Promises 'permanent revolution'
By Ian James
Monday, January 8, 2006
President Hugo Chavez announced plans Monday to nationalize Venezuela's electrical and telecommunications companies, pledging to create a socialist state in a bold move with echoes of Fidel Castro's revolution in Cuba.
Chavez, who will be sworn in Wednesday to a third term that runs until 2013, also said he wanted a constitutional amendment to eliminate the autonomy of the Central Bank and would soon ask the National Assembly, solidly controlled by his allies, to give him greater powers to legislate by presidential decree.
"We're moving toward a socialist republic of Venezuela, and that requires a deep reform of our national constitution," Chavez said in a televised address after swearing in his new Cabinet. "We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it."
Before Chavez was re-elected by a wide margin last month, he promised to take a more radical turn toward socialism. His critics have voiced concern that he would use his sweeping victory to consolidate more power in his own hands.
Cuba, one of Chavez's closest allies in the region, nationalized major industries shortly after Castro came to power in 1959. Bolivia's Evo Morales, another Chavez ally, moved to nationalize key sectors after taking office last year.
AP Photo: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez laughs at the swearing in ceremony of new ministers in Caracas, Monday,..
"The nation should recover its ownership of strategic sectors," Chavez said. "All of that which was privatized, let it be nationalized," he added, referring to "all of those sectors in an area so important and strategic for all of us as is electricity."
The nationalization appeared likely to affect Electricidad de Caracas, owned by Arlington, Virginia-based AES Corp., and C.A. Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, known as CANTV, the country's largest publicly traded company.
Chavez said lucrative oil projects in the Orinoco River basin involving foreign oil companies should be under national ownership. He did not spell out whether that meant a complete nationalization, but said any vestiges of private control over the energy sector should be undone.
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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 10, 2006]