Turns out, we happen to be living in a world in which one can actually be arrested for baking brownies. And yes, there is such a thing as a brownie that is simultaneously void of THC but is still illegal.
Earlier this week, Venezuelan authorities arrested four bakers for making brownies and other baked goods containing flour milled from wheat, a resource that is deeply scarce as a result of Venezuela's ongoing economic crisis. The arrests were made as inspectors and soldiers were sent to more than 700 bakeries throughout Caracas to enforce a rule stating that 90 percent of the nation's wheat stocks must be used for loaves of bread, not more expensive baked goods like cakes or pastries.
The inspections and resulting arrests came amid threats by President Nicolás Maduro's government to take control of bakeries throughout Caracas as part of the country's ongoing "bread war."
Karlin Granadillo, Venezuela's Superintendent for Fair Costs and Prices, released a statement to media outlets yesterday explaining that two of the bakers arrested were discovered to be using too much wheat in baked goods such as sweet bread and cachitos, a ham-filled croissant wildly popular throughout Venezuela. Granadillo stated that the other two bakers arrested during the citywide inspection had made brownies with out-of-date wheat.
As a result of the arrests, at least one bakery has been temporarily taken over by authorities for a 90-day period. That followed a warning by Vice President Tareck El Aissami last Sunday that uncooperative bakeries would be occupied by the government.
The United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which Maduro represents, has blamed pro-opposition businesses for sabotaging the nation's economy and artificially inflating prices and demand through the hoarding of basic goods. Meanwhile, critics of Maduro are blaming the mass shortages and price hikes on the president's failed economic policies.
Reuters reports that the country's breadmakers have accused the government of creating the nationwide shortage of wheat, stating that 80 percent of bakeries have absolutely no wheat left in stock. Fevipan, Venezuela's bakers' federation, has stated that government imports of wheat this year are not enough to guarantee a steady supply of flour. The group is asking to meet with President Maduro in the hopes of explaining to him that they are unable to make ends meet without being able to sell higher-priced baked goods.
An employee at one Caracas bakery told Agence France Press, "When there's flour, we sell bread, but they only send it every 15 or 20 days," and that when they are sent flour "we are given 20 sacks and normally we'd need eight a day."
Maduro is unlikely to be sympathetic to the bakers' pleas. Earlier this week, he said, "Those behind the 'bread war' are going to pay, and don't let them say later it is political persecution."
The bread war has truly taken an ugly turn, especially for lovers of sweets.