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The Billionaire Mogul Fighting to Feed Venezuela's Hungry Masses

November 14, 2017

He’s one of Latin America’s most private billionaires. But as Venezuela lurches through the worst economic, social and political crisis in its history, he’s also become something of a Han Solo figure, called on by the famished masses to fight for them.

Lorenzo Mendoza, 52, doesn’t exactly come off as a gunslinger, though. Worth $1.5 billion as of March 2016, the father of four is known for being pragmatic and keeping a low profile. Yet his popularity could give the Luke Skywalkeresque opposition leader Leopoldo López a run for his money. Why? Because Mendoza is CEO of a company President Nicolás Maduro’s regime desperately needs: Empresas Polar, Venezuela’s largest private company, which churns out a host of food staples — from margarine and mayonnaise to cooking oil — average citizens can’t do without.

In other words, Lorenzo Mendoza is feeding the Venezuela that Maduro can’t...

Guillermo Zubillaga, director of the Venezuela working group at Americas Society, says no one is doing well, not even the state oil company PDVSA. “The most striking thing to me is that [Mendoza’s] still committed to Venezuela despite being able to take his company elsewhere,” says Zubillaga. “It’s remarkable to me that they’re still delivering food"....

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