Portugal blamed for ruining Christmas in Venezuela
A shortage of Portuguese ham, normally shipped to Venezuela, has deprived families of an essential ingredient of a perfect Christmas and New Year meal.
Locals in Caracas and elsewhere in the troubled country have been protesting about shortages, despite President Nicolas Maduro’s promise before Christmas that supplies from Portugal would be forthcoming.
Maduro reamins in charge of the country as it bows under the pressure of a falling oil price, political unrest and endemic corruption leading to food and medicine shortages and an IMF inflation forecast of 2,300% for the current year.
Maduro acknowledged problems with pork supplies from Portugal and immediately blamed economic sanctions imposed by Washington, and an “act of sabotage” by Portugal, which exports the traditional Christmas and New Year ham on the bone.
“Where did the ham go? We have been sabotaged. It’s the fault of one country: Portugal,” Maduro told national media.
Lisbon denied the accusations, saying that this is a commercial matter and not a government one, hence there is no statement to be made.
Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, did say that, “the Portuguese government certainly does not have the power to sabotage ham.”
“We live in a market economy and exports are the jurisdiction of business. There was obviously no political interference,” said Santos.
Raporal, a Portuguese exporter of ham on the bone, said Venezuela owes about €40 million to suppliers under a €63.5 million contract signed in 2016 and until it pays up, no more supplies will be sent – Christmas or no Christmas.
Colombia stepped in with a shipment of 55 tonnes of emergency ham supplies after protests started to get violent.
Truckloads of ham started to arrive in on Friday night with further supplies held up on Saturday,” awaiting final procedural approval,” according to a customs source.
On Sunday, a pregnant 18-year-old Venezuelan woman died after being shot in the head in Caracas as she waited in line at a military outpost to buy ham for her New Year meal.
Alexandra Conopio, who was five months pregnant, was shot as she and other residents of the Antimano neighbourhood in the west of the capital were approached by ‘drunken guardsmen’ who asked them to leave.
The residents refused to leave and after some argument, two guards opened fire, killing the woman and injuring a man.
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