Venezuelan President Reconciles With Billionaire Businessman After Accusing Him Of Hoarding Food

Nicolas Maduro
Nicolas Maduro

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and the billionaire boss of Venezuela’s biggest private company have buried the hatchet after a war of words over food shortages and other economic problems in the South American nation.

Maduro has in recent days been accusing Empresas Polar president Lorenzo Mendoza of hoarding products as part of an “economic war” on the state by private business.

Mendoza, whose company is Venezuela’s biggest beer- and flour-maker, denied that and pointedly challenged the government to sell production plants nationalized under Chavez back to the private sector to boost efficiency.

On Tuesday night, the pair met to discuss their differences in a spat seen by Venezuelans as a bellwether for state-business relations going forward under Maduro’s government.

Both sides came out of the meeting sounding reconciliatory and pledging to work together to overcome food shortages that have increased tensions in Venezuela after Maduro’s disputed election win last month.

“It was very cordial, direct, sincere meeting … We clarified we are producing at full capacity,” Mendoza said.

“The president was very kind in listening to us and communicating the need to keep investing, producing and supplying markets. That is our lifelong commitment, passion and vocation … Part of this issue (shortages) has to do with the high politicization (in Venezuela).”

Vice President Jorge Arreaza gave a similar account of the meeting. “The problem’s been overcome,” he told state TV.