(Adds details, background)
CARACAS, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez on Sunday nationalized a chain of supermarkets controlled by France’s Casino (CASP.PA) on charges of price gauging after the government devalued the bolivar currency.
“Because of multiple violations of Venezuelan laws the Exito chain will now belong to the republic, there is no way back,” Chavez said on his weekly television show.
In his 11 years in office, Chavez has nationalized large swathes of the economy, including major oil projects along with electricity and telecommunications companies.
The leader who calls Cuba’s Fidel Castro a mentor has recently declared himself a Marxist and wants to build a socialist society in one of the world’s top oil exporters.
He said the Exito supermarkets had increased prices without justification. Exito has stores in Caracas and several other cities.
Chavez devalued the bolivar on Jan. 8 to boost government finances and revitalize the recession-hit economy, but risks boosting already high inflation.
Aware a price surge could anger his mostly poor supporters, Chavez ordered troops to monitor shopping districts. Authorities had already temporarily closed stores belonging to the supermarket chain on charges of price gouging.
The stores are run by Colombian retailer Alamcenes Exito IMI.CN, which belongs to Casino.
Chavez said legal reforms were under way to take over companies accused of speculation. He said those reforms will have to be finalized to complete the nationalization of Exito. (Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)