|Coming soon to the United States of Obama?|
"They are barbaric, these capitalist parasites!"
Comrade President Nicolas Maduro
Venezuela's socialist government has arrested more than 100 "bourgeois" businessmen in a crackdown on alleged price-gouging at hundreds of shops and companies since the weekend, President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday.
"They are barbaric, these capitalist parasites!" Maduro thundered in the latest of his lengthy daily speeches. "We have more than 100 of the bourgeoisie behind bars at the moment."
The successor to the late Hugo Chavez also said his government was preparing a law to limit Venezuelan businesses' profits to between 15 percent and 30 percent.
Officials say "unscrupulous" companies have been hiking prices of electronics and other goods more than 1,000 percent. Critics say failed socialist economic policies and restricted access to foreign currency are behind Venezuela's runaway inflation reports Reuters News.
"Goodyear has to lower its prices even more, 15 percent is not enough, the inspectors have go there straightaway," Maduro said in his evening address, sending officials to check local operations of the U.S.-based tire manufacturer.
Since the weekend, soldiers and inspectors have gone into 1,400 shops, taken over operations at an electronics firm and a battery-making company, and rounded up a handful of looters.
The inspections have shaken Venezuela three weeks before local elections that his opponents are casting as a referendum on the 50-year-old former bus driver. Maduro has made preserving Chavez's legacy the mainstay of his government and has been matching his former mentor's anti-capitalist rhetoric.
"It's time to deepen the offensive, go to the bone in this economic war," he said.
Only a few of the hundreds of shops targeted with surprise inspections had been found to be offering "fair prices," officials say. Some businesses are voluntarily lowering prices - or staying closed - in case the inspectors come.
"We've reduced everything by 10 to 15 percent, but it's not fair. I can't make a profit now," said the owner of one small electronics store, who asked not to be identified.
A $34.99 toaster in the US costs
$175 in Venezuela.
Venezuela's official inflation, 54 percent annually, is the highest in the Americas.
The government has ordered local telecom companies to block various websites showing the bolivar at 10 times the official rate of 6.3 to the greenback on the illegal market.
Prominent pro-opposition columnist Nelson Bocaranda said Maduro's economic policies were "chillingly similar" to those of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. The African leader also used security forces to enforce a price crackdown in 2007.
Opposition party Justice First accused the state of hypocrisy, saying its stores were also hiking prices unjustifiably.
An imported sandwich toaster, for example, that costs $34.99 in the United States, was selling at a fivefold markup of 1,100 bolivars ($175 at the official exchange rate) in state supermarket chain Bicentenario, it said.
"This shows the economic chaos Maduro has got us in where prices have no logic. The government created this monster and now tries to pretend it will control it, but Venezuelans cannot be deceived by this electoral show," Justice First said.
Like Chavez on several occasions, Maduro is seeking decree powers from Congress, which granted preliminary approval on Thursday. He says he needs the Enabling Law to fix the economy, but critics accuse Maduro of simply amassing power.
Anti-Communist Demonstrations in April
|Opposition supporters and students run away from tear gas after they clashed with riot police as they tried to block a highway in the Altamira neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 15, 2013.|
|Opposition supporters burn garbage during clashes with riot police in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 15, 2013. National Guard troops dispersed students protesting the official results of Venezuela's disputed presidential election.|
See more at the Huffington Post.com