Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 16:15 UK

Venezuela takes over Hilton hotel

The beach near the Hilton hotel
The hotel is on the resort island of Margarita in Nueva Esparta state

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered the obligatory acquisition of a Hilton-run hotel on the resort island of Margarita, it has emerged.

The move was ordered just weeks after the hotel housed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe during the Africa-South America Summit.

The hotel would help develop tourism projects in a "socialist framework", a decree signed by Mr Chavez said.

Hilton Worldwide, which manages the hotel, said it was analyzing the move.

The hotel "remains a member of the Hilton system of hotels, and welcomes guests with the same level of service they have come to enjoy," spokeswoman Karla Visconti said in a statement from Miami, Florida.

Nationalisation drive

The hotel complex, on the Caribbean resort island of Margarita in Nueva Esparta state, includes more than 450 rooms and suites, a casino, restaurants, shops and offices, as well as an adjoining marina.

It is owned by two local companies who are facing problems with the government's financial regulator, the Dow Jones news service reported.

The presidential decree said the forced acquisition of the Margarita Hilton & Suites Hotel Complex would be carried out without assuming existing liabilities, and the assets would be held by the tourism ministry.

It is President Chavez's second takeover of a Hilton-run hotel. In 2007, the government assumed control of the Caracas Hilton, renaming it the Alba Caracas.

In the past four years, Mr Chavez's government has nationalised industries it considers strategic to the state, including electrical utilities, cement, steel, oil services and banking.

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