Chavez Cement Threat

25 March 2008

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has threatened to forcibly nationalise the country's cement industry if manufacturers are found to be contributing to domestic building materials shortages. Mr Chavez has said he will investigate the sector to determine whether the export of cement from Venezuela is worsening the country's accute housing shortage.

Cement manufacturers active in Venezuela include Holcim, which has two plants with a combined capacity of 2.4 million tonnes per year, Lafarge, which has two plants capable of producing 1.5 million tonnes per year and Cemex, which is thought to be the market leader with a production capacity of 4.6 million tonnes of cement per year from three plants.

Since being re-elected in December, Mr Chavez has pushed ahead with the expropriation of several ‘strategic’ industries covering the oil, gas and power sectors as well as a media company.

Mr Chavez has also been critical of the way the Venezuelan cement industry was originally privatised, and is quoted as saying it was sold for “the price of a scrawny hen.”

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