Chavez Eyes Nationalized Electrical, Telcom Firms

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez plans to nationalize his country's electrical and telecommunications companies. It's his boldest move since winning re-election last month on a promise to move Venezuela toward a more radical form of leftism.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, will nationalize the country's electric and telecommunications utilities. And he's also going to take greater control of the oil industry. Chavez is seeking congressional support in Venezuela, for special powers allowing him to legislate economic laws by decree. This is a country, by the way, that's a major oil supplier to the United States.

Chavez is promising to accelerate what he calls a socialist revolution there. NPR's Juan Ferero reports from Bogotá, Colombia.

JUAN FERERO: When we he won a third term in a landslide election in December, President Hugo Chavez promised supporters he'd take his so-called revolution into overdrive. In a speech in Caracas on Monday, the president said he would national companies that were privatized before he entered office in 1999.

He singled out the phone company, CANTV, the largest publicly traded company in Venezuela. Also affected would be the electric company, which is partly owned by Virginia-based AES Corporation. The president took aim and Venezuela's huge oil sector, which exports much of its crude to the United States. He said the government needed to take more control of oil fields now run by big multinationals like ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Chavez made headlines last week by replacing some of his top aides, including Jose Vicente Rangel, the vice president. He'd already come under fire for saying he would not renew the broadcast license of a television station that frequently criticizes his government.

Chavez provided few details for his plans. That left many in Venezuela pondering what would happen. But Chavez said Venezuela is, quote, heading towards socialism and nothing and no one can prevent it.

Juan Ferero, NPR News, Bogotá, Colombia.

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