UPDATE 2-Venezuela January inflation picks up, annual rate tops 56 pct

martes 11 de febrero de 2014 19:01 GYT

By Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS Feb 11 (Reuters) - Venezuela's consumer prices accelerated in January from the previous month, leaving the OPEC member country's annualized inflation rate near a staggering 56 percent and the central bank's shortages index hit a record high.

The 3.3 percent rise in January came as President Nicolas Maduro decreed new price controls that limit corporate profit margins at 30 percent in an effort to combat what he calls an "economic war" being staged by opposition politicians.

The 51-year-old former bus driver in November ordered merchants to slash prices and sent troops to occupy some business in efforts to stabilize prices, winning the praise of even some of his critics.

But Tuesday's figure spurred renewed questioning of the economic model of state-led growth and currency controls advanced by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

"The greater the government works to confront the 'Economic War,' the worse the results are. Is this the right path?" opposition economist Henkel Garcia of Caracas-based Econometrica wrote via Twitter.

January's biggest increases came in restaurant and hotel prices, which rose 4.8 percent. Food and non-alcoholic beverages rose 4.3 percent and alcohol and tobacco products were up 4.0 percent.

The central bank prominently noted the Maduro government's measures to lower prices, but added "some effects of the economic onslaught against the nation continue to be observed."   Continuación...