Chavez nationalizes iron, steel companies

By AFP

July 15, 2010 Updated May 22, 2009 at 6:01 AM CDT

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the government would nationalize several iron and steel companies to pave way for a large "socialist" state-run enterprise.

"There is nothing to discuss. We've been on this for a long time," Chavez said in a televised address Thursday, ordering the beginning of "a process of nationalization to create an industrial complex."

Chavez, who has nationalized many of the mineral-rich country's biggest industries, named Matesi, Consigua, Ceramicas Carabobo and Tavsa, which produces seamless steel pipes for the oil industry.

Also affected were Orinoco Iron and Venprecar, subsidiaries of Venezuelan-owned International Briquettes Holding (IBH), which exports iron briquettes.

The announcement is the start of a "transition" so that these companies can become the "solid platform of socialism," he said.

"Venezuelan workers are going to give a lesson to the world on how the working class has been resuscitated to make a revolution!" he told industry workers in the western state of Bolivar.

The workers stood and sang the national anthem.

The move was part of leftist Chavez's socialist agenda that calls for nationalizing Venezuela's natural resources. Over the past two years, Chavez has taken over a wide range of companies from the electricity, oil, cement and telecommunications sectors.

Two weeks ago, the Chavez administration expropriated 39 oil service providers, some backed by foreign capital, after the government passed a law extending the state's control over all activities related to the industry.

Venezuelan Petroleum (PDVSA) and affiliated firms took "control of operation and the immediate possession of institutions, documentation, goods and equipment" of the 39 firms, the government's official journal said.

Many of the firms were subsidiaries of foreign businesses.

Venezuela's National Assembly passed a law on May 7 that "reserves for the state, the goods and services connected to primary hydrocarbon activities."

"We will start to recover assets that will now belong to the state, as they always should have," Chavez said at the time.

Chavez earlier Thursday pressed for his country's energy industry to wrest free of outside interests, symbolically seizing an American gas facility appropriated by the government earlier this month.

"A new stage" had begun for his country, the firebrand leftist leader declared as he strolled through the PIGAP II gas compression facility operated by the Oklahoma-based Williams Co.

Latin America's largest energy-producing nation, Venezuela announced it would take control of Williams's operations in early May when the Chavez government seized the assets of 60 local and foreign-owned oil firms.

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