October 9, 2008 / 11:35 PM / 11 years ago

Venezuela shuts nation's McDonald's in tax fight

CARACAS, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s tax body has shut all branches of McDonald’s in the South American nation for 48 hours as punishment for alleged tax irregularities, the government said on Thursday.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is a harsh critic of the U.S. “empire” and of global capitalism. Since first winning elections ten years ago, he has raised taxes and often temporarily closes companies accused of failing to pay.

Thursday’s announcement affects McDonald’s (MCD.N) 115 restaurants in Venezuela, which remains one of the most Americanized corners of Latin America with a thriving shopping mall culture and a love of baseball.

Chavez has nationalized the Venezuelan operations of U.S. oil companies and is engaged in an international legal battle with Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) over compensation for its assets.

The government often slaps big back-tax bills on companies with which it is fighting, and recently temporarily closed the Venezuelan offices of Pepsi, operated by a local food consortium. (By Enrique Andres Pretel, Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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