CARACAS, (Reuters) – President Hugo Chavez threatened yesterday to expropriate Venezuela’s largest private company, Polar, in a dispute over the major food producer’s rice output.
Chavez, a socialist ally of Cuba who has nationalized swaths of the economy, has in recent days clashed with Polar, seizing some of its mills after accusing the company of skirting price controls and failing to produce enough cheap rice.
Polar, which is the country’s largest private sector employer and produces and distributes everything from beer to flour, has threatened to take legal action over the rice mill takeovers.
“If they get funny with us … we will go for expropriation and pay them with debt bonds,” Chavez said during a televised Cabinet meeting. “I warn you this revolution means business.”
The dispute is Chavez’s first conflict with industry since he won a referendum less than three weeks ago on allowing him to run for reelection.