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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007, 10:58 GMT
Chavez bid for more state control
Main offices of CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela
The country's telecoms giant CANTV is an expected target
President Hugo Chavez has pledged to nationalise key Venezuelan companies, as part of plans to transform the country into a full socialist state.

Mr Chavez said he wanted to see major Venezuelan power and telecoms companies come under state control.

He also called for an end to foreign ownership of lucrative crude oil refineries in the Orinoco region.

Mr Chavez's comments came in an address to the nation following the swearing in of his new cabinet.

"All of that which was privatised, let it be nationalised," he said during the speech.

"The nation should recover its ownership of strategic sectors."

Mr Chavez also called on the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, to resign after he condemned the Venezuelan government's decision not to renew a private TV station's licence.

"Dr Insulza is quite an idiot, a true idiot," he said. "The insipid Dr. Insulza should resign from the secretariat of the OAS for daring to play that role."

Mr Chavez will be sworn in for a third term of office on Wednesday after winning presidential elections in December with almost 63% of the vote.

Recovering ownership

Relations between Caracas and Washington have come under increasing strain in the past few years, with the US accusing Mr Chavez of trying to destabilise Latin America.

Hugo Chavez
We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no-one can prevent it
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Mr Chavez said Venezuela was moving towards "a socialist republic" that required "deep reform of our national constitution".

"We are in an existential moment of Venezuelan life," he said. "We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no-one can prevent it."

Mr Chavez demanded an end to the current autonomy of the country's central bank and said he would ask Venezuela's parliament to grant him additional powers to legislate by presidential decree.

He has argued in the past with bank directors who have opposed his lavish spending of Venezuela's vast oil wealth.

His calls for nationalisation appeared in particular to affect Electricidad de Caracas, which is currently owned by US firm AES, and CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela (CANTV), the country's largest publicly traded company.

Mr Chavez had threatened to nationalise the company earlier this year unless they lifted their pension payment to meet those of the minimum wage.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler says that these bold moves by Mr Chavez, who now has allies across Latin America, will shock some and be welcomed by others.

He says they are certain to deepen the rift in an already divided country.

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