Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has inaugurated new government-run hypermarkets (large supermarkets), which replace of the recently nationalised Exito hypermarket chain.
On February 13, Chavez inaugurated one "Bicentenary" hypermarket as it opened its doors in Barquisimeto, Lara state. It is one of six new hypermarkets around the country. Chavez said more hypermarkets would be built in other Venezuelan cities.
In January, the government took-over the Exito hypermarket chain after an investigation found it engaged in price speculation. After the government devalued the bolivar at the start of the year, Chavez warned that any company that took advantage of the move to speculate with price rises would be taken-over.
The government incorporated Exito stores into the Corporation of Socialist Markets (Comerso), a publicly owned network of subsidised supermarkets and food stores.
Chavez said products provided by the old Exito hypermarkets "when speculation reigned", would be sold for up to five times less. Discounts will average 40% less than the normal market price.
Chavez said: "The oligarchy tried to create a scandal over the expropriation of this hypermarket ... but the real outrage is what they were committing against their workers and the people."
Workers at the nationalised supermarket chain have said Exito ignored employment benefits and health and safety regulations.
Chavez also asked land minister Elias Jaua to expropriate some storage sheds in Caracas belonging to Polar, Venezuela's largest food and drink company.
Chavez said the land could be used to "develop a housing project, for the people who need it ... we could build eight to 10 popular apartments there, on that land that is worth gold, that is the people's."
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]