Caracas: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has said the country’s largest steel maker, Sidor, will not be allowed to make any more exports until it meets domestic needs, and has threatened to expropriate the company if it resists.
Chavez has criticized Sidor for selling the bulk of its production overseas and forcing local producers to import from elsewhere, saying Venezuelan industry should be given priority. Sidor’s parent company, Luxembourg-based Ternium SA, is controlled by conglomerate Techint Group of Argentina. Chavez said he has summoned Ternium chairman Paolo Rocca from Buenos Aires for talks.
“We’re going to pass a law, Rocca. We’re going to force you to supply, first and foremost, the Venezuelan domestic market before you take (the steel) to other countries,” the Venezuelan leader said at a news conference Saturday. “If you don’t agree, give it to me. I’ll grab your company. Give it to me, and I’ll pay you what it’s worth. I won’t rob you.”
Phone calls to Sidor for comment went unanswered Saturday afternoon.
Strong-arm tactics: Hugo Chavez.
Chavez, who was recently granted special powers to decree laws, also said he was ready to require that all businesses in Venezuela similarly supply domestic demand before exporting. “I think we should work on a different model with Latin American business owners,” he said, calling for them to “operate differently... at least here in Venezuela.”
Earlier this week, Chavez warned he could nationalize Sidor and private banks if they failed to change what he called unscrupulous business practices that harm local industries.
Chavez’s comments on Saturday appeared to reinforce that he does not plan an imminent takeover but rather intends to arm-twist the private sector into coming in line with his socialist revolution.
Since initiating a nationalization drive in January, Chavez has already moved to take state control of telecommunications, electricity companies and the oil sector.
Earlier on Saturday—which Chavez noted coincided with Karl Marx’s birthday—the Venezuelan leader drove a red Volkswagen bug to a poor Caracas slum where he officially registered with a movement to create a single, pro-Chavez ruling party: the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
A close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Chavez argues Venezuela needs a single socialist party to rein in political interests and more efficiently lead his movement. Many analysts call it an effort to consolidate party control. “If any rich person wants to become a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, he will be welcome, but he must begin by setting aside his wealth to the fight against misery,” Chavez said.