Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced new measures in his battle against "speculation" and ordered the arrest of merchants who have raised the prices of their products after being inspected to make sure they had lowered them.
Just 10 days before municipal elections, which the opposition has framed as a referendum on his government, all the nation's radio and television outlets were obliged to broadcast an appearance by Maduro, surrounded by his entire Cabinet at the Miraflores presidential palace, in which he called for an "economic revolution" to protect the "productive middle class."
"This is an economic revolution that we must carry out, a new, productive economic model. We have what it takes, we have the know-how...and nothing or nobody is going to stop our drive to place the economic revolution at the center of our administration," he said.
Shortly before, Maduro had ordered the arrest of merchants who raised the prices of their products after receiving the government order to lower them and after being inspected to make sure they had done so.
"Starting Saturday, all the inspections that are made and clearly show that prices have been marked up following the last inspection, or that despite this national day (of economic revolution) they continue to charge the usual speculative prices in a fraudulent way, we will act with all the severity of the law," Maduro said.
"We have to be very strict with these backsliders," he said, recalling that Friday is the 23rd day since he launched "the economic offensive" to lower product prices by ordering the occupation of a chain of electrical-appliance stores accused of speculating.
The Venezuelan economy is going through a period of very low growth - 1.4 percent in the first three quarters of 2013 - high inflation that by October had reached 45.8 percent, and shortages of all kinds of consumer goods, just as the nation prepares to hold its municipal elections on Dec. 8. EFE