Polar brewery

Politics and Beer in Venezuela

Venezuela is a deeply-divided country, and the division extends to that country’s beer industry. Last year, the two biggest brewers, Polar and Regional, were running short of raw materials. Both appealed to the administration of Nicolas Maduro to release foreign currency that would allow them to import hops, barley, and tin.

Regional’s request was granted, Polar’s was denied. Maduro, a socialist, has publicly castigated Polar’s owner as a prime example of the evils of capitalism. The family that owns Regional is extremely rich as well, but it has cooperated with Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

Polar has publicly accused the government of discriminating against it. Many other businesses, local and foreign, make the same accusations in private: “play ball with the government and all will be well, speak out and harassment may follow.”

High oil prices—Venezuela is a member of OPEC—provided Chavez with plenty of access to foreign currency, but the recent collapse in crude prices has caused the supply to dry up under Maduro. Polar officials fear that the Maduro is trying to strangle the corporation by cutting off its access to dollars.

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