LOS ROQUES, Venezuela, (Reuters) – Luxury yachts weigh anchor in pristine turquoise bays and small boats carry wealthy families with deck chairs and picnic baskets through the waves to the white sands of Francisqui Island.
The idyllic Los Roques off Venezuela’s Caribbean coast were once a hide-out for pirates. They now draw tens of thousands of well-off tourists a year with their palm-lined bays, coral reefs and waters ideal for scuba diving, sport fishing and sailing.
But the archipelago, a national park, could soon lose its exclusive feel as President Hugo Chavez plans to bring his self-declared socialist revolution to the islands.
He says the rich have monopolized them and he wants to take them back for ordinary Venezuelans, as well as some of the yachts. “I’ve always said we should nationalize Los Roques,” the former soldier said in a speech this month on state television. “They privatized it, so to speak, the high bourgeoisie, including the international set.”