The Venezuelan government ordered a freeze on the prices of 18 products with the entry into force on Tuesday of the new Fair Price Law, with which Caracas intends to take one more step toward the realization of President Hugo Chavez's socialist plan.

The government began implementing the new regulation in the hope of being able to rein in the country's high inflation rate.

The free market, Chavez said, has become "a perverse mechanism where the largest monopolies, the largest transnationals, the creole bourgeoisie dominate and plunder the peoples through those mechanisms."

His words were accompanied by the announcement by Vice President Elias Jaua that "starting from this moment" the prices of 18 products will be frozen until the authorities can determine a new maximum value for them.

Among the products whose prices were frozen are natural water, fruit juices, bleach, soap, liquid dishwashing fluids, cleaners, shampoo, deodorants, toilet paper and throwaway diapers.

"Keep your eyes peeled," said Chavez to the new price inspectors, going on to specifically mention multinationals such as Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever Andina, as well as Venezuelan food giant Alimentos Polar.

The president alluded during his address to the prices of sanitary napkins that cost significantly less abroad than they do in Venezuela and a brand of toothpaste that in Mexico can be bought for one-fifth its price in this Andean nation.

"What certainly is not normal are these prices," said Chavez, who upon signing the law in July said that price controls were "vital" to achieving his socialist transformation in a country where inflation is running at nearly 23 percent per year.

The vice president said that during 2012 other goods and services will be incorporated into the price-control structure, "especially those that have a high inflationary index and that have become an outrage against the purchasing power of the Venezuelan family."

The governor of the Venezuelan Central Bank, Armando Leon, warned Tuesday that the new regulation "is a law that has to be evaluated very well, has to be applied very well, because if it's not done in that way it can become a boomerang."

Leon acknowledged that an economy "cannot function completely subject to a price law mechanism," adding that "there are going to be some sectors that are going to be permanently monitored."

Venezuela's main business group, Fedecamaras, has already announced that it will challenge the law in the courts.

The measure "will restrict the possibility of creating jobs, maintaining stable companies and greater supply," Fedecamaras leader Jorge Botti said Monday.