Page last updated at 15:04 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 16:04 UK

Venezuela shuts down McDonald's

McDonald's restaurant in Florida. File pic.
The McDonald's outlets were closed from Thursday to Saturday

Venezuela's government has shut all branches of restaurant chain McDonald's for 48 hours, citing tax irregularities, officials have said.

The head of the country's tax agency, Jose David Cabello, said the chain had inconsistencies in its accounts.

The 115 branches in Venezuela were closed from Thursday to Saturday.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is a fierce US critic and last month was at the heart of tit-for-tat US-Latin American diplomatic expulsions.

Oil battle

Since winning elections 10 years ago, Mr Chavez has increased taxes and often temporarily shuts firms accused of failing to pay.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a fierce US critic

The government recently temporarily closed the offices of Pepsi, which is operated by a local consortium.

Mr Chavez has also taken on US oil firms, nationalising their Venezuelan operations and pursuing a legal battle with Exxon Mobil.

In last month's diplomatic exchange, Bolivia and Venezuela expelled their US envoys, accusing Washington of trying to oust Bolivia's government.

Washington responded by throwing out envoys from Bolivia and Venezuela and freezing the assets of three aides to President Chavez.

Honduras refused the credentials of a new US ambassador, postponing his appointment.

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