Venezuelan troops seize cement plant

August 19th, 2008 - 2:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Caracas, Aug 19 (DPA) Venezuelan troops seized a cement plant owned by Mexico’s Cemex SAB after a deal to nationalise the firm failed.Troops occupied the Maracaibo Cemex plant in the western state of Zulia Monday night, but plan to take control of all four Cemex plants in Venezuela Tuesday.

“At midnight, we are going to take operational control of Cemex’s installations, and from that moment, the expropriation decree takes effect,” Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said Monday night in Caracas.

President Hugo Chavez announced in April that he would nationalise the cement industry after nationalising power, telecommunication, oil and steel companies since last year.

In June, he issued a decree giving Venezuela’s top three foreign-owned cement companies - Mexican, French and Swiss firms - 60 days to negotiate handover agreements that would give at least a 60 percent controlling share of each firm to the government.

Venezuela obtained an 85 percent stake in Switzerland’s Holcim Ltd for $552 million and an 89 percent share of France’s Lafarge SA for $267 million. The government said Cemex was asking for too much in its negotiations.

Cemex, which accounts for half of Venezuela’s total cement production, would receive considerably less than the $1.3 billion it was seeking, Ramirez said.

Chavez justified the takeover of the foreign-owned cement plants by saying Venezuela needs a large national cement company to build housing for the poor.

Extending his socialist agenda, Chavez announced Monday that he would soon take over the Bank of Venezuela “for the good of the people” from its Spanish owners, Grupo Santander.

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