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Venezuela draft decree lets government take control of supermarkets

President Hugo Chavez's government has drafted a decree allowing officials to take control of food distribution chains, including supermarkets and storage depots, if services are interrupted, officials said Sunday.

Industry and Commerce Minister Maria Cristina Iglesias said the decree would help curb supply problems that have caused severe shortages of meats, milk and sugar in recent weeks.
Industry officials blame the shortages on price controls that oblige retailers to sell at a loss, while the government says the fault lies with unscrupulous speculators, including supermarket owners and distributors, who hoard food or boost prices.

The National Assembly, which is entirely controlled by a coalition of pro-Chavez parties, approved legislation last month granting the Venezuelan leader authority to enact sweeping measures by presidential decree as his government steers the poverty-stricken South American country toward socialism.

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