Venezuela threatens to expropriate bakers that don’t obey new bread regulations

People buy bread at a state-run bakery in Caracas, Venezuela, June 25, 2016.
People buy bread at a state-run bakery in Caracas, Venezuela, June 25, 2016. (REUTERS/Mariana Baz)

According to Roman poet Juvenal, people hope for just two things: bread and circuses.

While there is no word on the circus, Venezuela’s beleaguered government is demanding that bakers at least give the people bread.

The socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro threatened earlier this week to expropriate bakeries in Caracas that fail to adhere to new regulations aimed at tackling widespread bread shortages.

Industry spokespersons, though, said it is physically impossible to abide by the new rules and that if the government expropriates the city’s 709 bakeries some 7,000 jobs would be at risk.

Venezuela does not produce its own wheat and instead relies on imports, which it sends to mills where it is ground into flour and then distributed to bakeries. The new regulations, which come on top of existing price controls and foreign exchange controls, require that 90 percent of flour must be used to bake bread and only 10 percent can be used for pastries and cakes.

The government also demanded that bakers must have a constant supply of bread throughout the day and hold over bread from the previous day for sale the next day.

The government accused bakeries of trying to maximize their profits – and in turn creating the bread shortages and long queues – by baking pastries rather than simple baguette-style bread. While the price of baguettes and French-style breads are controlled by Venezuela’s government, croissants and other sweet baked goods can be sold at higher prices.

“Speculators who hide the bread from the people will face the weight of the law,” Maduro said, according to the BBC. “They’re going to pay, I swear….