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Street vendors hit with price freeze

CARACAS, Venezuela – In its latest bid to brake soaring inflation, Venezuela’s government said Tuesday it will make street vendors freeze their prices, threatening violators with fines, confiscations and even jail.

President Hugo Chavez has been struggling to contain the surge in consumer prices, now running at an annual rate of 31.2 percent, the highest in Latin America.

Chavez imposed price controls in 2003, but the rules applied only to formal businesses. The new regulations extend the controls to warehouses where peddlers store their goods.

Analysts doubt the measure will help significantly reduce inflation.

“I don’t think this decision is going to have a dramatic effect on the economy,” said Luis Vicente Leon, an economist at the local Datanalisis polling firm.

Authorities are already struggling to supervise formal businesses and are going to find it tough also enforcing the regulations on vendors, he predicted.