Venezuela orders temporary takeover of toilet paper factory

CARACAS (Reuters) - A Venezuelan state agency on Friday ordered the temporary takeover of a factory that produces toilet paper in what it called an effort to ensure consistent supplies after embarrassing shortages earlier this year.

Critics of President Nicolas Maduro say the nagging shortages of products ranging from bathroom tissue to milk are a sign his socialist government's rigid price and currency controls are failing. They have also used the situation to poke fun at his administration on social media networks.

A national agency called Sundecop, which enforces price controls, said in a statement it would occupy one of the factories belonging to paper producer Manpa for 15 days, adding that National Guard troops would "safeguard" the facility.

"The action in the producer of toilet paper, sanitary napkins and disposable diapers responds to the state's obligation to ensure a steady supply of basic goods for the people," Sundecop said, adding it had observed "the violation of the right" to access such products.

Calls to the Manpa factory went unanswered.

Government supporters laud efforts by Maduro, the successor to late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, for maintaining tough regulations of private businesses.

They blame unscrupulous merchants for hoarding products to make quick profits, and celebrate the socialist government's legacy of social assistance programs.

Critics say the shortages of consumer goods are caused by businesses' inability to import raw materials and machinery because of a shortage of hard currency under the exchange controls.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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