Venezuela’s Chavez takes over opposition-run ports

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo  Chavez yesterday ordered the military to take over the  country’s ports and airports, a move aimed at gaining control of installations run by opposition-ruled state governments.

The self-styled revolutionary in recent months has removed  regional leaders’ control of services such as hospitals and  police forces, sparking accusations he is undermining  opposition elected officials and concentrating his hold on  power. Chavez did not say how many facilities would be affected  by the latest move.

Yesterday’s announcement came just days after Congress passed  legislation letting the central government take over roads,  ports and airports if state leaders fail to adequately maintain  them.

“We are going to take over ports and airports throughout  the republic, whoever wants can oppose it, but it is the law of  the republic,” Chavez said during his weekly Sunday broadcast.

He specifically mentioned the takeover of ports in three  states run by opposition leaders including Zulia, whose former  Governor Manuel Rosales is Chavez’s most high-profile  adversary.

The president of Venezuela’s Congress, dominated by Chavez  supporters, last week said the legislature was considering  creating a new post that would be designated by the president  to oversee the capital of Caracas — currently run by an  opposition mayor.

Chavez is broadly popular among country’s poor for his  social programs financed with oil revenues that have expanded  health and education services. Last month he won a  constitutional referendum letting him run for reelection as  many times as he wants.

Opposition leaders say Chavez is concentrating power by  using state resources to promote his own political party and  limiting the ability of opposition governors and mayors to  carry out basic tasks.

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