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Operating a privately owned bakery at a profit is now a crime in one South American country. The nation’s government is seizing bakeries and jailing bakers who make anything but loaves of bread.
At least two bakeries in Venezuela have been seized and four people jailed as part of the “bread war” declared by President Nicolas Maduro, The Miami Herald reported. It is part of Maduro’s effort to end bread lines and shortages of baked goods in the country.
Maduro sent soldiers to more than 700 bakeries to enforce a rule that 90 percent of their production must be bread , not pastries or cakes, Reuters reported. A least one bakery will be run by the government for three months.
Bakeries in Venezuela can only produce French bread or white bread, with government supplied flour, under Maduro’s orders. They then must sell the bread at prices set by the government. It is also illegal to make items like brownies, sweet rolls and croissants.
Flour Shortage and Bread Shortage
The problem is that the government is not supplying the bakeries with any flour because it cannot pay for flour or wheat, said Juan Crespo of the Industrial Flour Union, a group that represents Venezuela’s bakers.
“The government isn’t importing enough wheat,” Crespo said. “If you don’t have wheat, you don’t have flour, and if you don’t have flour, you don’t have bread.”
Around 80 percent of Venezuela’s bakeries are out of flour, Reuters reported.
“The bakeries are showing the authorities that they have no bread inventory,” Crespo said. “The government has to see the reality.”
Venezuela has to import 120 tons of wheat a month to supply demand, but that is not happening, Crespo said. Venezuela’s government has had trouble paying many of its bills. Some news reports indicate the country has not even been able to pay the company that prints its currency .
One result of the currency crunch is food lines in Venezuelan cities, where people stand in line for hours just to buy bread. Another is food rationing, food riots  and empty supermarket shelves.
“Those behind the ‘bread war’ are going to pay, and don’t let them say later it is political persecution,” Maduro said in a statement.
Many of the bakeries will have to close if they are unable to sell pastries and other high priced products, Crespo said. That means the situation might soon get far worse because of Maduro’s “solution.”
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