CARACAS, Venezuela, Friday December 16, 2016 – Venezuelan authorities have seized 3,821,926 toys from two warehouses, and said they would be sold to the poor at low prices.
The officials have also arrested two toy company executives, who they accused of stockpiling toys and hiking prices as Christmas approaches.
The socialist country’s consumer protection agency, Sundde, claimed that toy distributor Kreisel had hoarded the goods and was reselling them at a profit margin of up to 50,000 percent.
In a tweet, along with photos and video of thousands of boxes of toys, Sundde said: “Our children are sacred, we will not let you rob them of Christmas.”
The agency also posted photos of the two executives being marched from the premises by a squad of heavily armed soldiers.
Head of Sundde, William Contreras, said Kreisel had claimed that the toys were old or discontinued.
The move follows a government order issued the previous week to retailers to reduce prices on a range of goods by 30 percent.
Business owners say the order is a populist political move, and is pushing them towards bankruptcy.
This is not the first time Venezuela has ordered price cuts on retailers, or mobilised armed units to enforce it.
The country introduced laws allowing the government to fix prices and dictate profit margins three years ago.
The legislation passed in late 2013 limited profits to 30 percent – the amount often discounted in the compulsory “adjustments” enforced by Sundde at hundreds of retailers recently.
The same measures have been used to fix the prices of basic products such as flour, meat and bread, but the reduced prices appear to have little impact in a country where shortages are rife and many people reportedly go hungry.
The country is currently in the grip of an economic crisis and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that inflation will hit 2,000 percent next year – the highest in the world.
Venezuela is issuing new, higher denominated notes as the currency meltdown reduced the worth of the largest existing note to around two US cents.