Venezuela seizes foreign-owned supermarkets

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Venezuela seizes foreign-owned supermarkets

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The Venezuelan government has taken control of a chain of foreign owned supermarkets that it is seeking to nationalise.

Officials and employees have taken over the running of six Exito stores of which French company Casino is the majority stakeholder.

The move comes after President Hugo Chavez threatened to expropriate any company found to have raised prices unfairly.

Trade Minister Eduardo Saman said from inside one of the supermarkets:

bg. We are carrying out a temporary occupation of this establishment and later we will start the expropriation procedure. We are doing this because this establishment violated Venezuelan law by raising prices without explanation and speculating.

Venezuela devalued its Bolivar currency earlier this month and Chavez has accused companies of taking advantage by putting prices up.

But not everyone agrees with the confiscation of private firms. One Exito customer said:

To me it doesn’t seem a good thing what the president has done. What he’s doing is, because he’s not building anything, when he sees something that is already built, he takes it. It’s easy, he just expropriates it. And everything he has expropriated ends in disaster.

Venezuela also ordered the state takeover of three small banks, citing risky irregularities. The government has seized 11 banks in recent weeks and now owns a quarter of the banking sector. It has also seized oil, energy and telecoms firms.