President Hugo Chavez on Saturday ordered troops to intervene in Venezuelan rice processing businesses, saying some have balked at producing under regulated prices.
"This government is here to protect the people, not the bourgeoisie or the rich," said Chavez, ordering military authorities to "take control of and intervene in all of these businesses that process rice in Venezuela."
The measure will affect Empresas Polar, Venezuela's largest food producer, said Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua.
The occupation of installations "is the first measure we're going to take, and we're going to take it with Primor rice," he said, referring to a plant in western Portuguesa state that produces Polar's Primor-brand rice. "It is violating the laws and rules of the nation."
Guillermo Bolinaga, Polar's legal director, denied similar allegations by the nation's consumer protection agency Friday, calling the actions "illegal and arbitrary."