Chavez Orders Acquisition Of Mexican Food Company

Fabiola Sanchez
Associated Press Writer

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez’s government ordered the “forced acquisition” Thursday of a Mexican-owned food company that is one of the largest operating in Venezuela.

A notice in the Official Gazette announced the expropriation of the property and assets of Molinos Nacionales CA, or Monaca.

Monaca, which owns plants for the production, processing and storage of foods such as flour, rice, oil, oats, seafood, condiments and spices, did not immediately comment.

Majority owner Grupo Maseca of Monterrey, Mexico, did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment. Known as Gruma, the company is the world’s No. 1 producer of corn and flour tortillas and exports to 70 countries around the world.

In December, Venezuelan authorities declared a 90-day government receivership to control Monaca’s operations and bank accounts as part of a plan to recover assets linked to jailed banker Ricardo Fernandez, who is charged with misappropriating deposits and inappropriate lending.

As part of that action, the government named a representative to Monaca’s board.

At the time, Gruma said Fernandez was only a minority shareholder in Monaca and played no role on its board.

Last month, the Mexican company accused Venezuelan authorities of trying to punish its local subsidiary for supposedly refusing to sell locally produced corn flour.

Gruma says it controls about 73 percent of Monaca, as well as another Venezuelan subsidiary called Demaseca.

Chavez’s government has expropriated a number of companies in the energy, telecommunications, food, electricity and cement sectors in recent years as he moves the country toward a socialist model.

H/T Cameron

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