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Venezuela's Maduro Warns of Action Against Price Gouging


FILE - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, August 14, 2017.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro says new measures will be rolled out this week to combat economic speculation in the crisis-ridden country.

In an interview distributed via state-run media Sunday, Maduro said he was working with a "special commission" of the new, pro-government Constituent Assembly to clamp down on price gouging.

The commission is "going to announce a set of actions so that the maximum price of the products is respected," Maduro said, without providing details. He also warned that "very severe justice" would "shake the society."

FILE - Venezuelans line up to buy food at a store after a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 29, 2017.
FILE - Venezuelans line up to buy food at a store after a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 29, 2017.

​Venezuelans constantly complain of scarcity of food, medicine and personal hygiene products — and of outrageous prices amid soaring inflation.

FILE - A cashier counts bolivars at a money exchange in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 24, 2015.
FILE - A cashier counts bolivars at a money exchange in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 24, 2015.

The currency has shriveled in value, down from eight bolivars to the dollar in 2010 to more than 8,000 bolivars last month, as CNN Money recently pointed out. A single-serve bottle of water can cost about 1,200 bolivars.

Maduro previously declared a war on speculation in 2013, according to the Washington Office on Latin America.

Carlos Larrazabal, president of Fedecamaras, a union representing Venezuela's business sector, accused the socialist administration of trying to smother private enterprise.

"The government has a political agenda. Instead of correcting problems of supply and production," the Constituent Assembly has "deepened" Venezuela's crisis, Larrazabal said in an interview Sunday with Caracas television station Televen.

A view of a session of the National Constituent Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 8, 2017.
A view of a session of the National Constituent Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 8, 2017.

The assembly declared on Friday that it would wrest legislative power from the opposition-led National Assembly, a move denounced by many in Venezuela and beyond. The United States does not recognize the Constituent Assembly as valid.

Larrazabal said Venezuela is suffering "the consequences of bad economic policy, with an exchange mechanism that is not transparent, which does not allow raw materials" into the country. He also complained of price controls.

The archbishop of Caracas, Jorge Urosa Savino, recently reiterated his call to the Maduro government to ease Venezuelans' suffering. He said the Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly urged the opposition "to defend the rights of the Venezuelan people."

This article originated with VOA's Spanish service.

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