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Chavez Urges Takeover of CANTV Before Paying Investors

CARACAS--Venezuela's government will take over telephone company CANTV before it pays off investors, President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday, urging Venezuela's telecom chief to accelerate the move by naming a new board.

Chavez this month ordered the takeover of the key telephone operator, which is partly owned by U.S. telecommunications company Verizon, as part of a broad nationalization push to consolidate his self-described socialist revolution.

The government has said it will compensate investors but has not provided a timeline or explained how it will determine the value of the company.

"Call up the bosses of (CANTV), let's name our board of directors now," said Chavez, speaking to telecommunications minister Jesse Chacon, during his weekly Sunday broadcast.

"I have to pay (them) first? You're crazy, I'm not paying anything first, I'll pay when the law says so, and in the manner that the state decides," Chavez said.

He added that CANTV "was given away" in 1991, when the former state-owned company was privatized.

"So I don't want to hear stories about how I have to pay at such and such price, at the international price, no, no, no, CANTV was given away," he said, without detailing a possible
compensation mechanism.

Venezuela's Congress next week is slated to approve expanded presidential powers that would allow Chavez to rule by decree.

"That is one of the first laws that should be written," he said. CANTV's stock has fallen more than 30 percent on the New York Stock Exchange since the nationalization measure was
announced.

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