Venezuela’s Chavez nationalizes local ferry company

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nationalized a local ferry company on Monday in his latest move to put more of the South American OPEC member’s economy under socialist state control.

The company, Conferry, which operates ferries from the mainland to the resort island of Margarita, had been sanctioned in the past by the state consumer protection body for delays, technical failures and repeated customer complaints.
“No more. That is a disaster. We’re going to nationalize it

… The safety of our people who travel to Margarita is very important,” Chavez said in a telephone call to state television.

Company officials were not immediately available to comment. Conferry is owned by a wealthy family and began operating in 1959. It has three vessels, only two of which are operating, sailing from Puerto La Cruz and La Guaira.

The 57-year-old socialist leader has put swaths of the economy under state control during his 12 years in power, including most of the crucial oil sector.

He is recovering after a fourth session of chemotherapy to treat cancer, but has vowed to win a new six-year term in a presidential election due in October 2012.

Also drawing Chavez’s ire were emergency landings on Monday in the southeast of the country by two planes operated by local companies.
“We must tighten the screws on all public and private companies to ensure they maintain their aircraft,” he said.

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