GLOBAL ECONOMY

Venezuela claims McDonald's is waging 'economic war' because of French fry shortage

A customer glances at a McDonalds' banner menu showing a burger accompanied by arepas or corn cakes, instead of fries, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. McDonalds franchises in Venezuela have run out of potatoes and are now serving South American alternatives like deep-fried arepas or yuca, a starchy tuberous root. The franchisers are blaming a contract dispute with West Coast dock workers for halting the export of frozen fries to the country. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

A customer glances at a McDonalds' banner menu showing a burger accompanied by arepas or corn cakes, instead of fries, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. McDonalds franchises in Venezuela have run out of potatoes and are now serving South American alternatives like deep-fried arepas or yuca, a starchy tuberous root. The franchisers are blaming a contract dispute with West Coast dock workers for halting the export of frozen fries to the country. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

McDonald's is finding itself under attack in Venezuela both for not selling french fries — and for selling them.

Hours after The Associated Press reported Tuesday that McDonald's had run out of fries at Venezuelan franchises, state-sponsored television network Telesur posted a story headlined "McDonald's Joins Economic War against Venezuela."

Industry experts say McDonald's has had to turn to local alternatives like fried yuca root and arepa flatbreads because of the economic chaos wracking the South American country. The restaurant's franchise operator had actually avoided blaming the deep-fried potato famine on the government, saying a U.S. labor dispute was the reason.

But officials of Venezuela's socialist government and its supporters are taking a combative attitude.

President Nicolás Maduro retweeted a story about a tooth being found in an order of McDonald's french fries in Japan.

The influential pro-government website Aporrea covered its home page in articles critical of the restaurant chain. One post cautioned readers to consider what kind of toxins might be lurking in the ingredient list of fries. Another warned that plastic shards had been found amid the chain's beloved chicken nuggets.

Venezuela's socialist administration has never sat easily with the fast food giant, a symbol the world over of U.S. capitalism. The late President Hugo Chávez twice closed nearly all McDonald's in the country as a temporary punishment for alleged tax dodging.

Last year, the government, which has imposed price caps on everything from milk to children's toys, successfully pressured McDonald's to cut the cost of a Big Mac combo meal.

Dante Rivas, the government official in charge of Venezuela's permitting process, posted a photo to Twitter that showed a man becoming fat and unhealthy from eating McDonald's burgers. He said he was glad the chain had run out of fries.

"I welcome the turbulence. Now we will eat fried yuca, 100% made in Venezuela," he wrote.

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