President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that his government could seize control of Venezuela’s cement factories if their owners refuse to lower prices while his government struggles to satisfy rising demand for housing.
Chavez, who says his government is transforming Venezuela into a socialist state, said many of Venezuela’s cement factories "prefer to send the product abroad to sell it at high prices rather than offer supplies for the interests of the Venezuelan people."
"If the cement factories do not (sell in Venezuela), we will occupy them," he said.
Chavez, who was re-elected in December, has moved to nationalize Venezuela’s largest telecommunications company and the electricity sector, slap new taxes on the rich and impose greater state control over the oil and natural gas industries as part of his shift toward socialism.
The president’s critics, including leaders of local business chambers, argue the nationalizations will hurt Venezuela’s economy by scaring off foreign investors. Chavez’s political allies argue the nationalizations are necessary for the success of the government’s development plans.