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White House Says Zimbabwe Government Further Eroding Liberty

The White House has strongly criticized Zimbabwe's government, saying its recent actions to address inflation have further eroded human and economic liberty in the nation.

In a written statement Tuesday, a White House spokesman said attempts by President Robert Mugabe's government to address hyper-inflation have resulted in at least 2,000 arrests, widespread hoarding and profiteering by police.

In recent weeks, the Zimbabwean government ordered businesses to cut prices on staples such as food and fuel, and arrested business owners who did not comply.

The moves are aimed at cutting an annual inflation rate that analysts say is running at around 4,500 percent.

The White House statement says the Zimbabwean government's irresponsible economic policies will only worsen inflation, unemployment, food shortages and poverty.

It also announced that the United States will provide Zimbabwe with more than 47,000 tons of additional food assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development. The money will help feed an estimated one-point-four million people.

The White House also condemned the Mugabe's government's continued crackdown on political opposition, saying the actions call into question the government's commitment to a mediation process led by the Southern African Development Community.

The government launched the crackdown in March, stopping a planned prayer rally by opposition groups and beating several top opposition figures, including Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mr. Mugabe has repeatedly blamed the United States and Britain for causing Zimbabwe's economic crisis through sanctions imposed on top government leaders.

Critics blame the government's economic policies, especially a program to transfer white-owned farmland to blacks, most of whom have little or no farming experience. Zimbabwe's agricultural production has yet to recover from a sharp fall that began after the program was instituted in 2000.