Chavez to nationalise energy companies

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The Independent US

Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez has announced plans to nationalise a series of electrical and telecommunications companies - the first clear indication that his third term in office may be his most radical.

In a televised speech delivered yesterday after swearing in a new cabinet, Mr Chavez said some areas of the economy were so vital they required state ownership. He also indicated that the country's central bank could not expect to retain its autonomy. "All of those sectors that are in an area so important and strategic for all of us as is electricity - all of that which was privatised, let it be nationalised," he said. "Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, let it be nationalised."

Mr Chavez, first elected in 1998, last month won a resounding victory over his conservative challenger Manuel Rosales, securing more than 60 per cent of the vote. His victory was cemented by support among poor, who have benefited from programmes dedicated to education, health and poverty reduction.

During the campaign the former soldier said that his third term would be his most radical as he pursued his vision to develop "socialism for the 21st century". Officials said this would result in more land redistribution - a programme on which Mr Chavez has already been active. There was also speculation that the President would seek to expand the number of private firms that had been expropriated.