CARACAS, Venezuela -- The government may be holding a clearance sale of sorts this weekend after adding a new asset to its portfolio of confiscated farms and factories: the nation's largest manufacturer of toilet paper.
The seizure of the plant owned by Manpa, short for Manufacturas de Papel, was announced in a social media message sent out by Vice President Jorge Arreaza on Friday and comes as Venezuela is plagued by scarcities of paper goods including disposable diapers and sanitary napkins, which Manpa also makes.
In the past, the government has taken over meat processing companies, rice farms and dairy concerns in reaction to what it said were high prices and hoarding. The Venezuelan government sets prices for basic food items and household goods, often at low levels that private concerns say leave no margin for profit.
Karlin Granadillo, superintendent of the price regulatory agency known as Sundecop, said in a statement over state-owned media that the National Guard would remain at the Manpa plant in La Hamaca, Aragua state, while the "temporary occupation" is carried out.
The aim of the takeover is to check Manpa operations for "possible diversion of distribution" and "illegal management," Granadillo said in her statement over the AVN official news agency.
Some observers expect the government to soon hold a massive sale of the seized paper goods from the factory.
Under the late president Hugo Chavez, who died in March, the socialist government took over hundreds of companies and thousands of acres of privately owned farm- and ranch-land and gave them to cooperatives. Farm and manufacturing productivity have declined after the takeovers, exacerbating scarcities and the need to import food and other household items.