Venezuela appliances crackdown spurs uncertainty

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Even by Venezuela's volatile standards, these are trying times.

Milk and vegetable oil have become scarce, the currency is plunging in a thriving black market and inflation is accelerating.

Amid so much unease, President Nicolas Maduro has settled on radical solutions. In recent days he's ordered the military to take over appliance stores, slash prices and encourage bargain hunters who've formed long lines across the country.

While the measures could help Maduro get over the hump of next month's mayoral votes, analysts say he risks cannibalizing the economy in the process.

Some now ask if the late President Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution has reached a point of no return, where what little private investment is left vanishes completely and Maduro has no choice but to fully embrace a statist model.