Caracas seizes toilet paper factory

AFP-JIJI

Venezuela’s leftist government said Saturday it had temporarily seized a major toilet paper factory, hoping to end troublesome shortages of the staple item.

“The temporary occupation of Manpa is aimed at verifying that toilet paper industry production, marketing and distribution” are all in line with state policies, Vice President Jorge Arreaza said on Twitter, without indicating how long the takeover will last. He said the decision had been taken by an economic panel that was sworn in the previous week by President Nicolas Maduro.

OPEC member Venezuela has vast crude oil resources, but efforts to centralize its economy like Cuba’s have brought an inflation rate of 32.9 percent and a toilet paper shortage rate of 20 percent.

Even hospitals have reported food shortages, while citizens routinely deal with shortages of coffee, flour, sugar or personal care basics. Venezuela imports half of its food, and the government has also been taking over large farms, hoping it can boost production.