Venezuela Expropriates Unit of Owens Illinois

Chavez says he has a list with names of companies that will be expropriated.

Accusing the local affiliate of glass maker Owens Illinois of causing environmental damage and exploiting its workers, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Oct. 25 announced the expropriation of the local affiliate.

The company "has had years exploiting the workers, destroying the environment" in the western state of Trujillo, "and taking away the money of Venezuelans," Chavez said during a government event broadcast on radio and television.

Chavez added that his government has "a list with more names" of companies that will be expropriated, but gave no further details.

Owens Illinois Inc. is a leader world glass bottle maker with some 22,000 workers in 21 countries. The company has operated in Venezuela for 52 years, and has two plants that make bottles and containers for beer, drinks, food and liquor.

In South America, aside from Venezuela it also has operations in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and focuses on manufacturing glass containers, according to the company website.

Since 2007, the Chavez administration has expropriated more than 347 companies in areas including electricity, banking, cement, steel, oil and food. And since 1999, when Chavez took office, the government has taken over some three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land, in line with his Bolivarian Revolution in which he aggressively sought to consolidate private assets under state control.

Later in the speech Chavez threatened to nationalize privately-owned banks, but gave no names.

Private banks "that do not want to collaborate in the national development should be taken over by the state with no kind of delay," Chavez said. "There is no turning back." Chavez said that banks needed to ease credit to build homes, of which there is a shortage in Venezuela. Since November 2009 the Venezuelan government either nationalized or dissolved about a dozen small and mid-sized banks.

Chavez, just back from an international tour that took him to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Libya and Portugal, also said that he had signed no new arms deals during his 11-day tour. "It is the first trip to Russia in which we talked about everything except armaments," he said.

Between 2005 and 2007 Venezuela signed agreements with Moscow worth more than $4 billion to buy Sukhoi jets, combat helicopters and automatic rifles.

Bolstered by a previous $2.2 billion Russian loan, Venezuela is buying T-72 tanks and an undetermined number of S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense systems.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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