Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has accused Portugal of being behind a pork shortage that left thousands of Venezuela’s poor without their traditional Christmas dinner and sparked a fresh round of angry street protests. Portugal denies this, blames it on market forces…Venezuela hadn’t paid for last year’s pork delivery.
On Wednesday Maduro announced he had been unable to distribute thousands of pork hind legs to the poorest neighborhoods in the country — as he had promised earlier in the month. And he put the blame squarely on Portugal.
“What happened to the pork?” Maduro asked during a Wednesday televised address. “They sabotaged us. I can name a country: Portugal.”
Like many in Latin America, Venezuelans typically eat pork legs, known locally as pernil de cerdo, during the Christmas holidays. Maduro had promised to distribute the pork as part of the monthly subsidized food ration for low-income families.
“It was all set, because we had bought all the pork there was in Venezuela, we bought it all. So we had to import, and so I gave the order and I signed the payments. But they went after the bank accounts, they went after the two giant ships that were coming. They have sabotaged us,” Maduro said.
It’s not unusual for the Venezuelan government to blame other countries, including the United States, for its crippling economic woes.
Responding to Maduro’s comments, Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva,told Portuguese Radio TSF that the government had no power to “sabotage the pork hind leg….”We live in a market economy, exports are the competency of companies,” Santos Silva said.
Portuguese food company Raporal, which supplied pork hind legs to Venezuela in 2016, issued a statement saying that Venezuela still owed it, and its parent company Agrovarius, close to 40 million euros stemming from last year’s order of 14,000 tons of pork hind legs.
The statement, reported by Portuguese public broadcaster RTP, added that Venezuela had made some payments on that debt — but that no payment had been received since August.
Raporal had not provided any pork to the Venezuelan government in 2017, the company said. It had received a promise from the Venezuelan ambassador that full payment of the 2016 debt would be made no later than March 2018.
“Raporal is not aware of any act of sabotage by Portugal in relation to to the supply of pork hind legs to Venezuela, but rather confirms that it is Venezuela that has not timely fulfilled its payment obligations.”
Venezuelans who protested on Wednesday and Thursday said they were angry that another government promise had been broken.