Venezuela Arrests 55 Suspects in Food Corruption Ring Case

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Venezuelan investigators say they have uncovered a corruption ring within the state-owned supermarket chain Abastos Bicentenario.

Venezuelan authorities have arrested 55 suspects accused of involvement in a corruption ring within the state food sector, officials said Monday.

Interior minister Gustavo Gonzalez said the arrests were made during a joint operation including the military and police.

“This operation sought to dismantle networks of corruption that threaten the power of the people, as instructed by President Nicolas Maduro, who ordered us to not rest until we have eradicated corruption in all its forms,” the minister said.

Maduro responded to the arrests by stating his government will continue to crack down on corruption.

"They are now behind bars for trial,” he said.

“They have mocked the public trust, the responsibility given to them, have no excuse for having mocked the public trust," Maduro added.

The suspects were allegedly linked to a scam centered around the state owned supermarket chain, Abastos Bicentenario.

The chain sells basic food products at prices generally lower than private supermarkets. According to authorities, the alleged corrupt officials were funneling products intended for sale at the supermarkets into the black market, where they were resold at inflated prices. In Miranda state alone, investigators said they uncovered nearly eight metric tons of contraband meat.

Earlier this month, Abastos Bicentenario's former president Barbara Gonzalez was arrested under embezzlement charges. She has been accused of participating in a scheme that saw subsidized products being sold on the black market to private businesses at inflated prices, and pocketing the profits.

At the time, Gonzalez described her and other high ranking officials embroiled in corruption scandals as “traitors.”

“They were taking advantage of activities that had been entrusted to them for personal gain,” he said.

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