Nicolas Maduro, the embattled Venezuelan president, has threatened to throw the managers of food giant Kraft Heinz into prison for hoarding, describing them as “bourgeois parasites”.Look forward to a big "free-stuff" giveaway just prior to the vote on Sunday. Last time it was electronics. This year it'll probably be Mac & Cheese.
Mr Maduro, who is likely to lose control of the National Assembly on Sunday in the most hotly-contested election in more than a decade, took aim at the company during his weekly Tuesday night show.
“So we have the company Heinz – I don’t know who owns it,” he said, seated behind his desk in the style of his charismatic predecessor Hugo Chavez, wearing his trademark tracksuit.
“Tomorrow the authorities will go to inspect it. And if the bosses are sabotaging it, then they must go to prison. Immediately. Enough with this impunity. They must go to prison. All the managers.”
Mr Maduro, who has regularly accused the US of “imperialism” and sabotage, said that workers had told him food was being wasted. And he told the local staff he would attack them with an “arm of steel”.
“I believe in the workers,” he said. “Whenever you speak to the managers they say: ‘Oh it’s because we’re running out of dollars,’ and so on. Well, they are out of time.
“Enough with bourgeois parasites. The people are sending a clear message, and I am clearly receiving that message in my heart.
“Run, or we will put you in prison. I know they are hoarding to pressure the people.
“It’s over, saboteurs. Parasites.”
Kraft Heinz, the world's fifth largest food company, told The Telegraph they did not wish to comment on the threats. By Wednesday afternoon, almost 24 hours after Mr Maduro's speech, there was no sign of raids or arrests at the company's sites.
The Venezuelan leader has been rattled by the impending election, which threatens to end the dominance of the “Chavista” politics that has ruled Venezuela since Chavez was elected in 2002.
With Chavez’s untimely death from cancer in March 2013, aged 58, Mr Maduro took over the reins of the regime. But, lacking his predecessor’s skill or charisma, he has failed to hold the fractious country together.
The latest poll puts the opposition MUD coalition on 57 per cent, with the government at 37 per cent. Mr Maduro has said he would govern in a "civilian military union" if the opposition wins, leading to fears of widespread social unrest.