For those who think that Hugo Chavez might begin to moderate his rhetoric as he solidifies absolute control over Venezuela, guess again. This week marked another step forward to a twisted version of militant socialist nirvana in Venezuela. Yesterday, Chavez decided that the banking sector might be his next target for nationalization. Here's a direct translation of what our favorite Latin American dictator had to say: "Private banks have to give priority to financing the industrial sectors of Venezuela at low cost ... If banks don't agree with this, it's better that they go, that they turn over the banks to me, that we nationalize them and get all the banks to work for the development of the country and not to speculate and produce huge profits."
This pronouncement came on the immediate heals of Chavez' nationalization of the country's oil reserves in the Orinco basin. According to Energy Business Review, Chavez "has reportedly reclaimed the last of the region's privately-owned oil fields, severely disrupting ExxonMobil, Statoil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Total and BP's operations in the oil-rich Orinoco river basin ... the four crude oil development projects in the Orinoco Belt region, which can convert approximately 600,000 barrels of heavy crude into synthetic oil a day, are thought to be worth more than $30 billion."
One wonders how long the West will sit around and watch Chavez steal private assets and businesses away from the local corporations and individuals that built them -- and those multinationals who invested in Venezuela in the first place, offering jobs and a tax base to fund Chavez' social programs. Methinks it will soon be time to send in some Western firepower to ram this socialist train wreck once and for all. But until we get a US administration with some balls to stand up for capitalism and democracy in its own back yard, companies with direct or indirect trading and sourcing interests in the region -- not just Venezuela mind you -- should be nervous. Very nervous.
- Jason Busch