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Venezuela's Chavez orders nationalization of cement industry

Venezuela's Chavez orders nationalization of cement industry

President Hugo Chavez on Thursday ordered the nationalization of all cement companies operating in Venezuela, saying his government cannot allow businesses to export raw materials needed to help tackle a national housing shortage.
Speaking during a nationally televised address, Chavez said cement companies will be paid fair compensation for the forthcoming state takeover of what he called "a strategic industry."
"We are going to prepare a plan to modernize these cement plants," he said.
Chavez, who says he is leading Venezuela toward "21st century socialism," said the nationalization would take place in the "short term," but did not provide specific dates.
Most of the cement market in this South American country, which has suffered from a severe housing shortage for decades, is supplied by foreign companies.
Mexico's Cemex cement company, which operates three plants in Venezuela, controls almost half the local market. France's Lafarge and Switzerland's Holcim Ltd. are also along Venezuela's largest cement producers.
Prior to Thursday's announcement, Chavez had repeatedly expressed frustration with the high cost of construction materials and threatened to seize control of companies that fail to provide low-cost cement for the domestic market.