October 6, 2010 / 3:05 AM / 9 years ago

Chavez orders shakeup at Caracas airport

CARACAS (Reuters) Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez ordered on Tuesday the “intervention” of Caracas’ international airport to make it a profit-making business for his socialist government.

The term usual refers in Venezuela to the state takeover of a privately-run business, but in this case Chavez appeared to be referring purely to a change in management as the airport is already run by a body under the Ministry of Transport.

“It’s a big airport, how come it does not make a profit?” Chavez said of the Maiquetia airport, which lies on the coast just outside the Venezuelan capital Caracas.

“Cuba’s Jose Marti airport gives the Cuban government $100 million each year for its operations, planes coming and going. But Maiquetia gives no profits,” he added in a TV address.

“I’ve told the new (transport) minister to intervene the Maiquetia international airport.”

Chavez gave no more details of the problems at the airport that he wanted to root out, but said the measure was necessary to maximize income for the Venezuelan state.

“We need to take control of those airports because we need to look after the economy. We can’t keep depending on oil.”

Chavez has promised to “accelerate” and “radicalize” his socialist reforms despite a parliamentary election last week that weakened his grip on the National Assembly and gave the opposition nearly half of all the votes cast.

Earlier on Tuesday, his government decreed the expropriation of land belonging to the Spanish-Venezuelan agricultural company Agroislena as announced by Chavez at the weekend.

He also vowed then to hasten the nationalization of land held by the British meat products company Vestey Foods Group.

Since coming to power in 1999, Chavez has nationalized large swathes of the OPEC member’s economy, and still has the land, food and financial sectors in his sights.

In his comments on Tuesday, Chavez said Agroislena was selling products at inflated prices, with fertilizer for example three times as expensive as it should be. Other officials said it was monopolizing storage capacity.

“Part of the essence, the domination of capitalism is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer every day,” Chavez said in the latest of many daily TV appearances.

In a communique, Agroislena said it opposed the expropriation measure and feared it would negatively affect the agricultural sector, including the 18,000 producers it supplied products and credits to.

That argument was supported by private business organizations in Venezuela.

Reporting by Patricia Rondon and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Anthony Boadle

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