Venezuelan pharmacy says managers freed pending trial

CARACAS (Reuters) – Pharmacy chain Farmatodo said on Saturday two of its managers have been freed from jail pending trial on charges in an emblematic case of what President Nicolas Maduro calls Venezuela’s “economic war.”

Farmatodo Executive President Pedro Angarita and Operations Vice President Agustin Alvarez were detained last month and face charges of “boycott” and “economic destabilization” for allegedly exacerbating shopping lines.

A Caracas court has authorized their release provided they report every two weeks during legal proceedings, said a company spokesman, who asked not to be named.

For months, many of the chain’s 167 stores, which sell food and hygiene products as well as medicines, have seen huge lines of shoppers amid scarcities of basic products.

Maduro’s critics say Venezuela’s economic troubles are the product of 15 years of hardline socialism, especially nationalizations and currency controls that leave importers struggling for dollars.

The government blames opposition leaders and unscrupulous businessmen, saying they have been encouraged by the United States and foreign media to attack the economy via hoarding, smuggling, price-gouging and provoking lines.

Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy shrank 2.8 percent and had inflation of 68 percent last year, the worst performance in Latin America. Given the oil price slide has slashed revenues by half, most economists predict further contraction in 2015.

According to local pollster Datanalisis, Venezuelans spend an average six hours per week in shopping lines.

(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Corina Pons; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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Venezuelan pharmacy says managers freed pending trial
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