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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 07:55 GMT
Chavez threatens to seize farms
Hugo Chavez
Mr Chavez wants to wave goodbye to food shortages
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to nationalise farms, in an effort to tackle food shortages.

Government controls keep food prices low in shops to help even the poorest Venezuelans feed themselves.

But some farmers prefer to sell their produce in neighbouring countries where prices are higher, leading to shortages of bread, milk, eggs and meat.

In his weekly television show, Mr Chavez said farmers doing this should have their farms "expropriated".

In the show, called "Hello President", he said this would happen no matter who the owner was.

He went on: "If the army must be brought in, you bring in the army.

The bank that does not comply must be seized
President Hugo Chavez

"A government cannot allow itself to be slapped and do nothing."

However, Mr Chavez also announced a rise in milk prices, in an apparent attempt to tackle recent shortages.

Such shortages are seen as a political liability for Mr Chavez since he lost a key vote on constitutional changes last month that would have removed limits on the number of terms he could serve as president.

Oil-rich Venezuela is one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, but imports most of the food it needs. Mr Chavez said he planned to change that.

"We're going to turn Venezuela into a food-producing power," he said.


On Saturday, Mr Chavez threatened to nationalise banks which did not give enough low-interest loans to farmers.

Banks are not allowed to charge farmers interest higher than 15% - even though inflation last year ran at 22.5%.

"The bank that fails to comply must be sanctioned, and I am not talking about a little fine," he said. "The bank that does not comply must be seized."

Critics say complying with government policy could drive some businesses into bankruptcy.

But BBC business reporter Clare Lighton says that although this is not the first time Mr Chavez has threatened the banks, other threats against the oil, telecommunications and electricity industries have been carried out.

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