The owners of an unnamed chain of shops have been arrested for artificially creating long lines, according to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The owners reduced the number of employees working in checkout to create lines and annoy the Venezuelan people, according to Maduro.
The president has also accused Venezuela’s business élite of boycotting his government.
The opposition blames the socialist policies of the last 16 years for the worsening economic crisis.
“Yesterday, we detected that a famous chain of stores was conspiring, irritating the people.
“We came, we normalized sales, we summoned the owners, we arrested them and they’re prisoners for having provoked the people.”
“Time in Prison”
Thousands of Venezuelans attended an opposition march in Caracas a week ago, banging empty pots to highlight what they call the shortage of many staple foods.
Demonstrators are voiced discontent at high inflation, crime and long queues.
Currency controls that restrict the availability of dollars for imports play a key role in creating a scarcity of many items, according to analysts.
However, President Maduro is adamant that many businessmen are colluding with the political opposition to oust his government.
He accused four supermarket chains of hoarding goods and smuggling items out of the country.
Maduro to a group of his supporters:
“Those who use their stores to hurt the people will pay with time in prison.”
Last month, he called on the National Assembly to open an inquiry into what called “an economic war” waged against his socialist government.
Venezuela, being a major oil producer, has been heavily affected by the plummeting oil prices on international markets. The country’s economy officially entered recession in December.
Venezuela’s GDP declined by 2.3% in the third quarter of 2014, according to the country’s central bank figures, after contracting by 4.8% and 4.9% in the first and second quarters respectively.
Inflation in Venezuela reached 63.6% in the 12 months ending last November, one of the highest rates worldwide.