CARACAS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched Friday a chain of state-run supermarkets in 35 stores expropriated earlier this year from the French-owned Cada chain.
The creation of Abastos Bicentenario (Bicentennial Grocery Stores) “signifies that the whole Cada supermarket chain is now public property, property of the homeland, social property, national property,” Chavez said during the official ceremony, which was broadcast live on radio and television.
Throughout his speech, the president repeatedly spoke of the need to substitute capitalist mechanisms with socialist ones as the only way to guarantee social justice and fairness in Venezuela.
“This isn’t Chavez going around expropriating any old way, as the bourgeoisie says. There’s a plan here, a strategy, a policy,” he said.
Chavez announced the expropriation of the Cada and Hipermercado Exito stores in January, and a month later said that he had accepted a proposal from the chain’s French parent company, Casino, for compensation.
On February 13 the president inaugurated in the six Hipermercado Exito stores the new state-run Hipermercado Bicentenario stores with the promise of offering a wide range of products at “low prices and without a profit margin.”
The Abasto Bicentenario stores will also sell at lower prices than the capitalists did, Chavez said this Friday, adding that some 60 items have an average 13-percent discount compared with the prices charged by the previous owner.
In 2009 Venezuela had 25.1-percent inflation, the highest in Latin America.
Chavez accuses businessmen with conspiring to topple him by causing an artificial scarcity of food and basic provisions, with the consequent surge in inflation.
The opposition, for its part, says that the inflation is a result of the “inefficiency and corruption” of the government, which it says is incapable of managing strategic sectors like the distribution of food nationwide. EFE