Guardian and Venezuela — An UpdateAugust 8th, 2016 by Trey Barrineau
Since news broke last week that the government of Venezuela seized Guardian Industries’ float glass plant in the country, it’s been difficult to find credible updates on the situation.
Outside of news organizations that cover the glass and fenestration industries, including DWM and its sister publication USGlass, there has been little or no coverage in the U.S. media. For obvious reasons, Guardian has declined to comment after issuing a brief press release on August 1 announcing the plant seizure.
Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy’s press attache in Venezuela referred DWM to Guardian’s corporate offices for comment. The Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C., didn’t reply to DWM‘s e-mails. E-mails sent to the Guardian facility in Venezuela went unanswered as well, and the plant’s website has been down for many days.
During this time, Venezuela’s government has told sympathetic media outlets there that Guardian closed the plant weeks ago as part of an “economic war” U.S. businesses are waging against the country. And while officials in Venezuela have been making that claim for years, most analysts cite the collapse of global oil prices, combined with the country’s disastrous socialist economic policies, for causing the drastic food shortages, skyrocketing inflation and soaring unemployment that have engulfed the nation. To prevent a popular uprising, the government declared a state of emergency in mid-May and ordered the state seizure of factories.
Adding to the uncertainty is the basic untrustworthiness of many Venezuelan news organizations, which have been forced to work as mouthpieces for the state. According to Reporters Without Borders, the country ranks 139th out of 180 in global press freedom. That’s down two spots from 2015’s rankings.
“Venezuela’s president since 2013, Nicolás Maduro, does his utmost to silence independent media outlets,” according to Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 press freedom report. “A law approved in 2010 provides for sanctions in the event of any content ‘calling the legitimately constituted authority into question.’ This has led to arbitrary arrests and defamation prosecutions.”
In any event, Guardian was probably having difficulty accessing primary materials to manufacture glass, in addition to dealing with the country’s currency problems and runaway inflation. That’s what happened to Kimberly-Clark, a U.S. maker of diapers and facial tissues. When it closed its factory in Maracay in July, Venezuela seized that facility, too.
Maduro is supposed to visit the Guardian plant soon. Stay tuned to DWM for updates on the situation. In the meantime, here are some tweets from Venezuela information outlets that the government claims include photos of the Guardian facility and its glass products:
According to Google Translate, this post possibly shows members of the Venezuelan military “inspecting” the Guardian plant:
— ZODI 52 MONAGAS (@ZODI_Monagas52) August 6, 2016
This tweet claims to show members of Venezuela’s armed forces “inspecting” Guardian glass at the port in Guanta:
— Bolipuertos Guanta (@BolipuertosGTA) August 7, 2016
This Twitter user appears to be sympathetic to Guardian. He says it’s “another company that for years gave stability, labor and welfare to many! BROKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT.”
Otra empresa q por años dio estabilidad laboral y bienestar a muchos! QUEBRADA POR EL GOB. GUARDIAN DE VENEZUELA pic.twitter.com/box1ktKgMK
— carlos dominguez (@carluys23) August 5, 2016
Here’s another sympathetic tweet. The translation reads: “Guardian of Venezuela is on its last few minutes as a private company, Maduro and his government continue destroying the country.”
Guardián de venezuela cumple sus últimos minutos como compañía privada, Maduro y su gobierno siguen destruyendo al país.
— José Bastardo (@josembr97) August 4, 2016
An Instagram user in Venezuela posted this photo in support of Guardian de Venezuela. Here’s what the caption says, according to Google Translate: “Ineptocracy: a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.”