I recently read somewhere a commentary that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez was not really that radical, that his populist rhetoric was largely limited to expanding social programs for the poor, and that behind the scenes he was still playing nice with US businesses. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the link to that article. Perhaps Chavez’s latest announcement will alter that view:
President Hugo Chavez announced plans Monday to nationalize Venezuela’s electrical and telecommunications companies, pledging to create a socialist state in a bold move with echoes of Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution.
… The nationalization appeared likely to affect Electricidad de Caracas, owned by Arlington, Virginia-based AES Corp., and C.A. Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, known as CANTV, the country’s largest publicly traded company.”All of that which was privatized, let it be nationalized,” Chavez said, referring to “all of those sectors in an area so important and strategic for all of us as is electricity.”
… Chavez said that lucrative oil projects in the Orinoco River basin involving foreign oil companies should be under national ownership. He didn’t spell out whether that meant a complete nationalization, but said any vestiges of private control over the energy sector should be undone.”I’m referring to how international companies have control and power over all those processes of improving the heavy crudes of the Orinoco belt — no — that should become the property of the nation,” Chavez said.
In the oil sector, it didn’t appear Chavez was ruling out all private investment. Since last year, his government has sought to form state-controlled “mixed companies” with British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA to upgrade heavy crude in the Orinoco. Such joint ventures have already been formed in other parts of the country.
Chavez threatened last August to nationalize CANTV, a Caracas-based former state firm that was privatized in 1991, unless it adjusted its pension payments to current minimum-wage levels, which have been repeatedly increased by his government.
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