Mountains of rotting food found at a government warehouse, soaring prices and soldiers raiding wholesalers accused of hoarding: Food supply is the latest battle in President Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says government-led raids of food markets will reverse exploitation of the poor, whom he needs for political support.
Venezuelan army soldiers swept through the working class, pro-Chavez neighborhood of Catia in Caracas last week, seizing 120 tons of rice along with coffee and powdered milk that officials said was to be sold above regulated prices.
Much of the wasted food, including powdered milk and meat, was found last month in the buildup to legislative elections in September. The scandal is humiliating for Chavez, who accuses wealthy elites of fueling inflation and causing shortages of products such as meat, sugar and milk by hoarding food.
"They are not going to stop us in the plan, which is to give the people what is their right," Chavez said Friday during the inauguration of a supermarket chain the government bought this year from French retailer Casino.
Food prices are up 41 percent in the last 12 months ... despite the government's growing network of state-run supermarkets that sell at discounts of up to 40 percent and are popular with his poor supporters.
Fighting back, Chavez says he is in an economic war against the "parasitic bourgeoisie" that tries to convince Venezuelans that socialism does not work by twisting facts and taking advantage of honest mistakes.
"They know where we are headed, we are going to take from the Venezuela bourgeoisie the hegemony of dominance in this country," Chavez, who calls himself a Marxist, said to applause from supporters on his TV show on Sunday.