U.S. News

Chavez Push Continues: More Companies Nationalized

The Associated Press

President Hugo Chavez ordered the takeover of at least six metal, ceramic and other companies Thursday, accelerating his push to spread socialism and build "an industrial complex" in Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez
Howard Yanes

The companies include Venezuelan steelmaker Siderurgica Venezolana SA, ceramic tile-maker Ceramica Carabobo, and iron producer Materiales Siderurgicos SA, or Matesi. Matesi is owned by the Argentine-Italian conglomerate Techint through its Luxembourg-based subsidiary Tenaris.

Also affected is iron producer Complejo Siderurgico de Guayana, whose shareholders include Japanese investment conglomerate Marubeni, Japanese steelmaker Kobe Steel, and Mexico's Tubos de Acero de Mexico SA.

Chavez said the move will help Venezuela reduce reliance on imports and boost local industry.

"We're planning a single large, integrated industrial complex," he said.

Chavez's government has nationalized major steel, cement, electricity, telecommunications and oil projects since 2006 in a bid to expand the reach of the state.

In the last month it has seized 75 oil contracting firms, many of which said they are owed money by state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

Meanwhile, Venezuela reached a deal Friday to pay Spain-based Banco Santander $1.05 billion for the nationalization of its local unit, ending months of stalled negotiations.

Vice President Ramon Carrizalez said the takeover of Banco de Venezuela will allow the government to assert greater control over the economy as it moves toward a socialist model.

"We are working in all areas related to economic development," he said.

President Hugo Chavez announced last July that his government would nationalize the bank, but officials had been locked in talks for months over a purchase price.

In March, Chavez said the bank's value had fallen due to the world financial crisis. Since 2006, Chavez has nationalized Venezuela's biggest telecommunications, electricity and steel companies along with four major oil projects.