Chavez promises fine dining to eat into Venezuela's inflation

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The Independent US

Looking for a romantic dinner but worried about the cost? Try Chez Chavez. Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez said at the weekend he could give Venezuelan lovers a shot at low-price meals with wine, candles and top-notch service by opening government restaurants as part of a campaign to rein in one of the world's highest inflation rates.

Reviewing monthly data on consumer prices - which topped 30 per cent last year – Mr Chavez noted that the cost of hotels and restaurants jumped in February at twice the month's overall inflation rate in the Opec nation. "I'm going to have to invent some restaurants for the people," Mr Chavez said during a live television broadcast. "Do you want to have dinner with your wife on Valentine's Day? Restaurant Chavez? With a candle and everything, I'll set it up however you want, with a Venezuelan, Chilean or Brazilian wine," he added.

Last week, Mr Chavez took over a rice mill owned by the US food giant Cargill, occupied several other rice mills and nationalised an Irish-owned tree farm to tighten control of food supply.

He has blamed the country's inflation on unscrupulous businesses that charge consumers too much, though business leaders say heavy spending is spurring price increases.