Page last updated at 07:06 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 08:06 UK

Chavez calls for steel takeover

Hugo Chavez with a retired steel worker
Mr Chavez calls his reforms "21st Century socialism"

President Hugo Chavez has demanded that Venezuela's biggest steelmaker be expropriated - after government efforts to buy a majority stake failed.

Mr Chavez has set his sights on turning Siderurgica del Orinco (Sidor), which was 60% controlled by Luxembourg-based Ternium, into a "socialist company".

Talks to buy Ternium's stake collapsed when the sides could not agree a price.

Mr Chavez has taken control of foreign owned cement, telecommunications, electricity, oil and gas companies.

The president believes companies should concentrate on the domestic market before overseas sales, and has branded his reforms as "21st Century socialism".

Mr Chavez, whose government already owned 20% of Sidor, threatened to take control of the company last year unless it sold more of its steel in Venezuela.

He has sided with workers, who wanted better pay and benefits.

Separately, the president has increased the country's minimum wage by about 30% to offset the impact of inflation caused by the soaring oil price.

The monthly minimum wage at is now $372, which Mr Chavez says is the highest in Latin America.

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