— -- Beer is the latest victim of Venezuela's economic crisis after the country's largest brewer was forced to halt production late last week.
Empresas Polar produces about 80 percent of the beer brewed in the country, as well as various snacks and soft drinks.
The shutdown of Empresas Polar's breweries began in July 2015, when the corporation was forced to suspend operations at two of its six plants amid a shortage of barley. Empresas Polar officially shuttered the doors of its breweries entirely on April 29 after a request by the company for the U.S. dollars needed to import barley was declined by President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist-led government.
President Maduro has been the subject of intense scrutiny since succeeding Hugo Chavez in April 2013, largely because of the country's faltering economy and food shortages such as this one. Opposition lawmakers declared a “food emergency” in February due to a paucity of milk, meat, sugar, bread and other staples.
Maduro responded to this declaration by advising residents to cultivate “urban farms” to produce their own food. The ability to produce food at home, however, has been hindered by a shortage of seeds and medicine required to vaccinate farm animals, according to NPR.
One reason for Venezuela’s stark economic decline has been the overall weakness of the global oil industry. Oil has long been the engine of the country’s economy, and its oil reserves are considered to be the largest in the world, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.