Cheap eats for Venezuela lovers at Chavez diners

Fri Mar 6, 2009 5:32pm EST
 
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CARACAS (Reuters) - Looking for a romantic dinner but worried about the cost? Try Chez Chavez.

Socialist President Hugo Chavez said on Friday 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 percent last year -- 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," Chavez said during a live television broadcast. "Do you want to have dinner with your wife on Valentine's Day? Restaurant Chavez," the Cuba ally said.

"With a candle and everything, I'll set it up however you want, with a Venezuelan, Chilean or Brazilian wine," he added.

Chavez this week took over a rice mill owned by U.S. food giant Cargill, occupied several other rice mills and nationalized an Irish-owned tree farm to boost state control over the economy and tighten control over the 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.

(Reporting by Patricia Rondon, writing by Brian Ellsworth, editing by Saul Hudson and Todd Eastham)