities, the Apostolic Nuncio, and the Holy See, as they claimed that "the concordat law was violated, and for the first time Venezuela has become an aggressor of the Catholic Church."
* Multinational corporation Heinz called for an explanation from President Hugo Chávez administration regarding the seizure of one of the company's facilities by the regional government of eastern Monagas state.
* In a press release, the corporation said they were waiting for an official reply from authorities, as "so far, we have not received any notice from official bodies regarding the intervention and/or expropriation of the plant in Caicara de Maturín, Monagas state. It is fair enough to expect that any moves are made under the rule of law."
* Heinz claimed that they were open to talks and wanted to meet with Venezuelan authorities. They clarified, however, that market conditions forced them to take "a break" at the plant, and they had plans to put it for sale.
* In the press release, Heinz claimed "one of the reasons for the suspension of activities in the plant was the fact that local farmers failed to meet agreements with Heinz to supply tomatoes (...) this resulted in a lack of raw material essential for the operation of the facilities."
* Meanwhile, the Monagas state governor's office issued a press release asserting that Heinz bought the plant and "closed it immediately; there were no operations. They processed tomato pulp from Brazil and other countries at the plant located in Carabobo state. Farmers in Caicara could never use the plant."
* "For now, governor "the Cat" Briceño handed over the tomato processing plant at Caicara de Maturín to the Monagas military garrison."
* Briceño said the restoration of the facilities is under way. Several Italian companies are interested in having a stake in the plant and operations could be resumed by year's end.
* Also, Agriculture and Lands Minister, Antonio Albarrán, informed that a survey to determine the operational status of agro-industrial facilities in Venezuela would be finished in one month. He added that local offices of the ministry are to assess the installed capacity of all agro-industrial concerns nationwide.
* Marcela Máspero, coordinator of pro-government National Workers' Union (UNT), said they are to seize approximately 800 companies they found to be inoperative, with the support of President Hugo Chávez' government.
* "As a response to the attacks from neo-liberalism and capitalism, we are now going to use the mechanisms of workers. Now, together with communities, we are going to take over these industrial concerns. We cannot let the closure of companies to lead to the collapse of the productive apparatus."
* Máspero explained they are to ask the National Assembly for a decision declaring these companies as public property. In this way, actual owners would be prevented from using both facilities and equipment needed for a likely reactivation of production. Chávez followers have plans to resume production under the so-called co-management schemes allegedly sponsored by the Labor Ministry.
* She said that eight plants have already been seized. Besides Alimentos Polar's corn processing plant Probamasa, in south-western Barinas state, and one tomato processing plant owned by multinational firm Heinz, in eastern Monagas states, pro-government labor activists, together with military officers and the relevant governors, have recently taken over facilities owned by Parmalat in western Zulia state; Parmalat, in western Lara state; Sideroca Proacero, in western Zulia state; Inveval, in Miranda state; Invepal, in central Carabobo state; and Fribarsa, in south-western Barinas state.
* Regarding the lawfulness of these moves, the national coordinator of UNT claimed that "we seize the plant first, and then try to solve the issue of ownership, as there is always a reason for takeover."
* Alimentos Polar has accepted an invitation from Agriculture and Lands Minister Antonio Albarrán to talk about the seizure of one of the food-processing corporation's plants by local authorities in southwestern Barinas state.
* In a press release, Alimentos Polar said: "Since you have invited this firm, during a news conference, to talk about the situation in the premises of Barinas I, we would like you to know that we are willing to accept such an invitation. We are looking forward to hear from you soon so as to arrange a meeting in your office."
* "The current de facto situation and the lack of communications from your office have been so serious that we have been forced to file an action with the Supreme Tribunal of Justice seeking an order for our personnel to return to work in Barinas and resume operations..."
* Replying to Alimentos Polar letter, Albarrán said he could meet with the company's representatives next Monday or Tuesday.
* He affirmed he has never closed his doors to dialogue and is willing to listen to the corporation.
* The National Lands Institute (Inti) and the National Guard Friday took over La Marqueseña ranch in south-western Barinas state, said Carlos Azpúrua, manager of the six farming and cattle-raising firms operating in the estate. Azpúrua ensured that the ranch is fully operational, as they produce milk and grow corn, among other crops.
* The opposition Alianza Agroalimentaria (Venezuela's Agro-Food Alliance) asked Friday to stop expropriation and seizure of manufactures and productive companies, as well as "cessation of violence and confrontation in rural Venezuela."
* Hiram Gaviria, the alliance's president said, "there is backlash in operational agricultural units, as well a hunger and despair. This move seeks to mask government failure in agriculture and agro-food matters."
* The alliance urged "the whole country" to dialogue and cooperation, and asked farmers, agricultural businesses and universities to make a policy for increasing production, job creation and peasants' better quality of life.
* Also, it was stressed that private property should be ensured, and expropriation should be in accordance with law.
02:57 PM. HEAVY RAINS. Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua reported that the government is designing plans to support farmers, cattlemen and peasants of the state of Mérida who have been hit by heavy rains that have caused crop losses.