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Update: Investors "Shouldn't Touch" Venezuela


What do the analysts say about the recent moves by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to nationalize much of his nation's economy? We're updating our prior post with two guests from "Power Lunch." Thierry (pronounced Terry) Wizman is Global Emerging Markets Strategist for Bear Sterns. Peter DeShazo is Director of Americas Programs and CSIS.

The two men both agree--this is NOT a good time investing in Venezuela. In fact, Wizman says he wouldn't "touch" the country mostly because of the move to nationalize the Venezuelan central bank. That could affect the exchange rate and thus affect the return investors would get back--mostly on the downside.

Chavez's Socialist Revolution

Wizman also believes Chavez means what he says about taking over the energy and telecommunications industries. He says it's not exactly been a secret as Venezuela has made oil companies pay more royalties and taxes over the past year. And Wizman says--oil companies have so far decided to "play along."

DeShazo says what Chavez is doing is taking a step back to the 1960's just like Fidel Castro did in Cuba. DeShazo points out how Chavez wants to re-write the country's constitution in order to get new powers. Chavez has already packed the nation's supreme court with his people and also taken over the country's congress. But DeShazo says he doesn't see other countries in the region necessarily following Venezuela's lead. He says countries Bolivia and Peru don't have the natural resources (oil) to pull off something like this.

Fyi- Chavez took the oath as president today.  In his acceptance speech--he promised to press ahead with a "radical socialist agenda." He might have some trouble at home--as a recent poll shows that some 64% of his countrymen do NOT want a socialist government(source CNBC). The Venezuelan stock market fell 19% Tuesday--the day after Chavez first started calling for nationalizing power and telecom companies--and debt prices tumbled to a six-week low and the currency changed hands at nearly twice the official rate (thus Wizman's worry about investment returns). Venezuela is the 4th largest oil exporter for the U.S.--while the U.S. is currently Venezuela's largest oil customer.