CARACAS (Reuters) - Several employees of Pepsi-Cola Venezuela have been detained in an “arbitrary” manner after halting operations at one plant for lack of raw materials, according to food company Empresas Polar, which owns the local Pepsi PEP.N operation.
President Nicolas Maduro has routinely accused Polar, the country’s largest food and beverage producer, of slowing production or hoarding goods to spur product shortages in the OPEC nation’s struggling economy. Polar denies that.
The company said via Twitter that labor ministry inspectors arrested workers and ordered the reactivation of its plant in the town of Caucagua in the central state of Miranda.
“We denounce the detention of workers at the Pepsi-Cola Vzla Caucagua plant,” the company said via its Twitter account, promising to launch a legal defense of its workers. “In the case of the Caucagua Plant, we do not have sufficient raw materials.”
The company said those production lines are halted because of delays in the country’s currency control system that have left it unable to import the necessary raw materials. It did not offer further details.
Reuters was unable to immediately obtain comment from the government.
Venezuelan media have reported that labor ministry inspectors along with local police ordered the arrest of the manager, two human resources workers and a lawyer at the plant.
Maduro has described the country’s chronic product shortages as the product of an “economic war” led by opposition leaders and private companies.
His critics say currency controls have left companies unable to obtain imported machine parts and raw materials while price controls have made it unprofitable to produce many basic consumer goods.
The decaying state-led model created by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez has also suffered heavily from last year’s collapse in the price of oil, which provides nearly all of the country’s export revenue.
The ruling Socialist Party lost control of congress for the first time in 16 years in a sweeping opposition victory this month that was driven largely by anger over the economic crisis.
Reporting by Deisy Buitrago Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by James Dalgleish