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Chavez Government Occupies French Supermarket Chain in Venezuela

The Venezuelan government has occupied Exito supermarkets, owned by the France-based Casino Guichard-Perrachon S.A. Temporary occupation is the first step in nationalizing the supermarket chain, a move which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered on Sunday.

The chain's crime is raising prices; Chavez' policy has been to fight inflation via strict legal price controls. He recently devalued the country's currency, then sent troops to shopping districts to check for illegal price increases.

The Caracas Chamber of Commerce, in Venezuela's capital city, is furious about the move, which, according to the group's director, Victor Maldonado, will only "push us deeper into ruin." Maldonado said Chavez should "adjust his economic policy, his ideology ... and apologize to the country instead of worsening his mistakes." Chavez has nationalized several industries, and within the food industry, he expropriated a sugar plant last year and later briefly took over a Cargill rice mill.

But Casino, Exito's parent company, doesn't particularly care about the loss, according to Dow Jones -- apparently the Venezuelan subsidiary wasn't doing so well to begin with.

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